NATIONAL

Neutral expert to visit Baglihar dam site in J&K

Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: The World Bank-appointed Swiss neutral expert, who is adjudicating differences between India and Pakistan over the design of the Baglihar dam under construction on the Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir, is arriving here on Saturday to inspect the project. Raymond Lafitte from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne will be accompanied by Indian and Pakistani experts to the site. He will be in India from October 1 to 7.

Pakistan Power and Water Resources Secretary Ashfaq Mahmood will head a six-member delegation. The team will include the Commissioner of the Permanent Indus Water Commission, a lawyer and three water experts including one from England.

India has suo motu invited Pakistan to join the inspection by Mr Lafitte to ensure "transparency," top-level sources told The Hindu .

After the inspection, the expert will visit the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Research Institute in Roorkee to look at the working model of the dam. He will then meet Water Resources Secretary J. Hari Narayan and his team of experts in New Delhi.

India last week replied to Pakistan's "memorial" on its position on the Rs 4,000 crore, 450-MW hydropower project. Pakistan had, in its memorandum to the expert, primarily raised the issue of the power intake level, the height of sluices and the size of pondage.

In its reply, India maintained that the Baglihar dam design was totally compliant with the 1960 Indus Water Treaty between the two nations.

Mr. Lafitte has scheduled a meeting with both sides for October 20 and 21 in Geneva for further information and clarifications. The paper work on replies and rejoinders is slated to be completed by December and both sides will rest their case by January-end. Under the Treaty, the expert's findings will be final and binding.

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