Indus Valley Civilization is the most prominent and one of the most favorite chapters in History for archeologists and historians. One thing that keeps this civilization alive even today is the flow of the Indus river water. River water sustains life, economy & prosperity. However, people back in the ancient era would not have even speculated of any impending conflicts over the flow of Indus water in the future. They probably would not have given any thought to the gruesome caricature of a beautiful mountain valley and Indus river along with its tributaries stained with the bloodshed in violence and hatred.
But 20th Century had planned something else in its destiny. The partition of India posed several challenges before the two newly formed states of India and Pakistan. The most pertinent being the allocation of resources along the border. Indus river became the center of such conflict. To give a clearer picture I would like to acquaint you all with the Geography around the Indus river.
Indus river originates originally in Tibet, flows through- Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Sindh in Pakistan, and then eventually joins the Arabian Sea, South of Karachi, Pakistan. The setting is such that the rivers- Indus, Jhelum, Chenab flow westward, and Beas, Sutlej, Ravi flow eastward. The net flow of the east-flowing rivers is 33 MAF (Million Acres Feet) and the West flowing rivers is 135 MAF.
CHRONOLOGY THAT TRIGGERED THE IWT-
- 1947– India & Pakistan gained independence from the British regime.
- 1948– India having the basin of the Indus river under its territorial control, stopped the supply to Pakistan. This invited clamor from Pakistan. India soon restored the supply. In the same year, David Lilienthal, the former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission visited the region to do an article. Seeing the gravity of issues, he suggested resolving conflicts by improving cooperation. He proposed that the Indus water problem should be solved from the perspective of engineering.
- 1951– Pakistan again accused India of cutting down the water supply. Meanwhile, the World Bank was already involved in the arbitration of the issue.
- 1954- World Bank formally proposed a solution that east-flowing rivers should be under India’s control and west-flowing rivers to be under Pakistan’s control. Pakistan however, expressed its disagreement called the solution to be in India’s favor.
- 1960– Efforts paid results. An agreement was reached and the treaty known as “INDUS WATER TREATY” was officially signed.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE TREATY?
- Signed on 19th September 1960 at Karachi between India’s then Prime Minister- Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s President- Ayub Khan. The entire treaty was brokered by the World Bank. It also financed the construction of canals and storage facilities.
- 3 eastern rivers- Ravi, Beas, Sutlej were allocated to India. While the remaining three west-flowing rivers- Indus, Jhelum, Chenab were allocated to Pakistan. India can use only 20% of the flow i.e. 27 MAF for its domestic and non-consumptive use.
- A Permanent Indus Commission was formed to meet twice a year for discussion and propose solutions to disputes if any. Issues if not solved here may be escalated to the World Bank’s neutral committee which can be further escalated to the UN’s court of arbitration.
- The treaty cannot be terminated until and unless both the parties unanimously ratify to dissolve it.
The conflict over Kashmir between India & Pakistan is not new. Day by day the situations are worsening. Despite Pakistan’s defeat in the 3 wars of 1965, 1967 and the Kargil war and perpetual strive for peace by India there have been continuous militant attacks in the valley of Kashmir.
Indian army camp in Uri, Kashmir was attacked in September’2016. As many as 20 soldiers were martyred. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said, “Blood and water can’t flow simultaneously”. This again was followed the Pulwama attack in 2019. This incident shook the entire Nation. There was anger and pain.
Thus, the temperature around the Indus Water Treaty also began to soar up. If further antagonized, Pakistan might have to pay a heavy price. Already, many of Pakistan’s urban areas are grappling with the issue of freshwater supply. Whereas, presently India uses only 4% of the 20% of the total western waters allocated to it. If it starts using all the 20% in the ideal case, for sure Pakistan will be forced to surrender the luxury of 96% water flow.
Also, there have been tensions around the construction of hydropower projects from both sides. In a similar event, on May 19, 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 3 units of the KHEP hydropower project, despite repeated attempts from Pakistan to involve World Bank to halt the scheme. The main project has the capability to generate around 1712.96 Million Units of electricity each year.
Similar situations are likely to continue if the tensions between the two nations are not solved by mutual consensus.