The Hague-based International Court of Arbitration has allowed India to go ahead with construction of the 330-MW Kishenganga hydro-electric project in North Kashmir which was under dispute with Pakistan.

In its final order delivered on Friday, the court upheld India’s right under the bilateral Indus Waters Treaty to divert waters from the Kishenganga for power generation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The court, however, decided that India shall release a minimum flow of nine cubic metres per second (cumecs) into the Kishenganga river (known as Neelam in Pakistan) below the project at all times to maintain environmental flows.

Although the decision is binding on both the parties and cannot be appealed, the court, chaired by Judge Stephen M. Schwebel (United States) decided that either India or Pakistan may seek reconsideration of the final order through the bilateral Permanent Indus Commission and the mechanisms of the Indus Waters Treaty after seven years from the first diversion of waters from the Kishenganga/Neelam river.

On India seeking a clarification on the drawdown flushing technique for clearing sedimentation in the run-of-the river project, it is understood that India may have to adopt a different technique for flushing in future projects.

Pakistan had apprehended that the drawdown flushing technique involving depletion of storage levels will affect flows at its down stream Neelam project.

On May 17, 2010, Pakistan moved for arbitration against India under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 that regulates the use of waters in the shared rivers.

The Rs. 3600-crore Kishenganga project is designed to generate power by diverting water from a dam site on the Kishenganga to the Bonar Nallah, another tributary of the Jhelum, through tunnels.

Pakistan had challenged the project saying it was in violation of the treaty. However, the Arbitration Court has finally rejected Islamabad’s objections on this count.

The Ministry of External Affairs confirmed on Saturday that India had received the “final award” and the “court’s decision on India’s request for clarification” on Friday night.

“The quantum of 9 cumecs of natural flow of water that must be maintained in the Kishenganga at all times is “much lower” than the 100 cumecs of natural flow that Pakistan wanted India to ensure,” the Ministry said in a statement.

In its “Partial Award” delivered in February this year, the Court of Arbitration has already upheld India’s main contention that it has the right to divert waters of the western rivers, in a non-consumptive manner, for the optimal generation of power, the statement said.

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