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Kishenganga Dam Dispute

In February 1992 Pakistan also objected that India should not construct the Kishenganga (390 mw) hydro-power generating unit. Its argument was that this project would affect Pakistan’s proposed Neelum-Jhelum power project.

Basic Facts about Kshanganga Dam

The dispute over the 330-megawatt Kishenganga hydro-power project across the river Jhelurn centres on the diversion of water from one tributary of the river to another. Pakistan says this violates Indus Water Treaty whereas India says the diversion is within the provisions of the treaty, which governs water sharing between the two nuclear rivals.

Kishanganga dam is located about 160-km upstream Muzzafarabad and involved diversion of Kishanganga (called Neelum in Pakistan) to a tributary named Bunar Madumati NulIah of Jhelum river through a 22-km tunnel. Its power house will be constructed near Bunkot in Indian held Kashmir and the water will be re-routed into the river Jhelurn through Wullar Lake.

This diversion will change the course of river Neelum by around 100-km, which will finally join river Jhelum through Wullar lake near Bandipur town of Baramula district in Indian held Kashmir. Presentiy, Neelam and Jhelum rivers join each other near Muzaffarabad at Domail. As a consequence of this 100-km diversion of thç Neelum river, Pakistan’s Neelum Valley is likely to dry up and become a desert. The most important issue here is the diversion of the Neelum river waters to the Wuller lake.

Pakistan Position

Pakistan has made it known that such a diversion contravenes the Indus Water Treaty which would compromise Pakistan’s rights over the river and reduce the flow of water into Pakistan significantly. Further, any construction on the Neelum river upstream will affect power generation capacity of Pakistan’s Neelam-Jhelum power project.
Pakistan has expressed reservations about the design of the dam, the inter-tributary transfer of waters, as well as sought protection of the existing land uses. According to some reserved estimates, completion of the 22km long tunnel to divert water from the the Kishanganga to the Wuller lake will leave Pakistan facing a 27 per cent water deficit.

When completed, the project would reduce flow (pressure) of the Neelum river and thus decrease the power generation capability of Pakistan’s proposed 969-mw Neelum -Jhelum hydropower project in Azad Kashmir by more than 20 per cent or about 100-mw.

India Position

India has rejected Pakistan’s opposition to the project, New Delhi says that according to the Indus Water Treaty, India had been allowed to build specified storage limited to 3.6 million acre feet (MAF) on western rivers which it has not built so far.
India estimates that annual water flow in the western rivers namely the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab stands at 135.6 MAF. Discounting that the proposed Kishanganga project will affect the flow in the river Neelam, India believes that the stream would be maintained at any cost to Pakistan, since these rivers have been allocated to it.
India says that he was only diverting Neelam to join the Jhelum at Bandipur near Wullar lake rather than in Muzaffarabad, and is of the view that the water would ultimately reach Pakistan through the river Jhelum, though not in the shape of the river Neelam, But it fails to satisfy Pakistan that what will then happen to Pakistan Neelam-Jhelum power project at which Pakistan have already spent around a billion rupee.

Importance of the Kishanganga Dispute

Unfortunately, Kishanganga dam dispute has gained impetus at a time when Indian and Pakistani leaders have been trying to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust. However, the explosive nature of both countries’ energy needs and their ever- increasing irrigation water demand are potentially capable of dealing the peace process a fatal blow.
Although sharing of river waters is not as politically sensitive as the Kashmir dispute, analysts say it has the potential of becoming increasingly contentious as the power and irrigation needs of both countries are growing rapidly .

Experts believe that the Kishanganga dam could reduce Pakistan’s total water availability from an estimated 154 MAE to about 140 MAF per year and leave unutilized a significant portion of the Mangla dam’s storage capacity besides declining the pressure required to generate electricity in Neelum-Jehlum power project. If Pakistan did not start construction of Neelum-Jehlum power project immediately, technically it will be obliged under the treaty to allow India use these waters for power generation without storage. That’s why it is hurry to go with the Neelam Jhelum power project which involves a very difficult design, including a 32-km tunnel to divert the flow of the Neelum river underneath the Jhelum riverbed.
Pakistan now believes that making any further concessions to India could actually create difficulties for their sustainable use in the future as the country already faces a water shortage. Any interference with the flow of the western rivers will only aggravate the situation for water-starved Pakistan. Pakistan therefore needs to look at this project very closely and wisely for its impact on water flows and the environment. It is important to move towards an early resolution of the issue through any forum at any level after keeping in view past experiences that India will not negotiate with Pakistan in good faith and will instead use delaying tactics while going ahead with the implementation on the ground of such controversial project.

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