Cross the boulders in the Indus Waters Treaty – The Indus Waters Treaty and the India-Pakistan Water Dispute | 31 August 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the Indus Waters Treaty and the India-Pakistan Water Dispute.


  • GS2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests;
  • Prelims


  • The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) is a water-distribution treaty signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan, mediated by the World Bank.
  • It aims to allocate the waters of the Indus River system between the two countries.
  • However, the treaty has become a source of contention, particularly regarding India's hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • This article analyzes the key issues and challenges surrounding the treaty and the ongoing water dispute between India and Pakistan.

Hydro Power Projects in Jammu and Kashmir:

  • There exist 19 hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir. These projects continue to play a significant role in producing electricity, ensuring industrial and public water supply, etc. across the valley.
  • Let’s look at five such hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir:
    • Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project:
      • The Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project is situated on the Kishenganga River.
      • The river is a tributary of river Jhelum in the Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir.
      • The project comprises a concrete faced rockfill dam that is 37 meters high and 23.2 kilometers long & 6.24 m/5.20 m dia horseshoe/ circular shaped head race tunnel.
      • Additionally, it features a 109.7 meters high surge shaft of 17.75 m dia restricted orifice type and 1055 meters long circular inclined steel lined pressure shaft of 4.0 meters meter diameter, trifurcating into three 2.3-meter diameter horizontal branches at the bottom.
      • The beneficiary states include J&K, UP and Chhattisgarh.
    • Dulhasti Hydroelectric Project:
      • Dulhasti power station is run-of-the-river with a pondage scheme and an installed capacity of 390 MW.
      • The project harnesses the hydropower potential of the Chenab River.
      • The project is located in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir. Dulhasti comprises a 65-meter high and 186-meter-long concrete dam.
      • It has a 7.46-meter diameter and 10.586-kilometer-long horse-shoe shaped HRT, surge shaft and pressure shaft with 3 penstocks of 3.65 diameter and 93 meters of length.
      • The Dulhasti project benefits several states, including Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan Chandigarh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
    • Ganderbal Hydroelectric Project:
      • Commissioned over 60 years ago, the Ganderbal Hydroelectric Project has an installed and approved capacity of 15 Megawatt.
      • The water source of the project is Sindh Nallah, a tributary of Jhelum.
      • The Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Limited manages the power plant.
      • The plant has four turbines. The capacity of the first and second unit is 3 MW, while that of the other two is 4.5 MW each.
      • That makes the total installed capacity 15 Megawatt. The project is situated in the Srinagar district of Jammu and Kashmir and is situated at around 20 kilometers from Srinagar.
    • Chenani Hydroelectric Project:
      • The Chenani Hydroelectric Project was commissioned in 1975. The project, with the capacity of 23.3 MW, is categorized as small.
      • The source of the project is the River Tawi, a tributary of the Chenab River. The project, which is situated in the Udhampur district, is owned by Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Limited.
      • The beneficiary states of the project include Jammu and Kashmir and the nearby states.
      • The project has five Pelton turbines, each with a capacity of 4.66 Megawatt and a rated speed of 600 rotations per minute. The project’s water conductor system is about 7 kilometers in length. It falls in the North Hydroelectric Region. All the five units of the project are commissioned.
    • Baglihar Hydropower Project:
      • The last on this list is the Baglihar Hydropower Project, which is situated on the Chenab River.
      • The dam is 143 meters high, 363 meters long and has a total capacity of 900 MW.
      • The underground powerhouse of the project is 221 meters long, 51 meters high and 24 meters wide.
      • It comprises six Francis turbines, each with a capacity of 150 MW that make up for the 900 MW capacity of the project, using a gross head of 130 meters. The project is situated in the Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir.


  • Equitable Allocation and Exclusive Rights:
    • The IWT follows the principle of equitable allocation, granting both India and Pakistan exclusive rights to utilize the rivers allocated to them without harming the interests of the other party.
    • India has unrestricted use of the three eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej), while Pakistan enjoys similar rights over the three western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab).
    • India is allowed to store 3.60 million-acre feet (MAF) of water, with sector-wise allocations for conservation storage, power storage, and flood storage.
  • The Issue of India's Hydel Projects:
    • The core of the current dispute between India and Pakistan revolves around the Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants in Jammu and Kashmir.
    • India considers these projects crucial for energy needs and regional development, while Pakistan has raised objections, citing violations of the treaty and potential negative effects on its water supply.
  • Legal Proceedings and Dispute Resolution:
    • Pakistan first raised concerns over the Kishanganga project in 2006 and the Ratle project in 2012. The dispute on the Kishanganga project was taken to the Court of Arbitration (CoA) in 2010.
    • The CoA ruled that the project is a run-of-river dam and India can divert water from the river Kishanganga/Neelum for power generation, but it must maintain a minimum flow of water in the river.
    • Despite attempts at resolution, the two countries have been unable to resolve the issues relating to pondage and spillway configuration.
    • Pakistan has accused India of violating the IWT and the court's verdict, leading to the involvement of the World Bank and the appointment of a neutral expert and a chairman for the CoA.
    • The World Bank paused the works on the Kishanganga and Ratle projects “to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements”
    • However, works on the Kishanganga continued, and in 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kishanganga project
  • India's Stand and Trust Deficit:
    • India has abstained from participating in the proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) and has expressed its objection to being compelled to recognize or participate in “illegal and parallel proceedings not envisaged by the Treaty.”
    • India has been participating in the proceedings of the neutral expert, but there is a wide trust deficit between the two countries, making it unlikely for Pakistan to accept India's request to renegotiate the provisions of the IWT.
  • Recommendations for Resolving the Dispute:
    • To address the water dispute and improve the effectiveness of the IWT, several recommendations have been made:
      1. Incorporate “equitable and reasonable utilization” and the “no harm rule” in the IWT.
      2. Involve local stakeholders and establish a joint group of technocrats, climate experts, water management professionals, and scientists from both countries to address the core issues.
      3. Explore cooperation arrangements mentioned in Article VII of the IWT to recognize the common interest in the optimum development of the Indus Rivers System.
      4. Consider reviewing and amending the IWT to account for changes in the situation in the Indus River Basin region, but any modifications should be made with mutual trust between the two riparian countries.

Way Forward:

  • The Indus Waters Treaty has been a significant framework for water distribution between India and Pakistan.
  • However, the ongoing water dispute and the challenges surrounding India's hydropower projects highlight the need for revisiting and strengthening the treaty.
  • Resolving the trust deficit, involving local stakeholders, and exploring cooperation arrangements can contribute to a more sustainable and peaceful resolution of the water dispute between the two countries.

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