The government on Thursday said it had decided to “stop” the waters in the three “eastern rivers” of the Indus basin from flowing into Pakistan, and instead divert the flow to supply waters to “our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab”.
The waters of three eastern rivers of the Indus basin — Ravi, Sutlej and Beas — have been assigned entirely for use by India under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan. The three western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — are supposed to flow “unrestricted” to Pakistan under the treaty, though India, being the upstream country, is allowed to use the waters in a “non-consumptive” manner.
However, India has not been using all the waters of the eastern rivers, and this unutilised water flows down to Pakistan. It is this flow of unutilised water to Pakistan that the government has decided to stop, Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari said in a series of messages on Twitter.
“Under the leadership of Hon’ble PM Sri Narendra Modi ji, our government has decided to stop our share of water which used to flow to Pakistan. We will divert water from eastern rivers and supply it to our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab,” Gadkari said.
“The construction of dam has started at Shahpur-Kandi (in Punjab) on Ravi river. Moreover, Ujh project will store our share of water for use in J&K and the balance water will flow from 2nd Ravi-Beas Link to provide water to other basin states. All the above projects are declared as national projects.”
Ujh is a tributary of Ravi in Jammu and Kashmir.
The decision to make full utilisation of its entire entitlement of Indus waters was taken in the wake of the Uri attack in 2016. At that time, the Indian government had suspended the routine talks between the Indus Water Commissioners of the two countries, with Prime Minister Modi asserting that “blood and water” could not flow together. The talks, which are held routinely to exchange information about water flows in accordance with the Indus Water Treaty, were reinstated in March 2017.
A high-level task force had been constituted under Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Nripendra Mishra in December 2016 to decide on the measures to be taken to ensure full utilisation of India’s share of waters under the treaty. The task force had recommended restarting work on several water projects in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab that had been pending for years.
The Shahpur-Kandi project and the Ujh project were among those that were revived as a result. The Shahpur-Kandi project, located in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, involves construction of a 55.5-m-high dam on Ravi river. It aims at providing irrigation facility to 5,000 hectares of land in Punjab and 32,173 hectares in Jammu and Kashmir, besides generating 206 MW of electricity.
Work on the project, which is estimated to cost Rs 2,285.81 crore at 2008 prices, had begun in 1999. It was later classified as a National Project by the Centre. However, the project was stalled following objections raised by the Jammu and Kashmir government on a number of issues, including power-sharing, design and monitoring.
In March 2017, the Centre brokered peace between the two states, paving the way for resumption of the project.
Similarly, the Ujh project in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir was revived in 2017, with the Central Water Commission having prepared and submitted a fresh detailed project report for a multipurpose hydropower project that is likely to generate 186 MW of electricity and provide irrigation to 30,000 hectares of land. The estimated cost is about Rs 5,000 crore. Work has not yet started at the project site.
Regarding Gadkari’s tweets, a government official said that no new decision had been taken. “This is not a new decision. The minister is simply reiterating what he has always said. He is talking about diverting India’s share of Indus water which was going to Pakistan, and he has always been saying this,” an official of the Water Resources Ministry said.