'India rejects Pak's objections on 2 hydropower projects as talks conclude on Indus Waters Treaty'
New Delhi, Aug 30: India has rejected Pakistan's objections on its two hydropower projects on the Chenab river, a Pakistani official said today, as the crucial high-level bilateral talks on the Indus Waters Treaty concluded here.
After the conclusion of talks, the first official engagement between India and Pakistan since Imran Khan became Prime Minister on August 18, Pakistan's Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Meher Ali Shah told reporters that there would be no briefing and statement on the issue.
"It is a sensitive matter and we were conveyed (by the Foreign Office) not to speak on it. The Foreign Office will issue a statement in this regard," Shah said. Another official of the Pakistani side, on the condition of anonymity, said India rejected Pakistan's objections on the construction of the 1,000MW Pakal Dul dam and 48MW Lower Kalnal hydropower projects on the Chenab river. "India has hinted at continuation of work on both the hydropower projects," he said.
"Pakistan may approach the international forums defined in the Indus Waters Treaty over New Delhi's refusal to accept the requests as narrated in the detailed objections," the official said. Pakistan has made it clear that it will have no option but to appointment neutral experts and take the case to the International Court of Arbitration in case India fails to address its concerns which are genuine, he said.
"Pakistani authorities asked Indians to reduce the height of the Pakal Dul's reservoir up to five metres. India has also been urged to maintain 40-metre height above sea level while making spillways' gates of the Pakal Dul project besides clarifying the pattern and mechanism for the water storage and releases," Dawn quoted one of the participants of the meeting as saying. "Similarly, Pakistan raised some technical concerns over design of the the Lower Kalnal hydropower project, requesting India to address them at the earliest," the report said.
India was represented by a nine-member delegation of the Indian Water Commission led by Commissioner P K Saxena. Yesterday, Shah said Pakistan raised objections on the 1000MW Pakal Dul and the 48MW Lower Kalnai hydroelectric projects and a detailed discussion will be held during the talks. "We had also raised concerns over construction of dams on Pakistani rivers and India did not bother about it and continued doing the same," Shah said, adding India will reply to Pakistan's queries on the controversial water projects.
Former Pakistan Indus Water Commissioner Syed Jamaat Ali Shah told PTI that the successive Pakistani governments had given much importance to its water disputes with India. "India does not bother about Pakistan's objections. It begins work on building hydro power projects on the Pakistani rivers and the Pakistani government raises objections afterwards. Unless the Pakistani government seriously takes up these matters with India it will not get relief," he said, adding that Pakistan also needs to plead its case in the World Bank.
According to an official of the Pakistan Water Commission, Pakistan has been raising reservations over the designs of the two projects — 1000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnai hydroelectric projects on River Chenab — and would like India to either modify the designs to make them compliant to the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty or put the projects on hold until New Delhi satisfies Islamabad.
"The two sides will in talks also finalise the schedule of future meetings of the Permanent Indus Commission and visits of the teams of the Indus commissioners," he said. Pakistan has also challenged the discharge series of River Lower Kalnai at Dunadi for winter months and estimated permissible pondage of 0.38 cubic megametres compared to Indian design pondage of 2.74 cubic megametres. The Lower Kalnai project is on a left bank tributary of Chenab and can have gross storage of about 1,508 acre feet of water.
The Indian delegation will return to India tomorrow. The water commissioners of Pakistan and India are required to meet twice a year and arrange technical visits to projects' sites and critical river head works, but Pakistan had been facing a lot of problems in timely meetings and visits.
The last meeting of the Pakistan-India Permanent Indus Commission was held in New Delhi in March during which both the sides had shared details of the water flow and the quantum of water being used under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. India and Pakistan signed the treaty in 1960 after nine years of negotiations, with the World Bank being a signatory. The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers. However, there have been disagreements and differences between India and Pakistan over the treaty.