India, Pakistan await Kishenganga award

India and Pakistan have concluded their arguments in the dispute over the 330-MW hydro-electric project on Kishenganga, a tributary of the Jhelum in Jammu & Kashmir.

Islamabad claimed that the project will harm its share of river waters while New Delhi asserted that it was contemplating such a project even before the signing of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 and would otherwise have not agreed to the pact.

Pakistan said the project will harm its Neelam-Jhelum hydro-electric project, while India asserted that it had a right to transfer waters between the tributaries of the Jhelum river.

Such a right is evident, India argued, given that prior to the treaty’s signature India was contemplating construction of the project at the current location that would include inter-tributary transfer. In this context, New Delhi argued that it will not have consented to any treaty provision that would preclude the realisation of such a project.

Putting in the public domain information on the hearing, a Press release of the Indus Waters Kishenganga Arbitration Court said the award of the Court of Arbitration at The Hague will be delivered in six months.

Pakistan, it is learnt, had reservations about the matter going public.

The seven-member Court of Arbitration is chaired by Stephen M. Schwebel of the U.S. and former President of the International Court of Justice.

Last year on Pakistan’s request the Court in an interim order had restrained India from undertaking any permanent dam works on and above the riverbed but had allowed construction of other components of the dam such as coffer dams, by-pass tunnel and excavation below river-bed level. The Court had inspected the site last June.

The concluding hearing began on August 20 and ended on August 31.

The Indian delegation was led by Union Water Resources Secretary Dhruv Vijay Singh. Noted jurist Fali Nariman led the legal arguments. Pakistan’s team was headed by Kamal Majidulla, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Water Resources & Agriculture.

Pakistan took the matter to the Court in 2010 on two grounds — first, whether India’s proposed diversion of Kishenganga (called Neelam in Pakistan) into another tributary, the Bonar Madmati Nallah, was in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. Secondly, whether — for the management of sedimentation in the reservoir — India may bring the reservoir level of the run-of-the-river project below the dead storage level (“drawdown flushing” in any circumstance except in the case of an unforeseen emergency.

The project is designed to generate power by diverting water from a dam site on the Kishenganga within the Gurez valley to the Bonar Madmati Nallah, another tributary of the Jhelum at a lower elevation, through a distribution of tunnels.

Pakistan contended that the Kishenganga project’s planned diversion of waters and use of “drawdown flushing technique” to manage sedimentation were not permitted under the Indus Water Treat. India maintained that both the design and the planned mode of operation of the project were fully in conformity with the Treaty.

The sedimentation management was necessary for sustainability of hydro-electric plants and can only be effectively done by lowering the water level in the dam below Dead Storage (portion not used for operational purposes) Level i.e. by “drawdown flushing.”

The operation will have minimal effect on Pakistan and this issue had been settled by the neutral expert in the Baglihar hydro-electric project matter, said New Delhi.