Will the next Indo-Pak war be fought on water?
Abdul Zahoor


Few people in Pakistan are aware of the danger to the countryís agriculture and hydel projects emanating from Indiaís malafide efforts to deny water to Pakistan. Even fewer know that India has either started construction or planned over 100 dams on western rivers. In fact, the water issue is a potential conflict area due to its strategic implications for Pakistan.

One example is the Baglihar Hydroelectric Plant that was commissioned in 2008. During the damís initial filling, India violated the clauses of the Indus Water Treaty by not filling the dam in stipulated timeframe and by not ensuring requisite inflow at the Marla Headworks of Pakistan. The drastic reduction of inflow at Marla led to the closure of Marla-Ravi Link (MRL) Canal, which resulted in non-availability of irrigation water for paddy crops in Marala Command Canals area covering over 10,000,000 acres of land. It also resulted in reduced filling of Mangla Dam due to excessive drawing of water from it to cover the deficiency of waters at the Marala Headworks. Consequently, the reduced filling of Mangla Dam resulted in an acute shortage of water for Rabi (autumn/ winter) crops in Pakistan.

Another issue concerns the Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project on the River Neelum (called Kishenganga River by India), located near the Line of Control in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). The project also envisages diversion of River Neelum, which is reserved for Pakistanís Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Project, work on which started in 1989. The diversion of water in Kishenganga project will reduce the water flow at the Neelum-Jhelum project and generation capacity of Neelum-Jhelum Project by 20%. Also, it will have adverse effects on ecology of the area, especially fauna and flora, due to diversion of water from its original course.

Moreover, the construction of the Wullar Barrage would provide India control over River Jhelum, which may be used to deprive Pakistan of water of River Jhelum during winter season. The Wullar Barrage Project is located on Jhelum and involves artificial raising of water in complete contradiction to the Indus Waters Treaty. Apparently, the basic idea behind the Wullar Barrage is that India wants to create an additional storage in the Wullar Lake, which would be utilised to augment the water flow to their winter season, when the inflow decreases.

Not only the above, a number of hydroelectric projects are being planned by India on the rivers reserved for Pakistan to further choke the water flow. These include 24 projects on River Chenab, 52 on River Jhelum and 18 on River Indus.

It goes without saying that Pakistanís agriculture and hydropower generation is under a serious threat. Due to the sensitivity of the issue and its impact on Pakistan, if the issue is not resolved it could lead to a confrontation between the two nuclear armed neighbours.