ISLAMABAD - With the award announced in the Kishanganga dispute by The Hague-based Court of Arbitration to divert only a minimum flow of water from the Neelum/Kishanganga River for power generation, the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project would be badly affected and would have to be redesigned.
Background interviews and discussion with energy experts show that with the verdict of International Court of Arbitration, Pakistan would have to face around 150 billion annual loss as the designed capacity of 969MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project will be reduced by 150MW. The verdict has an ultimate impact on Pakistan as it will reduce water flow in the River Neelum, leaving very little water for Pakistan. They were of the view that the International Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of India on the diversion of Neelum (Kishanganga) water, setting aside objections by Pakistan that halted work on the 330MW Kishanganga Hydropower Project in Indian Held Kashmir. A detailed order in the shape of the fine print will be made public soon.
They were of the view that the verdict is a clear green signal for the Kishanganga project because Indian spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, announcing the decision on Monday late night, asked Indians to celebrate the coming Sunday as a celebration day.
Official sources, on the condition of anonymity, held Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Water Resources and Agriculture Kamal Majidullah responsible for the defeat in the legal battle over the Kishanganga hydropower project. Giving the reasons for this debacle, they said the team leader had no knowledge about trans-boundary water management. In addition, an undue delay was made by the government of Pakistan in the launch of Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Plant, which was approved in 1989 and was to begin in 2002. “This vital point gave an edge to India that started Kishanganga in June 2006, while in Pakistan, On July 7, 2007, the Chinese consortium, CGGC-CMEC (Gezhouba Group and China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation) were awarded the contract to construct the dam and a power station, said an official in the water and power ministry, on the condition of anonymity.
Arshad H Abbasi, a water expert, when contacted, made it clear that with the ICA verdict, Pakistan would have to redesign the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project and it would also cause reduction in hydel power. He said due to the disputed Kishanganga Dam, work on the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project had already been badly affected. At present, Pakistan is facing financial hardship in implementing the Neelum-Jhelum project. The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) is also facing internal problems in generating funds for the project and the Finance Ministry is reportedly not providing funds, he added.
In 1960, Pakistan and India hammered out the Indus Water Treaty, which governs the sharing of water on rivers heading downstream from India to Pakistan. However, India had been racing to complete the 330MW Kishanganga project which would divert the River Neelam to Wullar Lake, leaving very little water for the Pakistani project, which is just 70 kilometres downstream from Kishanganga, thus reducing the power generation capacity of the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum plant by about 11 percent. On May 17, 2010, Pakistan instituted arbitral proceedings against India under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 and approached the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) against the violation of the treaty.
The arbitration went through tumultuous phases after New Delhi and Islamabad failed to agree on the nomination of three neutral judges. Both sides invoked a provision in the treaty under which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had to nominate Stephen M Schwebel, a former president of the International Court of Justice, as the head of the seven-member arbitration bench. The bench for which the two countries nominated two members each visited both sides of the LoC before beginning a detailed hearing which concluded on August 31 last year.
The seven-member International Court of Arbitration (ICA) barred India from undertaking any permanent works above the riverbed level at the Gurez site of the Kishanganga hydel project dam. Due to the effect of the stay order, work remained suspended for more than one year.
An official of Wand Power Ministry told this scribe that Pakistan needs Rs2 billion on a monthly basis to continue work on the Neelum Jhelum project. Due to the undue delay in the proper commencement of the Neelum Jhelum project, the cost of the project has ballooned from 84.5 billion to a staggering Rs 274.8 billion, which might result in an exorbitant power generation cost of over Rs 10 per unit, against the existing hydroelectric generation cost of 16 paisa per unit.
The burden of the costs arising out of delays and inefficiency is also expected to be transferred to consumers, as the government has decided to arrange 40 per cent of the required funds through a levy on consumed energy imposed by the Government of Pakistan
It is a matter of deep concern that a permanent works above the riverbed is not allowed. But India went ahead with the construction of a powerhouse, tunnelling works, constructing cofferdams, temporary bypass tunnel and concretisation under the riverbed for the dam. And the controversy owes its genesis to India’s plan to build a 330-megawatt hydropower plant in Held Kashmir across the Jhelum River.
The dam site is located 160 km upstream from Muzaffarabad and involves the diversion of Kishanganga River (called the Neelum River in Pakistan) to a tributary named Bunar Madumati Nullah of Jhelum near Bunkot. The diversion will change the course of the Neelum by about 100km, which will then join the Jhelum through Wullar Lake near the town of Bandipur in Baramula district. As a result of this diversion, the Neelum and Jhelum rivers which at present join each other near Muzaffarabad at Domail will meet in Indian Held Kashmir.