Amidst Government of India floating the view that it may abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan, the view is getting strong, especially among knowledgeable circles, that any move in that direction would not just hit India adversely internationally, but it will also have major environmental consequences in the entire Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
Signed 55 years ago, in 1960, and considered worldwide the most successful treaty between two countries, influential circles believe, it is particularly “not advisable” for India not to scrap the treaty, which is aspiring to become a permanent member of the United National Security Council.
The treaty “divides” six rivers, with three of them on the eastern front being “given” to India, and three others on the western side three rivers remaining “exclusively” with Pakistan. Considered “a win-win situation” for both, the treaty has not been questioned even during the worst of times with Pakistan – the 1965 and 1971 wars, or the Kargil imbroglio.
Worse, Dr Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, head of the earth sciences, geology and geophysics departments, University of Kashmir, in a recent interview, says that “people who talk about scrapping this treaty have no technical understanding.”
“There are so many trans-boundary rivers in the world and countries have to find a mechanism to share water. All over the world the Indus Waters Treaty is referred as our most successful treaty”, says Romshoo, adding, “At this moment we are sharing water with Bangladesh and Nepal too. If we scrap this treaty we will scare these countries as well.”
Vikas Swarup, the ministry of external affairs spokesperson, first hinted at the possibility of scrapping the treaty to teach Pakistan a lesson a few days back, while talking of “differences between India and Pakistan on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty,", insisting, “Eventually any cooperative arrangement requires goodwill and mutual trust on both sides."
Technically, says Romshoo, it is not possible to abrogate the treaty, pointing out, “Even if you put infrastructure to do so, it will take you 10 to 15 years to build canals to divert the water. J&K is a mountainous state and you will have to build canals to take the water out of the state.”
The rivers on the the eastern front are Sutlej, Beas and Ravi, for which rights have been given exclusively to India in the treaty. On the western front are Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, whose rights are with Pakistan, though some of their waters are used in J&K for the purpose of hydropower generation, for domestic use and for agriculture, while the rest of it being released to Pakistan.
Romshoo says, as of today, India does not have any infrastructure to store this water. “We have not build dams in J&K where we can store the water. And being a mountainous state, unlike Tamil Nadu or Karnataka, you cannot move water to another state. So you cannot stop water technically”, he adds.
In case India stops the river waters from entering Pakistan, says Romshoo, “the Kashmir valley will flood as will Jammu. You just don't have the storage capacity.” He adds, “In Kashmir you do not need too much water for irrigation purposes. If you look at the Indus Waters Treaty, India is entitled to store water, but has failed to develop that infrastructure in J&K.”