Explained: Why Pakistan moved World Bank over India’s Kishanganga power project
India and Pakistan were set for yet another institutional fight as Islamabad moved the World Bank (WB) on Sunday, May 20, to complain against India's alleged violation of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 signed between the two countries. The move came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 33-megawatt Kishanganga River hydropower unit, something India has been working on in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, overlooking Pakistan's protests.
According to Pakistan, projects like these are against the WB-mediated water treaty on the sharing of water from Indus and its tributaries on which Pakistan's agriculture depends overwhelmingly. India, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the 1960 treaty okays its idea to build 'run-of-river' hydel projects that neither affect the river' course nor the water level downstream.
Now, what is the Kishanganga River project issue?
The Kishanganga dispute is over the hydroelectric power plant, which also includes a dam on the Kishanganga River - a tributary of the Jhelum River (known as Neelum in Pakistan) and located not far from the Line of Control.
The project worth Rs 5.750 crore can generate 1,713 million units of power annually. According to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, the project will divert the water of Jhelum to an underground power house and for that, it will transfer the water from Gurez Valley, 123 kilometres from Srinagar, back into Kashmir instead of letting it flow into Pakistan. It said the Kishanganga dam will allow India to control a river that flows from Pakistan into "India-held" Kashmir and then re-enter its territory.
Pakistan challenges that the Indus treaty gives Pakistan control over the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers while India has control over Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. It said India might also use waters from the Pakistan-controlled rivers in "non-consumptive" ways but it takes this as a permission to build "run-of-river" hydel projects that does not affect the course of the river. Pakistan believes that India's Kishanganga dam not only changes the river's course but also depletes its water level.
The latest move is not the first by Pakistan to protest India's Kishanganga project plan. According to the Dawn report, three years after India started working on the project in 2007, Pakistan raised the issue with the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague and the project was stayed till 2013. Then, the court ruled that Kishanganga was a "run-of-the-river plant within the meaning" of the Indus treaty and India might divert water from Kishanganga for generation of power.
The court also said that India needed to ensure that the construction and operation of the dam are done in such a way that the water flow into the river is maintained even at a minimum (9cumecs), the Dawn report said.
India agreed to lower the height of the dam from 98 m to 37 m and resumed the construction work although Pakistan alleged that India violated the treaty as against the court's ruling. It allegedly collected evidence too to support its stand.
In August 2016, Pakistan appealed to the WB to set up a court of arbitration to review the designs of the projects in Kishanganga as well as Ratle, another project on River Chenab. India did not agree to it saying Pakistan's points were technical and the matter should only be presided over by a neutral expert. Pakistan also refused to buy India's line saying the call by a technical expert was non-binding and India would have no obligation to execute the expert recommendations.
The WB tried several rounds of talks (till September 2017) to resolve the problem and after India announced its plan in April to make the project operational, Pakistan again moved the WB as a counter measure. A high-level Pakistani delegation also went to the US to have talks with WB officials on the issue. The Pakistani delegates are led by Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf. Pakistan also built its own project on the Jhelum River and PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurated its (Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Project) first unit in April.