Electricity from India a far cry, mired in deep-rooted water disputes

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ISLAMABAD: New Delhi has offered 500 MW electricity to Islamabad from Indian Punjab despite its own severe power shortages, but it is not a viable short-term option for Pakistan because of technical issues even if other serious water disputes with India are ignored.


Water and power ministry sources said that the option of energy import from India is only in preliminary stages. “As yet it is merely a political level proposal,” a top federal water and power authority told The News here on Thursday.


“There are so many technicalities involved in this option that even if we accept the offer forthwith, it will take years to get it materialised,” a senior official source said, assuring that Pakistan can’t afford to overlook its water disputes with India to buy electricity.


Pakistan wanted to import 1000 MW electricity from India, which has indicated that it could only offer 500 MW. This wish of Pakistan and the positive response from India have come at a time when the authorities of the two countries are fighting over serious water disputes.


The Indian offer to sell 500 MW power to Pakistan coincided with the highly controversial inauguration last month of the 850 MW Ratle hydro project on River Chenab in occupied Kashmi by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


This inauguration of the third mega project, after Kishanganga and Baglihar Dams, on Pakistani rivers in Jammu and Kashmir has been done by India despite Pakistan’s serious reservations to the design of this big hydro project being pursued by India.


Government sources said that India had shared the Ratle hydro project’s design with Pakistan in 2012 after which the Pakistani side reviewed the design and raised objections. In March this year, it is said that the water experts from both sides met and Pakistan again voiced its objections but India still went ahead.


Pakistan, the sources said, protested against this and now the two sides are expected to meet in August or September this year to try to settle the issue. In case of failure to get the issue settled bilaterally, it would convert into a dispute for which Pakistan would approach the international arbitrators.


In view of the international arbitrator’s decision in the case of Kishanganga, India is bound not to store or reduce the quantity of Pakistan’s water in case it builds a hydel power project on the run of river. Since it was a blanket award by the international arbitrator and would apply on all such projects, therefore India sought from the arbitrator the explanation that the award should be Kishanganga-specific. In return Pakistan submitted its rejoinder and insisted that its water can’t be stored or compromised in any manner by India under the Indus Water Treaty.


While the international agencies say that Pakistan is on the brink of being declared a “water scarce” country some top water experts in Pakistan have strongly opposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s desire to import electricity from India.


They believe that such an option would badly hurt Pakistan and its critical water resource. These experts including former chairman Wapda Shamsul Mulk and Arshad Abbasi also warned the government that electricity import would compromise the Indus Water Treaty to the complete disadvantage of Pakistan and in favour of India.

Courtesy:  The News

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