Notwithstanding the Indian Union Ministers remarks of stopping river water flowing across to Pakistan in the aftermath of Uri and Pulwama terror attacks, India is currently releasing more water to Pakistan than before.
India released around 7,700 cusec of water from Ferozepur barrage and 2,300 cusec of water from Madhopur barrage on the Ravi river to be flowed to Pakistan between May 21 and June 20 this year, according to the data provided by the government.
After the Pulwama terror attack in February this year, senior BJP leader and Union Minister for Water Resources Nitin Gadkari had said that all water presently flowing into Pakistan from India will be diverted to Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to punish that country.
The water distribution between the two countries is governed by the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 (IWT) that grants control over the waters of Beas, Ravi and Sutlej to India and over that of the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum to Pakistan.
There have been periodic calls in India for a unilateral withdrawal from the Indus Treaty, something that was reiterated by the Indian establishment in the aftermath of Uri terror attack in 2016.
Pakistan is grappling with water scarcity and according to estimates it will face a shortage of 31 million acre-feet of water by 2025. In these circumstances, India can force Pakistan to kneel without firing a bullet by just stopping the water. But that is not happening now.
“Due to high rainfall during September 2018, frequent rainfall during January and February 2019 and the historically high snow accumulation in the catchments, the water in Bhakra, Pong and Ranjit Sagar (Thein) dams reached higher levels this year in comparison to average years,” Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti Rattan Lal Kataria told Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Monday.
“Accordingly, to safeguard the dam structures and to protect downstream area from flood during the impending monsoon, a consensus decision was taken by Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) and the partner states namely Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana to utilize maximum possible water in their canal system before the monsoon and release only the excess water into Pakistan so as to make room for fresh inflows into dam reservoirs during the monsoon.
“As a result, an average of 7,700 cusec of water below Ferozepur barrage, downstream of Harike barrage and 2,300 cusec of water below Madhopur barrage on the Ravi had to be released between May 21 to June 20,” the Minister said.
He also informed the upper House of Parliament that the storage capacity of reservoirs on these rivers has been increased in the last three years as the capacity is regulated by the dam height and cannot be increased.
India is undertaking three projects to ensure it utilizes its full share from the six rivers. The projects are the Shahpurkandi dam project on the Ravi, second Ravi-Beas link in Punjab and the Ujh dam project on in Jammu and Kashmir.
Kataria said that “every effort is made” to avoid flow of water downstream of international border by controlling the releases from the Bhakra, Pong and Ranjit Sagar (Thein) dams located on Sutlej, Beas and Ravi rivers respectively.
“However, the water level in a dam is regulated to moderate probable flow and ensure safety of the dam,” he said.
In an interview to Foreign Policy magazine in February this year,
Sunil Amrith, the author of ‘Unruly Waters’ and a professor of South Asian studies at Harvard University said that the idea of regulating the flow out of water to Pakistan side is not something that started with Modi government, but has a long genesis.
“Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the control of water has continued to be of symbolic value. The government has also committed itself to the gigantic river-linking project, at an estimated cost of at least $90 billion. But none of this started with Modi. I think in terms of their approach to water management, there is a long thread of continuity across the past several Indian governments,” Amrith has said.