Pakistan’s Trans-boundary Water Disputes

The settlement needs to be modernized for the removal of new difficulties



For life on earth, water is “sine qua non”, whether, from human necessities or every other species, any element of human nature is overwhelmed pivotally by the water. Water safety is one of the most challenging problems of the 21st century, especially for developing countries like Pakistan.

Pakistan has a lower river status in South Asia. Besides this, Pakistan is an agricultural economy that accounts for 22.4% of GDP and 42.3% of jobs. Energy security also totally depends on the hydropower plant which boosts water significance for Pakistan.  The worrying fact is, however, that water availability has decreased for Pakistan by 78.4 percent in the last 60 years. Research estimates showed that in the next 50 to 100 years, there is a 75% to 95% chance of conflict, with water being focal clarification.

With this context, Pakistan is geologically reliant on transboundary water streams while being the agricultural economy. Two players are involved in Pakistan’s transboundary water relationship.  The two players are the adjoining states of Pakistan; Afghanistan and India. Both of the adjoining state’s relations with Pakistan are intrinsically political. The upper riparian states deliberately use water as a weapon against Pakistan. As the two states hold upper riparian status, the advantages are consistent with the upstream state in transboundary water interaction, and at whatever point they feel to interrupt and stop the channel stream they can, just to make obstacles for Pakistan.

One of the transboundary water disputes has its origin from the establishment of an independent state. In 1948, the water dispute came into light when the upper riparian state halts the water stream to the lower riparian state causing the “dire threat” of famine. With the assistance of the World Bank Pakistan managed to overcome the problem in the form of the 61- year-old Indus Water Treaty.  Indus River is, in this sense, the main source for Pakistan’s 200million people. The current escalating armed war in the Kashmir region, in particular, may lead to barriers to hydro-related projects in Pakistan.

In 2004, Collier and Hoeffler presented the two essential components of the contentions. The Greed(interests) and Grievance (dispute of values). This is relevant in the case of India, as timely, India seeking to incorporate projects for water storage, for instance, Salal dam, Tulbul Navigation Project/Wullar Barrage (Pakistan offered name to project due to its controversial nature), Baglihar dam, Neelum/ Kishenganga project. India is well aware of the fact that how much water is essential for the survival of Pakistan. Scarcity for technical advancement is being used by India. One may, however, be of the opinion that what’s the need that India tries to construct hydro projects just on the waterways that stream in Pakistan.

The answer is quite evident in Jeroen Warner’s work on “Plugging the GAP Working with Buzan: the Ilisu Dam as a security issue” that “Up streamers use water to gain more power, while down streamers use power to get more water. Concernedly, where Pakistan is on verge of water scarcity, India does not have such issues. Still, India endeavoring to maneuver the water stream by the construction of dams and diverting the flow. Just to imply its unilateral control, power, and decisiveness. Furthermore, an upstream state has covert ambitions. The Indus Basin is India’s “breadbasket,” since India also has other huge basins which can be used for water security like Brahmaputra and Ganges. Nevertheless, India regards the river Indus as the most significant. But, why? The lone answer is, India cannot leave any opportunity from where it can harm Pakistan’s image in the international arena. Briefly, India uses water as a weapon against Pakistan.

In this regard, India is cooperating with Afghanistan, another key player in the transboundary water interactions of Pakistan. Previously, conflict was obstructed in Afghanistan, and construction programs could not be consolidated. The current status prompted to begin developing projects and India being the wicked enemy of Pakistan used this opportunity. India is currently financing Afghanistan to build 12 dams along the Kabul River to increase hydrological capacity.  The “biggest tributaries” are drained in Pakistan’s Indus River and irrigates three districts of Pakistan; Nowshera (47.5%), Charsada (85%), and Peshawar (80%). Moreover, Peshawar produces 250 MW of electricity from the Warsak Dam, built downstream of the Kabul River in 1960.

On the off chance that this “India-backed ambitious plan” gets effective in constructing the $236million worth Shahtoot storage dam, Pakistan will face a huge setback. 60billion cubic meters pumping, 250 MW electricity, district irrigation, and water streaming in the Indus, all will get affected by bringing Pakistan to the edge of collapsing.

Hydro diplomacy in Pakistan must be strengthened. A treaty like IWT with modifications ought to be endorsed with Afghanistan. In the case of India, Pakistan should not rely upon the old Indus Water Treaty. The settlement needs to be modernized for the removal of new difficulties. All basin countries and the environmental change aspect should be included in the Treaty. Otherwise, there will be another dispute in South Asia. Perhaps the notable reason behind Pakistan’s fruitless results in controlling water scarcity lies behind the weak government. The administration should remind themselves that it’s time to take combat the strategic war wherein water is a weapon against Pakistan.



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