Mar 1 - 7, 2010

Forty three parliamentarians from the ruling PPP and allied parties that include MQM and ANP as well as from the opposition parties PML (N) and PML (Q) have jointly submitted a resolution in the National Assembly asking the government to discuss the issue of increasing water shortage in the country, especially the Indian design for controlling Pakistan's water.

Pakistan should raise the issue at the UN level, besides taking up the issue during bilateral talks with India. The resolution demanded of the government to convene a joint session of the Senate and National Assembly.

The resolution asked the government to discuss the issue of highest national importance and formulate a national strategy to deal with the situation. Criticizing the government for ignoring the water issue, PML (Q) MNA Marvi Memon said that India has already launched a water war at several fronts against Pakistan to turn its fertile lands into deserts. The resolution also demands that the government should brief the house about the negotiations held so far on the water dispute with India.

The watershed management of Danube River is managed by 19 countries in Europe. In Africa, Nile River is managed by 10 most poor countries of the world. Similarly, in Asia, Mekong river watershed is managed by six countries.

Later, talking to newsmen Ms. Memon said that India would have to change its attitude to promote peace in the region. It already has dispute on water issue with Bangladesh, Nepal and China. Now it is up to stopping the water of Chenab and Kabul rivers from flowing towards Pakistan leading to acute shortage of irrigation water posing a serious threat to our agriculture.

The resolution seeks to make the Indus Water Treaty transparent and parliamentarians have endorsed the idea of setting up of a joint watershed management in the Indian held Kashmir and Himachal Pardesh which can be managed by the two countries to avert possible conflict over water. There are numerous models of trans-boundary watershed management in the world.

The watershed management of Danube River is managed by 19 countries in Europe. In Africa, Nile River is managed by 10 most poor countries of the world. Similarly, in Asia, Mekong river watershed is managed by six countries.

The parliamentarians have also endorsed the experts recommendations to make Indus water treaty absolutely transparent and a state-of-the-art-satellite-based monitoring telemetry system ought to be installed at all tributaries of Indus, Chenab and Jehlum in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh to disseminate real controlling for the river water.

There is a realization in Pakistan that 1960 Indus Water Treaty that establishes legal framework for use of river water has been to the advantage of India. The Indus Water Treaty sets out the legal framework of sharing the water of six rivers of sub-continent-the Indus and its 5 tributaries. All six rivers Indus, Chenab, Jehlum, Beas and Ravi flow through northern India to Pakistan. Under the pact the water of three rivers namely Indus, Chenab and Jehlum all were to be used by Pakistan while India had rights to the waters of Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi before these three enter Pakistani territory.

Water in Pakistan's rivers has already touched perilously low levels. The reason for it is not just lack of rain. The main reason is that India is controlling the water flow of rivers that flow mainly from Indian held Kashmir to Pakistan specially the Chenab, Indus and Jehlum. Pakistan has raised objections to Indian water projects, but a World Bank appointed expert rejected most of the Pakistani objections especially with regard to Baglihar dam on Chenab River while also advising India to make some changes to the dam's height.

The complicated origins of Indus River system play key role in the water debates as the rivers originate in and pass through many countries. According to the Indus Water Treaty the following three rivers are for use by Pakistan (1) the river Indus which originates from Chinese controlled Tibet and flows through Jammu and Kashmir (2) the Chenab which originates in India's Himachal Pradesh state and travels through Jammu and Kashmir (3) the Jehlum rises in Kashmir and flows in Pakistan finally joining Chenab.

Out of the three rivers reserved for India, Sutlej originates from Tibet flows through Himachal Pradesh and Punjab before joining Chenab. The Beas and Ravi originate from Himachal Pradesh state and flow in Pakistan emptying into the Chenab. The Chenab combines the water of four rivers-the Jehlum, the Sutlej, the Beas and Ravi- to form a single water system which then joins the Indus in Pakistan. The Indus River is considered lifeline of Pakistan agriculture and livestock.

Pakistan's concern regarding water from the rivers emerged in the 1990's when India began constructing a hydroelectric power project on the Chenab in Doda district of its side of Kashmir. Since Chenab is the key distributary of the Indus, Pakistan rightly felt concerned as it was against the basic understanding of the treaty. Without caring for Pakistan concern and protests India not only continued with its programme but added more such projects threatening Pakistan's economy.

By early 2009 it was estimated that Pakistan was on the brink of water disaster as the availability of water in Pakistan had been declining rapidly. From 5000 cubic meter per capita in fifties it has already declined to 1200 meters per capita. By 2020, the availability of water is estimated to fall to about 800 cubic meters per capita. It is feared that if India continues to take Pakistan's share of water it could turn Pakistan into another desert.

The sad part of the story is that successive governments in Pakistan have failed to take cognizance of the impending water crisis resulting in acute water shortage and energy shortage. The incumbent government too has not taken due cognizance of fast approaching disaster. The current dispensation in the government is also neither taking up the cudgels against India for insuring that it gets fair and equitable share of water nor taking any other step to prepare the nation to face the coming disaster. The resolution move by some parliamentarians is under the circumstances, most timely.

Let us hope that a comprehensive debate in the joint session may awaken the government from its deep slumber. Situation demands that Pakistan should make the water issues as number one item on the agenda of the talks with the Indian government.