Joint Indo-Pak study to probe reduction in flow of Jhelum, Chenab suggested

Former Union Water Resources Secretary Ramaswamy R. Iyer on Monday called for a study by India and Pakistan to go into the question whether there has been reduction in the flow of water of the western rivers - Jhelum and Chenab.

Giving an elaborate account of the working of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, Mr. Iyer told a gathering at the Madras Institute of Development Studies that of late, academicians, intellectuals and journalists from Pakistan, in Track Two meetings, had been expressing concerns over the decline in the flow of the rivers. They attributed this to actions on the part of India even though every technical detail of India's projects had to be cleared by the Permanent Indus Commission for Pakistan under the Treaty.

Asserting that India had not built any storage structure on the western rivers or was not resorting to diversion of water, Mr. Iyer said “You cannot do anything without his [Commissioner for Pakistan] knowledge. Every single project [of India] is objected to by him. How is it possible for us to violate [provisions of the Treaty]?”

Rebutting the contention made in certain quarters of Pakistan that India had been proposing to execute about 100 projects on the western rivers, he said that 33 projects were, indeed, proposed. It was in the interest of India that the cumulative impact of the projects on ecology had to be studied.

Analysing possible reasons for the problem of water scarcity in Pakistan, he said though the Treaty had settled the issue of water sharing between India and Pakistan, it made things worse for the neighbouring country as it led to “acute inter-provincial conflicts.” Punjab had gained control over waters to the detriment of Sindh and the North West Frontier Province was “extremely worried” about submergence and flooding.

Right or wrong, there was a perception in Pakistan that water scarcity in that country was partly caused by India. Jehadi elements had picked it up. In the past, there had been disagreements over projects such as Balighar and Kishenganga but no one ever said India was taking away Pakistan's waters. “But, that cry is about two years old. Now, it has caught on. It is there all over the place,” he said.

As the water issue constituted a serious danger to ties between the two countries, Mr. Iyer said, something needed to be done to reassure the neighbouring country. The proposed joint study could find out whether the issue of reduction of the flow of water was genuine and if so, what were the factors responsible.