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Neelum-Jhelum project contract awarding: delay led India to begin Kishanganga hydel works

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The anomalous delay in awarding the Neelum Jehlum hydroelectric project by the Ministry of Water and Power paved the way for Indians to start the controversial 330 MW Kishanganga hydro electric project (KHEP) in May 2007.
The Hague-based International Court of Arbitration has reportedly denied stay in construction of Kishanganga, as demanded by an irrelevant team, led by Prime Minister s Advisor on Water, Kamal Majeed Ullah, who represented Pakistan as agent. According to sources in the Ministry of Water and Power, Pakistan has planned to plead the case on the same grounds as it fought the Baghlihar dam case. According to a study, conducted by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Kishanganga project, as believed by the Indus Water Commissioner, is in line with Indus Water Treaty (IWT), is not true. The catchment area at Kishanganga dam site is roughly 1820 square kilometres, and annual average flow is 115,900 cusec. By diverting this flow towards a tributary, named Bunar Madumati Nullah, of Jhelum river, through a 22-km tunnel, would be a clear violation of the Article (clause) 1V-3-c of the Indus Waters Treaty. This diversion will increase the catchment area of the Jhelum River. The Article 1V (-C-) explicitly says that India shall not take any action to increase the catchment area, beyond the area on the effective date, of any natural or artificial drainage and drain which crosses into Pakistan, and shall not undertake such construction or remodelling of any drainage or drain which so crosses as might cause material damages in Pakistan; and increase in catchment area is the violation of this article of the treaty. The author of the study, Arshad Abbasi, is of the view that by diverting the flow of Kishanganga river, upstream at Gurez, the catchment area of river Jhelum (tributary of main Jhelum) will be increased, which will cause enormous material damage in Neelum Valley due to adverse effects of non-availability/reduction of water. On the other hand, increase in catchment area of river Jhelum tributary will increase the flow in tributary, that will cause material damage due to adverse effects arising from flood-like situation ie erosion of agriculture land along both sides of River Jhelum tributary. There is a little doubt that diverting Kishanganga under the proposed project will lead to drastically reduce the flow in the Neelum river. The Indian stance is a reduction in flow would be 10 percent. It is totally wrong: the Indian calculation of flowing at Nauseri is based on annual average, the point/place, where the intake for NJHEP is designed, Abbasi added. The 60 percent to 70 percent of total flow, that is approximately 343100 cusec at Nauseri, drained out during three to four months of the whole year. Thus, the average flow at this point would reduce to 33 percent after completion of KEHP. However, in May, June and July, to around 9 percent; but the financial impact of power generation would be around Rs 12. 18 billion alone. The worst impact, minimal, almost reduced to zero at Toabutt, the place where Kishenganga becomes Neelum river. At this place, annul flow which is approximately 136000 cusec would totally be diverted in 8 months of a year. The study further observed that other than worst impact on the Neelum valley, the Jhelum valley in Pakistan is stretched from Chakothi (entry point of river Jhelum) to Domel (Muzaffarabad) will also become victims of abnormal excessive flow of the Jhelum River. The unnatural flow of water in the basin of Jhelum river would cause flooding threats to road and built-up public/private infrastructures, in addition to agriculture losses. The four bridges have to be relocated or their height from the bed has to increase. All the built-up infrastructure along both banks of the Jhelum river ie public and private buildings, agriculture extension offices, agriculture and food stores, main roads and link road network, suspension bridges, hydroelectric units, power supply posts, telecommunication network, village shops etc would e under a threat of floods and has to relocated. The situation will disturb the farm families and would result in local and intra-country migration increasing pressure on the resource use. The surrounding mountains of the Jhelum valley, already lost their natural interlocking in earthquake-2005, became geologically fragile. The additional flow would not only cause serious erosion of fragile slope lands along the river banks, but also affect the natural stability that would trigger massive landslides. Thus, there is great likelihood that geological instability would cause loss to agriculture farms, fruit bearing plants, grazing pastures, forest poultry and fish farms and water mills. Consequently, the livelihood of poor farm families will be negatively affected. The rough cost of relocation of these all in-built infrastructure will be around Rs 2. 4 billion. These losses are conveyed to members of International Court of Arbitration. MOWP hired a contractor for environmental damage assessment, who failed to quantify the actual damage.

Courtesy : Business Recorder

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