IWT: Why NHPC Has Been Caught Out As ‘Culprit’ In Kashmir?


SRINAGAR — Citing international dimensions of Indus Water Treaty (IWT), under which National Hydro-electric Power Corporation (NHPC) is operating in Jammu & Kashmir, the Corporation “is not sharing” technical data of its hydro-power projects in the region with the state government, top government sources have revealed.

NHPC “is also denying access” (for studying its hydro-power projects) to the experts of international agency, Danish Hydraulic Institute (DHI),appointed by the state government for quantifying losses incurred by Jammu & Kashmir on account of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan.

Reliable sources in Jammu & Kashmir Power Development Corporation (JKPDC), through which the contract has been awarded to DHI, said that despite approaching NHPC authorities several times for sharing technical data and seeking their permission for the team of DHI experts to study hydro-power projects being operated and constructed by NHPC, “they neither shared the data, nor approved any site-visit.”

The DHI team was supposed to visit NHPC-run projects in Jammu & Kashmir beginning from Salal (690MW)in Reasi district of Jammu province for detailed study. Government of Jammu & Kashmir had awarded the contract of quantifying the losses to Jammu & Kashmir state on account of IWT in December 2017 against 1.89 crore rupees and the institute was given nine months for completing the process. DHI experts were asked to quantify the losses to the state of Jammu & Kashmir due to IWTin terms of energy-generation, irrigation and flood-control.  

That deadline, however, expired in September this year because DHI has not been able to study NHPC-run projects. So far, DHI experts have only been able to study Baghlihar project of JKPDC and some other projects being constructed and planned by JKPDC.  

“They are citing international dimensions of IWT when we ask them to share technical data with us as also access to their project sites. It is not only a matter of energy-generation or irrigation, we are also counting the losses related to flood-control,” JKPDC sources said. “It is a matter of safety for our state.”

But a top official of NHPC, who pleaded anonymity, refuted the allegation that NHPC is denying access to data and its sites to government of Jammu & Kashmir. “In case they believe so, why don’t they approach the central government which can pass on directions to us,” the official said. Chairman of NHPC, Balraj Joshi, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. His technical advisor and CGM, Rajeev Sachdeva, also did not respond to the phone calls.  

Why Kashmiris blame IWT?

Kashmiris blame the World Bank-mediated 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan which, according to them, has completely disregarded the economic interests of Kashmiris. The IWT is a mechanism for regulating the flow of the trans-boundary Indus Riverand its five tributaries – Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej – between India and Pakistan.

Under the treaty, Pakistan received exclusive use of waters from the Indus and its westward flowing tributaries of the Jhelum and Chenab, while the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers were allocated for India’s use.

When it comes to exploitation of water resources of Indus basin in Jammu & Kashmir Himalayas, people and the elected governments of the region say that despite legal wrangling, India and Pakistan are still well-placed in terms of exploitation of water resources whereas residents of this Himalayan region, where the rivers of Indus basin flow, hardly benefit from these rivers given the limitations because of IWT.

Experts, civil society, political parties and chambers of industries and commerce unanimously decry the treaty, and its effects on Kashmir’s economy., “The truth is we are not the beneficiaries. The NHPC has constructed power projects in Kashmir, but Kashmiris do not share the benefits of these projects,” said chairman of Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), Mohammad Yasin Khan. The rivers over whose control Pakistan has rights are all the ones that flow through Kashmir.

Following subdued disapproval for the IWT, Kashmiris formally started opposing the division of their water resources between India and Pakistan in 2002 with the Jammu & Kashmir legislative assembly passing a resolution to seek the termination of this treaty. Since then the IWT has become a regular feature of debates and discussions in J&K’s assembly.

In 2009, during a debate in the Assembly, the NC politician, Nazir Gurezi, termed the IWT “a sign of slavery” for Kashmiris while another NC leader, Mir Saifullah said that the signing of this treaty marked the beginning of human rights abuses in J&K. While the IWT was signed in 1960, Saifullah was drawing a parallel between it and the many accusations of human rights abuse during the long-running armed insurgency in J&K, which began in 1989.

‘NHPC or East India Company?’ 

In 2011 Taj Mohi-u-Din, then the minister of irrigation and flood control in Jammu & Kashmir, accused NHPC of treating the state like the British East India Company treated colonised India. Since then the issue has become more and more politically salient, with Kashmiris now regularly complaining about the “hijacking” of their water resources. 

Kashmiris believe that the NHPC, which generates over 2,500 MW of energy from Kashmir, is only interested in generating profits while depriving J&K, of the benefits of its most important economic asset – its water resources. This perception was only bolstered when a Right To Information (RTI) application a couple of years back led to the revelation that NHPC had earned INR 19,442 crore in just 14 years from electricity sales. To add insult to injury, J&K was the second largest buyer of electricity produced in its own territory.

The J&K state owns power projects which generate only around 1000 MW while peak consumption in the state reaches 3,000 MW of energy. When the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in opposition in 2009, one of its leaders, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, had put forward a private member bill in the state assembly seeking to re-negotiate a deal with NHPC. This Bill – like most private members’ Bills – was rejected, despite the fact that many NC leaders had supported it. 

Baig, a prominent legal expert and former finance minister of J&K, had accused New Delhi of making a deal with Pakistan arbitrarily on behalf of J&K “despite water being a state subject, not a central, subject.”

Under the Indian Constitution, states have primacy over some issues, while the central government has primacy over others.In J&K’s case, it has a special status under Indian constitution and has its own constitution.

Baig had argued that if J&K was able to harness its own water resources, it would earn an annual revenue of INR 720 billion by exploiting only one-third of its estimated total potentialof 20,000 MW of which 16,475MW have been identified. But, according to Baig, New Delhi was not willing to give counter guarantees to foreign investors who were ready to invest in Kashmir on hydro-power.

The former executive director of projects at the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC), Zahoor Ahmad Chat, agrees with the dominant view in Jammu & Kashmir about the region’s water resources. He said that harnessing the hydropower potential of the state could earn J&K an additional annual revenue of about INR 150 billion from the export of surplus power, even after meeting J&K’s own power requirements.

However, having realised that the termination of the treaty is not legally possible, J&K government, last year, finally decided to get the losses due to IWT quantified so that compensation of these losses is sought from New Delhi. Would that be possible? It remains to be seen! 

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