A new report based on interviews with experts reveals that there was broad based support for the Indus Water treaty in Pakistan and that India was entitled to its share of water, including the building of dams under the Treaty.
The impression that India was stealing Pakistan’s share of water was not based on any real empirical evidence according to “Pakistan’s Water Discourse, Attitudes on Water Management Practices,” by Jinnah Institute and Chatham House which was launched on Friday.
None of the experts interviewed in the water sector used the phrase that India was violating the Indus Water Treaty and of the few who said this, two were newspapers editors, says one of its authors, Ahmad Rafay Alam, speaking at the launch of the report. Ninety expert interviews were conducted between March and November 2013 in all four provinces as part of a wider research in South Asia looking at prevalent attitudes towards water in the region. Similar studies were conducted in India, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh as well.
Some of those interviewed felt the unverifiable flow data provided by India was a source of concern since rapid scale of upstream construction had arguably impacted cumulative flows, the report said.
Only a minority view held that India was engaging in “water aggression” and was wilfully not adhering to the Treaty in letter or spirit.
There was a need for an informed political debate on water issues between India and Pakistan specially to counter misconceptions, Mr. Alam said. During his research he came across people who blamed India for stealing water when they didn’t get enough water for a shower.
The water issue too seems stuck in the India-Pakistan rhetoric in Pakistan.
However, in the report a majority of people expressed confidence in the Indus Water Treaty as offering a broad scope for cooperation between Pakistan and India. People also felt that the Treaty could be creatively interpreted to safeguard Pakistan’s interests, emerging from new economic imperatives and economic changes.
And more importantly the Treaty had enabled a successful arbitration dynamic for trans-boundary water disputes, the politics of the Baglihar and Kishenganga projects notwithstanding, both cases were cited as examples of a highly effective dispute resolution process.
Mr. Alam said respondents felt that water was the most important security challenge on par with terrorism and religious extremism and it was directly linked to energy security which is of prime importance. He said there was a complete lack of a cohesive law or water conservation policy except in two provinces and no law exists in Pakistan for conservation of water. Other issues that were raised were that of social equity in water allocation, groundwater extraction, deficiency of data on water flow and the lack of an agreed upon measurement mechanism for water between India and Pakistan.