Experts split on checking water flow to Pakistan

New Delhi Amidst calls for acting tough in the wake of the terror attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama on Thursday, experts bat for “stopping” water to Pakistan from the west and east flowing rivers, like Indus and Beas. However, others doubt possibility of such an action.

Hawks say a tough action must include short and long term steps, including the raising of the water storage capacity by building more dams and optimum use of water in the Indian side.

At present, “more than the surplus” waters of these rivers are flowing into Pakistan, says M.S. Menon, a retired Water Resources Ministry top official, who had handled the Indus Water Treaty for long. He said tightening of the provisions on water release to Pakistan was possible.

“We have to develop capacity for consuming more water. For that, there should be more investment in storage dams to be constructed. There is a lot of water in Jhelum, Chenab and Indus that can be used very much domestically,” he said.

Under the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan, control over the water flowing in three “eastern” rivers — the Beas, the Ravi and Sutlej with the mean flow of 33 million acre feet (MAF) — was given to India. While control over the water flowing in three “western” rivers — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum with the mean flow of 80 MAF — was given to Pakistan.

More controversial, however, were the provisions on how the waters were to be shared. Since Pakistan receives more water flow from India, the treaty allowed India to use western river waters for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses like navigation, floating of property and fish farming, while laying down precise regulations for India to build projects.

But another retired official, who as the Indus Commissioner in the ministry had handled the subject for nearly two decades, said stopping water to Pakistan was not possible. “I don’t think anything like that is possible. Water flows naturally. You can’t stop it,” he said adding there are international treaty obligations India has to implement. The former official said this issue has been discussed in the past but people make such demands because of an emotional situation.

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