Indus-water treaty

Indus Water Treaty

Indus Waters Treaty details: 

The Indus Waters Treaty is often hailed as a nearly impossible feat that was achieved under the arbitration of the World Bank in 1960. India-Pakistan cooperation over this vital resource was a watershed moment in global hydro-diplomacy.

The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank, to use the water available in the Indus River and its tributaries.

The Treaty gives control over the waters of the three “eastern rivers” — the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej with a mean annual flow of 33 million acre-feet (MAF) — to India, while control over the waters of the three “western rivers” — the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum with a mean annual flow of 80 MAF — to Pakistan.

India has about 20% of the total water carried by the Indus system while Pakistan has 80%.

A Look Back at What Worked

Some researchers attribute the breakthrough to the requirements of the time. Pakistan and India needed financial support from the World Bank to expand their irrigated areas and create infrastructure for water storage and transport.

Another reason working in favor of this cooperation is the fact that both countries were “water rational.” They had realized that cooperation was a prerequisite for safeguarding their country’s long-term access to the shared resource.

By keeping to the IWT, India could leverage its position as a responsible upstream riparian when it engages with China over water issue. India will definitely be at a loss if China proposes to obstruct or divert the flow of water in the Indus basin.

The IWT allows India to build a dam to generate hydroelectricity. It also allows for irrigation on a small scale – up to 700,000 acres in total, spread among the Inuds, Jhelun, and Chenab Rivers.

The Parliamentary Committee recently observed that although the Indus Water Treaty has stood the test of time, it “was framed on the basis of knowledge and technology existing at the time of its agreement in the 1960s” when the perspective of both the nations at that time was confined to river management and usage of water through the construction of dams, barrages, canals and hydro-power generation.

Does the treaty favour Pakistan?

  • Pakistan gets 80% of the water in the 6-river Indus system. This is 90 times greater volume of water than Mexico’s share under a 1944 pact with the US.
  • It is Asia’s only treaty with specific water-sharing formulas on cross-border flows.
  • A virtual line on the Indian map splits the Indus basin.
  • India’s sovereignty lies in the lower rivers, Pakistan’s in the upper.
  • Only water pact compelling an upper riparian state to defer to the interests of a downstream state.

Have there been disputes over the treaty?

Yes. In 2010, Islamabad began international arbitration over India’s 330MW hydro project on Kishenganga. In 2011, India was ordered to suspend work. In 2013, India was allowed to resume work under tough terms.

How does it impact Jammu & Kashmir?

  • In 2011, J&K government hired a consultant to assess its economic loss because of treaty.
  • It was estimated to be in hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Why rethink on treaty could have consequences?

  • Expect international condemnation.
  • Turning tap off could mean flooding our cities.
  • It can make neighbours like Bangladesh, the countries with which India has water sharing arrangements, uneasy.