Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Question of Water

From renegotiating the Indus Water Treaty to adding a State tax to hydoelectric power generated by Kashmir's resources, Javid discusses a wide canvass of options under consideration

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 64, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.

Indus Water Treaty…..Arbitration Blues!

It happens so often-the dispute over modalities of the 1960 Indus water treaty, its provisions and obligations become bone of contention and had it not been in the provisions of the treaty to refer disputes to court of arbitration, there might been un-intended clashes, more often than not.

It is yet again J&K water-the rich hydro-electrical resource with the potential to make the state economically viable, which has become the bone of contention. The truth is visible-naked in fact-India has the land and except what the run of river allows J&K, Pakistan-the water! Reports indicate that Pakistan has instituted proceedings in the International Court of Arbitration to resolve the issue of the Kishanganga dam, which India is building on the Neelum River in Jammu and Kashmir. This has been stated by Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in the National Assembly (Pakistan parliament’s lower house). The court is expected to take up the matter soon, as it has done, so often in the past 50 years-ever since the treaty was signed in 1960. Pakistan reportedly is concerned about a parapet of the Nimmo Bazgo hydroelectric project on the Indus River. The concerns relate to pondage, spillway and power intake, which remain to be resolved. But concerns like a parapet, the pondage or the spillway may look minor, as experts assess the major concerns of future.

Gwynne Dyer a London-based independent journalist of international fame whose articles are published in 45 countries, in one of his latest columns, entitled ‘A question of water’ spells out problems inherent in ‘Indus Water Treaty’ at a time when the problem in Pakistan is too much water [floods] not little as the future is foreseen of the treaty signed in 1960. The future as Dyer visualizes is pregnant with grave problems. Indus Water Treaty, says Dyer addresses the flow of six rivers and their distribution between the two countries-three eastern (read Punjab rivers, from which India gets water, having one fifth of the total flow of six) three western (read J&K rivers, from which Pakistan gets water) five of the six however cross Indian administered Kashmir. To make up for India’s low share and to hike it to around 30% India was allowed a share of two of western rivers, before they leave Indian Territory. 320,000 hectares (1.3 million acres)-and it is a FIXED amount, as Dyer calls it, regardless of how much water there actually is in the river. Having spelt the provisions of treaty, the famed columnist paints grim picture-Indian eastern rivers do not depend on glacial melt, while Pakistan’s western rivers do. And with the dwindling glaciers, expected to dwindle further with the flow of times, the flow of the rivers might actually dry up. The consequences of Pakistan with hardly the water to irrigate its fields might result in grave incidents, fear the geopolitical experts like Dyer.

That indeed is bad news, however lately the reports of some scientific experts contradict the dwindling glaciers. We may now leave the future-grim or otherwise and assess the present. Pakistan’s reported concern about a parapet of the Nimmo Bazgo hydroelectric project on the Indus River, remained unresolved earlier on, as other concerns were mutually and amicably resolved, without resorting to the ultimate-referral to arbitration. These concerns related to construction of the Uri-II hydroelectric plant on the Jhelum River and the Chutak hydroelectric plant on a tributary of the Indus. These were resolved within the counsels of Permanent Indus Waters Commission, giving rise to speculations that related Indo/Pak issues do affect the Indus water treaty Permanent Commission’s deliberations. At that time Jamat Ali Shah, the Pakistani commissioner on the commission seemed willing to concede anything Indians asked for, in all probability on account of India seeming willing to resume dialogue after the 26/11 Mumbai militant strike. The strike attributed to be the handiwork of Pakistan based militant groups had India call off diplomatic interaction with Pakistan. However Kishanganga dam parapet was left to be resolved at a future meet. “The establishment of a court for arbitration and the appointment of neutral experts would be proposed to India, as New Delhi had failed to satisfy Pakistan in matters related to the dispute during negotiations between the Indus water commissioners of the two countries,” Syed Jamat Ali Shah had said. 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) stipulates appointment of a neutral expert by the World Bank as a last option to resolve water related issues between both the countries.

Indus Water treaty over the years has resulted in so many ifs and buts that there are many, who think it might be highly proper to re-negotiate the treaty, as it does not only result so often in spat between the two nation states, but has shown an increasing tendency to sow seeds of discord between provinces within the nation states, as an example the problem within Pakistan between littoral Punjab (province from where the water flows) to riparian Sind (the province to which it flows). On the Indian side, the report has come at a time, when Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly has cleared decks to charge the government of India (GoI) owned National Hydro Electric Power Corporation (NHEPC) and state owned power companies for harnessing the state’s water resources. The issue runs deep in J&K, irrespective of political affiliations. Not to talk of separatist camp, even in main stream camp, reservations have been expressed vis-a-vis harnessing of the hydro electrical resources of the state by the central agencies and other states.

The most pro-Indian of Jammu and Kashmir’s political formations-J&K Pradesh Congress Committee’s nominee in the council of ministers-senior leader Taj Mohi-ud-Din Minister for Public Health and Engineering piloted the bill, named (Jammu and Kashmir Water Resources Regulation and Management bill) which is all set to become a law now, having received the requisite assent in the assembly. The bill would be tabled in the Upper House ahead of sending it to the governor N N Vohra for his approval. The bill while seeking economic viability of the state, as spelt by the minister evades affecting Indus Water Treaty in any manner, the minister was at pains to dispel the impression. The minister quoted a staggering amount of Rs 7,140 crore annually, even more as the money that NHPC and state owned companies were earning annually from different hydroelectric projects operated by them in Jammu and Kashmir. On the charges that stakeholders would have to pay in the state coffers, Taj stated “They will be charged two paisa per cubic meter for using water for power generation but there will be no levy or tax. From the preliminary calculations made by the department, the companies will now require to pay at least Rs 850 crore to the state government against the usage of water for power generation. They will have to pay if they earn such huge money from the water resources which belong to state,” said Taj. The state nodal agency for realizing it would be-State Water Resources Regulatory Authority, which would be deciding fixing the liability and charging tariff rates for water usage by the power companies.” We are very serious about this Act. The Regulator Authority will be set up in next two months to set the process of recovery in motion,” Taj said.

The bill also seeks to fix responsibility in case of loss of life while operationilising the deal. This follows tragic loss of 25 human lives caused due to the “faulty design in URI-I” power project owned by the NHPC, besides addressing environmental concerns. Encouraged by the state government’s move, the central Water Commission is also contemplating to make a law on safety of dams similar to the one we have proposed,” added Taj. Taj piloted bill however has a serious lacuna; it leaves NHPC and state companies lightly-charging them only a fraction of what they actually take away from what is state’s richest natural source, hence the bill may not ease the hurt significantly-the hurt that people in the state feel so deeply!

A re-negotiated Indus Water Treaty could, in the light of half a century of past experiences and the grim picture painted of the future by Dyer and his ilk, set up a new course for water distribution between nation states and then between provinces within the nation states. And who knows, it might usher in an era of much needed peace and tranquility in the subcontinent, as well as provide the key to what P. Chidambaram-the Indian Home Minister calls a ‘Unique Problem’ needing a ‘Unique Solution’? J&K’s hydro-electrical resource solution-the economic settlement is implicit in overall conflict resolution-the political settlement!

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