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Water shortage... By Syed Ali

27 December, 2013

It is often said, and rightly so, that future wars may be fought over water. However, in reality, control over this vital resource is an age-old issue. More often than not, we see Pakistan and India at loggerheads with each other over this natural resource. Pakistan frequently cries 'foul play' over India's construction of dams, which have drastically reduced flows downstream. Consequently, the verdict passed by the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) in favour of Pakistan on the Kishanganga dam project is a welcome note and acknowledges the fact that even the world body recognises the hegemonic designs of India.

According to Pakistan's view, the design and operations of the project were in clear violation of the Indus Water Treaty and would affect 30 percent production of Pakistan's Neelum-Jehlum Power House and cause a shortage of 2,000 cusecs of water in Neelum Valley. Hence, the ICA, in its verdict, allowed India to build the 330 MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project in Indian-held Kashmir but ordered India to provide half of the dam's water to Pakistan too. India should wholeheartedly welcome the decision of the ICA and abide by the rules, otherwise this stubborn attitude will harm its credentials not only in Pakistan but the world over. In short, India must stop seeing itself as a power that is somehow above regulations.

It has also been acknowledged that the history of conflict between the two countries has made water a potentially explosive issue. It could also be said that India's decision to go ahead with the Kishanganga hydropower project and other dams in Indian-administrated Kashmir is geared not so much towards meeting its own needs as impoverishing Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan is facing a dismal situation over the shortage of water. It is a country that, by all accounts, is water-stressed unfortunately. There can be no short-term solutions to a water shortage that has its origins in unintelligent use and a rapidly growing population. However, while we await the world and regional cooperation, Pakistan can help its own cause by focusing on rational use and integrated water management. Our current profligacy coupled with the growing pollution of watercourses and aquifers is simply not sustainable. The effects of acute water scarcity are already visible across the land. Therefore, a concerted effort is required to meet the greater challenges that lie ahead.


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