KARACHI: Talks between India and Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty 1960 are being held in Lahore from Monday (today).
On invitation of the Pakistani water commissioner, his Indian counterpart has arrived along with a 10-member team in Lahore through the Wahga Border.
It is anticipated that issues, three western rivers Chenab, Jhelum and Indus besides fast-tracked hydropower projects worth $15 billion in Indian-held Kashmir, disrupting water supplies to Pakistan would be focused in the talks.
Agriculturists and industrialists said it is the time for Pakistan to raise the issue of construction of dams by India, depriving Pakistan of its due share of water.
They said it seems that India has realised the importance of this mechanism under treaty for resolving water disputes related to Indus Water and its tributaries.
Executive members of Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA), Pakistan Yarn Merchant Association (PYMA), Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA), Sindh Agriculture Forum, (SAF), Pakistan Apparel Forum, All Pakistan Business Forum and growers of cotton, rice and wheat were of the view that this is an opportunity for the two countries to begin resolving issues in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable. Ghulam Rabbani of PYMA said that Pakistan is heading towards the worst water shortage in the next couple of years due to insufficient water management practices and storage capacity.
The Indus Water Treaty with India has been remained just on papers. India had diverted Pakistani water and is constructing more dams which would further worsen the water situation in Pakistan.
Under the treaty, three Western rivers; Chenab, Jhelum and Indus are allocated to Pakistan and India is not allowed to build storages on them, he asserted.
Overall, about 200kms of riverbed in Azad Kashmir will be affected by the Kishanganga project. The river will turn dry over 40 kilometers, a negation of international environmental laws.
Under the law, at least 70 percent of river flows are to be protected in case any project is taken in hand. Saddain of PTA said Baglihar Dam is run of the river hydro electric project and it is India's responsibility to establish that it will neither reduce the flow of water into Pakistan nor divert the flow of water in Indian Territory.
If the process on the Indian side continued then the underground water situation in Pakistan's Punjab would further worsen that would adversely affect the main crop producing province of the country, he added. The leather sector needs a large number of skin and hides of animals and if they are not fed on well managed pastures, how would we get good quality raw material for our end-products.
Shakeel Ahmad of SAF said the main crops of the country required more than 100 million acres feet (MAF) water but usually 80MAF water available in the country.
If the process on the Indian side continued then the underground water situation in Pakistan's Punjab would further worsen that would severely affect the principal crop producing province of the country.
The farmers take excessive water through tube wells, which results in a downward trend of water in Punjab. The underground water levels went down from about 82-112 feet to up to 1,023 feet and termed it a worsening situation.
'Cotton, sugarcane and rice are cash crops of Pakistan and we are in dire need of agriculture water."
Pakistan should convert into joint watershed management which would be a win-win situation as it would take care of water outflows from all rivers flowing into Pakistan from Indian-controlled areas, he maintained.
Rana Sattar of PCGA was of the view that per capita surface water availability was around 5,300 cubic meters in 1951, when population was 34 million, which has been reduced to 1,032 cubic meters in 2016 when the estimated population is over 189 million.
Quoting a statement of Water and Power Development Authority, with the increased population, Pakistan is fast heading towards a situation of water shortage, he added. Ibrahim Qureshi said that the upcoming meeting on the treaty should raise concern over the Kishenganga of 330 megawatts (MW) and Ratle of 850 MW hydroelectric power plants, being built by India on Kishenganga and Chenab rivers respectively.
He said that Pakistan should oppose these projects, as they violate the treaty on sharing of the Indus River and its tributaries upon which 80 percent of Pakistan's irrigated agriculture depends.
There is a dire need to appoint trustworthy people to protect and guard the water rights of Pakistan. In the past there have been reports about the alleged link of Pakistan's key water managers with India besides the reported alleged deliberate losing of a water dispute with India in the International Court of Arbitration by Pakistani representatives.
Pakistan has to decide now to appoint patriotic water management experts to take up its case before the International Court of Arbitration against India over construction of Kishanganga Hydropower project on River Neelum in violation of 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, they opined.
Pakistan has a right to oppose the Kishanganga project because its diversion will reduce by 16 percent the power generation capacity of the 969 MW.
It is astonishing that non-availability of authentic data on water in Pakistan led to creation of disputes among provinces.
The treaty disqualifies construction of any storage by India on Chenab and Jhelum, but gives some allowance on a very limited extent.
Many of Pakistan's concerns on the Baglihar Dam in occupied Kashmir are "legitimate and carry weight".
Weather experts: Changing rainfall pattern is a signal for adopting a modified water management strategy. The rainfall witnessed a decline near the equator and increase as it moves northward into the polar region between 1951 and 2000. Entire rainfall area slightly shifted west by 80 kilometers and from upper to lower Himalayas.
The monsoon rains in Pakistan started earlier due to dump of pollution (June to August now).
If El-Nino can affect Pakistan, the developments in India will have an impact on the weather in Pakistan and vice versa. Instead of developing dams, Pakistan should invest in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to save future generations. Option: Pakistan has only 30 days of rainfall while other countries get 200 days of rain so Pakistan needs to have large dams.
There is also a need to ratify the EIA Convention realising environmental dangers, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe initiated Convention on EIA in a Transboundary Context in Espoo, a city in Finland. The convention sets out the obligations of parties, that is, European countries have agreed to carry out an environmental impact assessment of development project at an early stage of planning that are likely to have a significant, adverse environmental impact across boundaries.
It quotes South Asia scholar Anatol Lieven as saying that water shortages present the greatest future threat to the viability of Pakistan as a state and a society.