The Indus Equation – the battle for water between India and Pakistan
The Pakistani media is full of reports claiming India is encroaching on their water supply but a close examination of the facts reveals that the controversy over water is much ado about nothing and easily avoidable.
Here are some key findings of the report:
1. Pakistan's water supply is not simply predicated on Indian dam building. Water shortages in Pakistan are also a result of poor demand management and the increasing effects of climate change.
Pakistan's irrigation sector has some of the lowest conveyance efficiencies in the world. 25% of the water supply in the irrigation sector is misplaced in ‘line losses' and only 36% of the water is actually absorbed by the crops due to poor ‘field application efficiency'.
40-60% of the water flow in the Indus River comes from glacial meltwater from the Himalayas and hence the Indus River is highly susceptible to the effects of climate change. The Former Head of China's Meteorological Administration Qin Dahe has said that Tibetan glaciers are retreating faster than any other glaciers in the world and once these glaciers vanish "water supplies in Pakistan will be in peril."
The report also elucidates how unequal distribution, water pollution, seawater intrusion and siltation contribute to poor water supply in Pakistan
2. The second part of the report concludes that there are mechanisms in place under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) that protect Pakistan's water supply flowing from India.
The IWT has never been breached since its inception in 1960; even during times of war.
India is well under the storage capacity that it is permitted to use on the Western Rivers according to the IWT. The dams being built are run-of-the-river dams - a particular design that protects water flow to Pakistan. As B.G. Verghese puts it - "you can't store running water".
There is a process in place for international and neutral arbitration if Pakistan has apprehensions about the use of water.
India has always been open to design changes on its dams. This was true in the case of the Baglihar Dam, the Wullar Barrage and it is true in the case of the Kishanganga Dam.
Much of the controversy around water has arisen because people do not know the facts. The ‘Indus Equation' aims to provide facts and figures that would remove popular misconceptions and help ease tensions between the two neighbours.
Link to the full Report:
The Indus Equation