India feels Pakistan should improve its storage capacity to ensure adequate water flow during the lean season instead of raising the pitch over sharing of river waters.
India had offered joint storage under adequate supervision, which would address the immediate water needs of Pakistan and cater to its requirements if the need arises and as per the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).
In fact, it is to avoid any strain on Pakistan's water resources that India has so far refrained from using any of the water of the western rivers for storage, which is allowed under the IWT. Of the water permitted to be used for irrigation, India has been using only two-thirds, officials associated with sorting out water issues between the two countries point out.
While both countries agree on the usefulness of the IWT, India's view that Pakistan should immediately undertake better utilisation of the available water during the lean season by constructing storage projects and canals is backed by a World Bank report, as well as a recent statement by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
In an interview to a Pakistani channel on April 2, Mr. Qureshi said: “It is not being stolen by India. It's been wasted in Pakistan. The total average canal supplies of Pakistan are 104 million acres per feet. And the water available at the farm gate is about 70 million acre per feet. Where does the 34 million acre per feet go? It is not being stolen in India; it is being wasted in Pakistan.”
Officials, who provided the transcript, say they have the video clip to prove their claim.
The World Bank report that they cite, titled ‘Pakistan's Water Economy Running Dry,' states: “When the river flow is variable, then storage is required so that the supply of water can more closely match water demands. Relative to other arid countries, Pakistan has very little storage capacity.”
Instead, Pakistan is making the “mistaken assertion” — as made out in the non-paper submitted by it during the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries on February 25 this year — that Islamabad has full control over the waters of the three western rivers.
The notion that Pakistan has a veto over the water flow in the three western rivers (the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum) goes against the spirit of the articles and annexure of the IWT. And it is because of this notion that Pakistan is raising objections over the projects implemented by India “in accordance with the Treaty” on the western rivers.
To prove their point, they refer to a clause which states that Pakistan has unrestricted use of only those waters of the western rivers, which India is under obligation to let flow after its own use under the provisions of the Treaty.
Care was being taken to ensure that all hydroelectric projects on the western rivers were run-of-the-river (which do not consume any water) and did not affect Pakistan's interests in any manner, the officials said.