Pakistan on Friday claimed that the partial award of The Hague-based Court of Arbitration in the Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant dispute had corrected the “travesty of justice” done by the decision of the neutral expert in the Baglihar case, and restored the efficacy of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).
Briefing journalists here on the February 18 partial award, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Water Resources Kamal Majidullah said the 2007 verdict of the neutral expert on the Baglihar project had turned the IWT on its head. Pakistan did not challenge the verdict because the Treaty did not allow questioning the neutral expert’s decision.
Consequently, Pakistan is billing the partial award as an achievement as it “brings to an end India’s reliance on an erroneous and inconclusive decision [on Baglihar] which had put to question the efficacy of the Treaty.” With India using the neutral expert’s decision as a precedent and basis for designing new hydroelectric plants, Pakistan’s contention was that the expert’s decision was not within the parameters defined by the IWT and harmed its rights under the Treaty.
The partial award, according to Mr. Majidullah, provides an important safeguard for Pakistan’s right to uninterrupted water flows of the western rivers. “Without this determination our right would have been seriously compromised giving complete control to India of the Western rivers given to Pakistan (and Azad Jammu & Kashmir in the Neelum Valley).”
The Court of Arbitration’s clear interpretation prohibiting India from lowering the reservoir levels below the Dead Storage Level also provides Pakistan “strong grounds for challenging India’s conventional low-level orifice spillways in the design for sediment management and reservoir maintenance purposes,” he added.
On the partial award, Pakistan’s interpretation is that India will not be permitted to divert waters as it deems fit nor permanently deny Pakistan water in lean months “which in lean years could stretch to 10 months.”
The court will put in place a minimum flow regime to which India must adhere and Pakistan expects the final award to outline a monitoring process.
With regard to the court acknowledging that the IWT gives India the right to construct run-of-the-river power plants on the Western rivers, Mr. Majidullah said the court was also well aware that this right was subservient to Pakistan’s primary right over these waters. “It is our belief that in order to give a fair and just decision affecting the flow of water in the Neelum river and its long-term consequences on the validity of the Treaty, the rights of the lower riparians to ensure eternal progress from this source, the court has delayed a final decision on what would be a permanent apportionment of the Neelum River’s waters.”
The final decision is expected in December before which both countries have been asked to submit flow data by June.