Looming threat of water wars

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Nazia Nazar:

Last year, Pakistan suffered a loss exceeding five billion rupees in paddy crop production only in the wake of water shortage after India stopped Chenab
water to fill its Baglihar dam during the month of September 2008. But this was not the first instance, as India violated Indus Water Treaty many a time, and the objective seemed to be India’s attempt to dry up Pakistan because India feels that Pakistan is a major obstacle in its hegemonic designs against the countries in the region. India’s think-tanks have been working on river diversion plans with a view to creating acute water shortage in Pakistan. The
objective is to adversely impact production of wheat and other crops, and also to stoke inter-provincial conflicts over distribution of water.

In the pastmthe world has witnessed wars between different countries of the world over religions, usurpation of territories and control of resources including oil. But in view of acute shortages of water in Africa, Middle East, Asia and elsewhere, the future wars could be fought over water.

The Indus River Basin has been an area of conflict between India and Pakistan for about four decades. Spanning 1,800 miles, the river and its tributaries
together make up one of the largest irrigation canals in the world. However, the distribution of the river basin water has created friction among India and
Pakistan, and also among their states and provinces.

Accusations of overdrawing of share of water made by each province in Pakistan have resulted in the lack of water supplies to coastal regions of Pakistan. India and Bangladesh have also dispute over Ganges River water and the former is resorting to water theft there as well. It is too well known that water is life; it is indispensable to agriculture and in fact it is critical input into a country’s agriculture especially when it is situated in an arid or semi-arid zone. When India stopped water to fill Baglihar dam at Chenab river, Pakistan had taken up the matter with the World Bank, as Pakistan was getting 7000 to 8000 cusecs less water daily during Rabi season. By violating “Indus Water Treaty” India has reduced Pakistan’s share of water through construction of dams on the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab rivers.

According to the treaty, India could not use Chenab water if it affects the quantity or flow of the river. And it goes without saying that by making the
reservoir, the flow of water will definitely be affected, as happened when India stopped water to fill the Baglihar dam. There is a perception that India is consciously working on a plan to create rift between the federation and federating units of Pakistan.

In chapter Sindh of “Pakistan’s Provinces” published in 2004 by Strategic Foresight Group Publications of India, authors had made forecasts: “If Sindh continues to suffer economic deterioration and water shortages, internal turmoil is inevitable…The influx of Sindh refugees can bring India into direct confrontation with Pakistan…Independent Sindh might be born but not before the 1971 war is replayed”. Of course the objective of Indian leadership to destabilize Pakistan, as it is considered as an obstacle to India’s grand designs to be a regional and a world power.

India should, however, understand that if it resorts to foul play and tries to strangulate Pakistan by diverting water resources, or tries to fan parochialism in Pakistan’s provinces, or as hinted in the past, it tries to move into Sindh to separate it from the rest of the country, Pakistan has the capacity to adequately respond to the threats, and will not sit quiet on any of its ‘initiatives’.

The problem is that India is emboldened due to the internecine conflicts between the political parties, and the country looks like a divided house. It is because of the contradictions between the federation and federating units that no larger reservoir could be constructed during the last three decades. Unfortunately some acrimonious internal developments have taken place between the provinces especially the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan taking similar stand against Punjab on water issue. In this regard provincial governments have not only made harsh assertions but have also issued stern warnings to Punjab. The aim is to get more water for their provinces. The leaders of political parties and nationalists of the provinces should unite to deter India from its pernicious designs to make Pakistan a wasteland, as they all would stand to lose. India should, however, understand that Pakistan is neither Nepal nor like other countries of South Asia but an atomic power. And if war is imposed on Pakistan, there would be no concept of the victor or the vanquished.

Reportedly, Kalabagh dam had been politicized due to India’s hand in fueling passions in the smaller provinces. Anyhow, construction of Bhasha dam should be expedited otherwise Pakistan will not be able to produce enough food-grains to meet the needs of the growing population, as loss of storage capacity due to sedimentation is causing serious drops with the result that water is not available even for existing level of agricultural production. Secondly, for implementation of water apportionment accord 1991, a new storage project is essential otherwise the shortage of water would give rise to bitter inter-provincial disputes particularly in dry weather years. And Pakistan not only would face food shortages but also suffer from energy shortfall with the result. Furthermore, industrialization will stop and it will be difficult to address the problem of unemployment.

It would be in the interest of both India and Pakistan to resolve the water issue amicably otherwise the onus will lie on India and it will be responsible for the consequences, as Pakistan will use all its resources to get its share of water at any cost.

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One Response to Looming threat of water wars

  1. himyaosui2 says:

    I like your article very much and I hope and wish that we might not lose sight of each other’s postings. Recently, within the past 12 months, I read an article very similar to yours. I wish that I had saved reference to it, so I will be able to refer to it time and time again. Anyway, I wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your article and I tend to agree with you.


    HIM Yao Sui

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