By S. M. Hali
India’s water hegemony persistently ignores the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and continues to build dams and reservoirs to the detriment of Pakistan. In a fresh initiative, private sector is being wooed by India to undertake hydel projects in Kashmir. The combined production capacity of these recently identified projects is estimated to be around 4,000MW. According to a report, private sector participation in constructing hydel power generation units in IHK is going to be a quantum leap in the near future. Currently, 10 micro projects aggregating 107 MW have been awarded to private companies. However, in the coming months, this number is likely to multiply. Apart from joint ventures with private sector entities, National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) of India has been given task to develop 2,798MW in IHK by setting up several projects particularly on the Chenab River. In addition to that, over 1,500MW of electricity is currently being developed in the state while 1,500MW is already being produced through various operation projects. India plans to augment hydel power generation in Kashmir to 16,200MW. Owing to downstream impact on river flows, India assigns high strategic importance to such project. One such mega project on the Chenab River has been identified as Bursar Dam having electricity generation capacity of 1020MW.
Located near village Hanzal on river Marusudar, one of the major right bank tributary of River Chenab, the project will help generate additional power during lean flow months and releasing regulated flow downstream. It will be a rockfill dam having 252 meter height, which is comparable to any large dams of the world. India’s NHPC, despite difficult terrain and weather conditions, has sped up the work on the Bursar Hydro-electric Project.
Presently, there are no such storage schemes on the Chenab or its tributaries. The Bursar Hydroelectric Project will reduce water flows to Pakistan by as much as 2.2 million acre feet (MAF). The project will store a huge quantum of 2.2 million acres feet (MAF) of the Chenab, in violation of the IWT, which permits storage only up to1.7 MAF of water. India has already started some projects, including Pakal Dul, Dul Hasti, Rattle, Baglihar, Sawalkot and Salal Hydroelectric Projects, on the Chenab River.
India’s 12th Five-Year Plan envisages 10 power projects on the Chenab, including the Bursar project, with an installed capacity of 1,020 MW of electricity and a dam height of 829.08 feet. The Bursar project is basically a storage facility, which will regulate the flow of water to all the downstream projects. Another big project is Sawalkot Hydro project with a focus on components like dam and tunnel location. The project is proposed to be a run-of-river plant on river Chenab, located upstream of the already finished Salal Hydro electric Power project and downstream of Baglihar project. Other projects include Baglihar-II on Chenab (450MW), Parnai on Jhelum (37.5MW), New Ganderbal on Jhelum (93MW), Lower Kalnai on Chenab (50MW), Kirthai-I on Chenab (240MW), Kiru on Chenab (600MW), Kawar on Chenab (520MW), Ujh Multipurpose Project on Ravi (280MW) and Kishanganga on Jhelum (330MW).
These intended endeavours will adversely hit lower riparian Pakistan due to a variety of reasons. Given the fact that there is no site available in Pakistan to construct any storage or power generation infrastructure, India can fully manipulate river flows at its sweet will. Pakistan is already confronted with a serious energy crisis, coupled with heavy dependency on imported fossil oil. The crisis in the Middle East and North Africa has led to a surge in oil prices, which might cross $150 per barrel. This will definitely worsen the energy crisis in Pakistan especially in light of the tardy progress towards completing hydropower projects. India, on the other hand, is gradually phasing out oil-based electricity generation and its dependency on oil has reduced to just 5% in the power sector.
The US, which has strategic interests in the region, and enjoys relations with both India and Pakistan, has come to the conclusion that water may be the source of conflict between India and Pakistan. Both neighbours being equipped with nuclear weapons, any future war would be devastating not only for the region but the whole world. The United States government has conducted a study on the subject and according to the report issued by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, due cognizance has been given to the flashpoint. Pakistan should urge the US to pressurize India to give up the violation of IWT for lasting peace in the region.