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Indus Water Treaty

25th June, 2024 Geography

Indus Water Treaty

Source: TimesofIndia

Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.

Context: Pakistan delegation in Jammu along with neutral experts to inspect two power projects.


  • A Pakistani delegation arrived as part of Neutral Expert proceedings to inspect two hydroelectric power projects in Jammu and Kashmir under the Indus Water Treaty.
  • This is the first visit by a Pakistani delegation to Jammu and Kashmir in more than five years under the dispute settlement mechanism of the 1960 Treaty.
  • A three-member Pakistan delegation inspected the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydroelectric power projects under the provisions of the IWT for the last time in January 2019, before the ties between the two countries froze following the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The the visiting experts including Pakistanis will inspect Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power projects in Chenab valley during their stay in the Union Territory.
  • Pakistan’s initial request to the World Bank in 2016, concerning its objections to the design features of the two hydroelectric power projects, sought a settlement through a ‘Neutral Expert.’ However, Pakistan later withdrew this request and sought adjudication through a Court of Arbitration. India, on the other hand, insisted that the issue should be resolved solely through ‘Neutral Expert’
  • After failed negotiations, the World Bank appointed a Neutral Expert and the chair of the Court of Arbitration in October 2022. Issuing a notice for modifying the Treaty, India warned that “such parallel consideration of the same issues is not covered under any provision of the IWT”.
  • In July 2023, the Court of Arbitration ruled that it was “competent to consider and determine the disputes set forth by Pakistan’s request for arbitration”.
  • Pakistan filed its first Memorial, which listed out its legal case with documents, under this process in March this year.
  • A month later, the Court undertook a week-long visit to the Neelum-Jhelum Hydro-Electric Plant in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir “to familiarise the court with general aspects of the design and operation of run-of-river hydro-electric plants along the Indus system of rivers.
  • While India refused to take part in the Court of Arbitration, it submitted a Memorial to the Neutral Expert in August 2023.
  • Pakistan joined the second meeting of the parties held by Neutral Expert in Vienna in September 2023 which discussed matters related to the organisation of the site visit.

Genesis of the treaty

  • During the British era, modern irrigation in the northern reaches of the subcontinent, fed by the Indus, had been considerably expanded even as older canals had been revived.
  • After Partition, the headworks of the projects remained in India while the canals lay in Pakistan.
  • The Inter Dominion Accord that kicked in from May 1948 called for India to supply Indus waters to Pakistan in lieu of annual payment, but it didn’t take off.
  • In 1951, both countries sought World Bank funding for irrigation projects on the riparian system.
  • The Bank mediated an accord that took nine years to finalise, with numerous proposals made and subsequent amendments incorporated.
  • On September 19, 1960, India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty on sharing of the waters.

The sharing agreement

  • Under the treaty, the three Western rivers of the Indus basin — Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum — have been allocated to Pakistan for unrestricted use, except for certain categories of use by India.
  • Per Annexure C of the treaty, India can use the water of these rivers for specific agri-uses, and per Annexure D, for ‘run of the river’ hydropower projects. ‘Run of the river’ projects don’t need live storage of water.
  • Pakistan is accorded the right to object if projects don’t meet treaty specifications, and India must share information on projects, including changes from the original design, based on which Pakistan can flag issues within three months.
  • The three eastern rivers, Beas, Ravi and Sutlej, have been allocated to India for unrestricted use. Per the treaty, an 80% share of Indus basin waters (about 135 million acre feet, or maf) is with Pakistan and 33 maf is with India.

Permanent Indus Commission

  • IWT required India and Pakistan to set up a Permanent Indus Commission to serve as the first window of dispute resolution and information exchange.
  • The Commission is constituted by the permanent commissioners appointed by the two countries. It must meet annually (the last meeting was in May 2022).

Three levels of dispute resolution

  • The first is the permanent commission. The dispute can be taken up parallelly at the government level.
  • If no solution emerges, the matter can be escalated to the World Bank for the appointment of a ‘Neutral Expert’ (NE).
  • If the NE’s decision is not to the satisfaction of either party, or there are interpretational issues, the countries can take the arbitration route.
  • The growing need for water, the conflict over J&K, where the western rivers flow, are factors stoking disputes.

The recent developments

  • The most recent dispute is centred on two hydel projects by India, on Kishenganga, a tributary of the Jhelum, and Ratle, on the Chenab.
  • The Kishenganga Hydro Electricity Project (KHEP) features a dam for diversification of Kishenganga water to a hydel plant, after which the water is sent back.
  • Pakistan opposed the project even before construction could begin in 2007, raising questions about the height of the dam.
  • After talks, the height was brought down to around a third of what was originally planned. But, in 2010, Pakistan approached the International Court of Arbitration, the Hague, which allowed India to continue with the project. With regards to the Ratle project, it has raised fears of deliberate flooding/water shortage by India.
    With persistent opposition from Pakistan over India’s projects, India has said Pakistan’s “intransigence” calls for the treaty’s modification.
  • It says Pakistan’s unilateral decision to switch from one dispute resolution mechanism to another— it had asked for NE resolution in 2015 before changing its request to arbitration in 2016—is a material breach of the treaty, more so with the World Bank moving on both Pakistan’s arbitration request and India’s 2016 NE request.

Do you know?

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water and sanitation is one of the most critical goals of Agenda 2030. SDG 6.5 within SDG 6 discusses transboundary water cooperation, which is driven by two central concepts: sustainable water management and regional collaboration

Way Ahead

  • The treaty in its present form mentions a non-tiered dispute resolution mechanism which may be modified to be more efficient and time-saving.
  • There also lies a possibility for spelling out the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, which is not currently provided for in the treaty, could be negotiated and used as a dispute resolution mechanism.
  • Since the treaty is primarily concerned with irrigation and agriculture, it does not contain any provisions for sharing water resources in order to generate hydroelectric power.
  • It would be in everyone’s best interest to re-examine the treaty and incorporate measures for the sharing of hydroelectric power, especially in light of the growing significance of renewable energy sources.
  • The constantly shifting geopolitical dynamics between India and Pakistan, which have been defined by tensions and conflicts, have also had an effect on the treaty’s implementation.
  • It is possible to resolve these issues and use the treaty as a foundation for fresh collaboration if it is reviewed and updated.

For More: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/indus-water-treaty-24

And: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/indus-water-treaty-50#:~:text=Under%20the%20Indus%20Water%20Treaty,to%20India%20for%20unrestricted%20use.




Q.  Kishanganga hydroelectric project located on which river?

A. Chenab

B. Jhelum

C. Rabi

D. Beas

Answer B