It needs to be clarified at the very onset that this treaty is a highly political and technical document, with varying interpretations being derived from it over the years by both India and Pakistan. These various interpretations of the document by each country is the reason for the controversies occurring over the past 50 years. The author is analysing and commenting on the treaty from the point of view of an inhabitant of Jammu and Kashmir, having lived in the state and his experience of working at one of the “controversial” dams in this region.
The Indus Water Treaty  was signed between India and Pakistan in September 1960 in Karachi. The treaty, at that time was considered as a major breakthrough between the two countries. Other than India and Pakistan, the World Bank served as the third party in this treaty. The treaty is a water-sharing treaty of the rivers in the Indus river system. The Indus river system consists of Jhelum, Indus and Chenab classified as “Western Rivers” and Ravi, Sutlej and Beas classified as “Eastern Rivers” according to the treaty. It is important to note that the Western rivers originate in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (A disputed territory currently under Indian control with a plebiscite resolution passed by the United Nation still pending ). The Eastern Rivers on the other hand pass through the state of Punjab in India and into Pakistan.
Figure 1 Indus Water Treaty- Rivers and there Tributaries
The Indus Water Treaty divided the water rights between the two countries. It is interesting to see that the water rights were not distributed on the basis of volume of water but directly dividing the rivers among the two countries. India was given almost exclusive rights over the Eastern Rivers flowing in Punjab. Pakistan was given almost exclusive rights over the Western rivers flowing from Jammu and Kashmir. If we look at this division carefully, we realize a few important points
- India secured the water rights over three rivers flowing through its mainland. Over the years a huge canal system has been built over the entire area and it has been a major factor for ushering of the Green Revolution in India starting in the early 1960’s.
- The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been hindered from building of any storage dams and any significant canal network.
- Pakistan was given rights over the waters of a disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which it will have to renegotiate if the status of the territory changes in future. Pakistan also built a canal network over its rivers to ensure that the water loss due to the Eastern Rivers is compensated.
The treaty is a technical document consisting of 12 Articles and 8 Annexures. Since the Treaty is quite elaborate and deals with many of the legal issues surrounding it, we will focus primarily on issues related to Hydropower generation, primarily covered under:
Article 3 “Provisions Regarding Western Rivers”
Article 4 “Provisions Regarding Eastern Rivers and Western Rivers”
Annexure D “Agricultural Use by India from the Western Rivers”
Annexure E “Generation of Hydroelectric Power by India on the Western Rivers”
Although it is evident that most of the articles and annexures are inter-related and have implications on each other, the primary focus will be on implications of this treaty on the growth and development of hydropower in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Over the years there has been a growing discontent among the people of Jammu and Kashmir regarding this treaty.
Article 3 states “Pakistan shall receive for unrestricted use all those waters of the Western Rivers which India is under obligation to let flow under the provisions of Paragraph (2)”. In Paragraph (2) it is mentioned that India can use the water for generation of hydro-electric power, as set out in annexure D. The Part 3 of this annexure D further states that any new hydro-power project that is built on the Western Rivers shall be a run-of-the-river project with no live storage. Thus no storage hydro-power project can be built in the area. Also annexure D specifies guidelines for various technical parameters required for the design of a run-of the-river power plant. The treaty lays down the precedent that the hydrological data and technical design information regarding the hydropower plants needs to be passed to Pakistan by India within a stipulated time frame (6 months). Also if Pakistan has any objections, it needs to respond within 3 months from the time it receives this information. It also lays down an elaborate mechanism to resolve any disputes that arise between the two countries within the framework of this Treaty.
The region of Jammu and Kashmir is a mountainous area in the Himalayan region with rivers primarily having high gradients and small flows, and a high seasonal variance. No storage in the reservoir seriously limits the hydro-power potential, especially during winters when the flow is quite less.
The total hydropower potential of Jammu and Kashmir is estimated at around 20,000 MW  and less than 15% of that has been realised till date.
Over the years disputes have occurred between the two countries over the building of Hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir. The following are the major disputes that have occurred in the past
Salal Project- The 690 MW Salal project was the first controversial project. Pakistan raised concerns about the storage of the dam and the various particulars of the design. Also it feared that India might use this water reservoir strategically during war time. The issue was however resolved and India agreed to decrease the height of the dam by 2 metres.
Tulbul Navigation Project (Wullar Project) – The Wullar Project aimed at building a barrage at the mouth of the Wullar lake and artificially increase the maximum storage capacity by 300,000 acre feet. This was planned with the aim of making a part of the Jhelum river navigable and provide more water to the Uri power projects in Jammu and Kashmir in the lean season. The work was started in 1984. However it was stopped in 1987 as Pakistan objected to it as it violated the Indus Water Treaty provision that the “Incidental Storage Work” must not have a capacity of more than 10,000 acre feet, which in this case was 30 times more.
Baglihar Power Project- This 900 MW project on Chenab River is till date the most controversial project. It was the first time that the two parties decided to involve a “Neutral Expert” as stipulated in Article 9 of the treaty. Pakistan had raised many objections regarding the height of dam, pondage level, height of gates, gate spillway and elevation of tunnels. The neutral expert, Professor Raymond Lafitte of Switzerland suggested some design changes and also suggested to decrease the height of the Dam by 1.5 metres.
Also there have been disputes regarding other projects like Kishenganga, Nemo-Bagzo etc which are currently going on and have not been resolved till date. The Kishenganga project involves inter-tributary transfer of water which according to Pakistan is a violation of the treaty. The issue has been referred to the Court of Arbitration. The government of Jammu and Kashmir has many other projects in the pipeline including some mega projects like Bursar (1020 MW), Sawalkote (1200 MW) and Pakul-Dul (1000MW). The future course of these projects is also uncertain as these projects will be affected by the Indus Water Treaty.
An interesting fact to note is that when the Indus Water Treaty was being signed between the two countries of India and Pakistan, there was no representation from the people of Jammu and Kashmir, whose utilization of water resources has been severely hampered by the treaty. Another point to note is that Jammu and Kashmir till date has not been compensated by the government of India for its losses due to this treaty. However recently in 2014, the JKSPDC (Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation) has initiated steps for “Quantification of Losses Suffered by J&K on Accounts of Indus Water Treaty”  with aim of demanding compensation for the losses the state has suffered over the years from both India and Pakistan.
Jammu and Kashmir is a land locked area with hydropower as its major resource. Inability to utilize this resource has caused a huge deficit between the energy demand and supply. This has also resulted in lack of industries in the area and the job scenario in the region is pretty dismal. Indus Water Treaty affects every individual of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in some way, and over the years people also have been demanding renegotiation of this treaty, in order to take into account the interest of the state and its people.