Indus Waters Treaty

  • IASbaba
  • October 22, 2022
  • 0
Geography, International Relations
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Context: The World Bank has appointed a “neutral expert” and a chairman of the Court of Arbitration (CoA) regarding the Kishenganga and Rattle hydroelectric power plants.

  • The development came in view of disagreements and differences between India and Pakistan over the 1960 Indus Water Treaty.
  • The World Bank while announcing the appointments has expressed its confidence that the highly qualified experts will engage in fair and careful consideration of their jurisdictional mandate, as they are empowered to do by the Treaty.
  • Michel Lino as the Neutral Expert and Sean Murphy as the Chairman of CoA will carry out their duties in their individual capacity as subject matter experts.
  • Although there was no immediate reaction from India to the appointments.

Background of the Indus Water Dispute

  • The Indus River basin has six rivers- Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej
  • Most of these rivers originate from Tibet (SAR, China) and flow through the Himalayan ranges to enter Pakistan, ending in the Arabian Sea.
  • In 1947, the line of partition also cut the Indus River system into two parts
  • Both the sides were dependent on water from the Indus River basin to keep their irrigation infrastructure functional.
  • In May 1948, initially the Inter-dominion accord was adopted.
  • This accord decided that India would supply water to Pakistan in exchange for an annual payment made by Pakistan.
  • This agreement however, soon disintegrated as both the countries could not agree upon its common interpretations.
  • Due to the water-sharing dispute in 1951 both the countries applied to the World Bank for funding of their respective irrigation projects on the Indus and its tributaries.
  • At this point of time the World Bank offered to mediate the conflict.
  • Finally in 1960, after nearly a decade of fact-finding, negotiation, proposals by the World Bank and amendments to them, an agreement was reached between the two countries.
  • The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was signed by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then President of Pakistan, Ayyub Khan.

Key provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty

Water Sharing Provisions

  • The treaty prescribed how water from the six rivers of the Indus River System would be shared between India and Pakistan.
  • The three western rivers—Indus, Chenab and Jhelum—were allotted to Pakistan for unrestricted use.
  • Barring certain non-consumptive, agricultural and domestic uses by India.
  • The three Eastern rivers—Ravi, Beas and Sutlej—were allocated to India for unrestricted usage.
  • Thus, by provisions of treaty 80% of the share of water or about 135 million Acre Feet (MAF) went to Pakistan while India left with the rest 33 MAF or 20% of water for its usage.

Administrative provisions

  • It required both the countries to establish a Permanent Indus Commission constituted by permanent commissioners on both sides.
  • The commission will serve as a forum for exchange of information on the rivers, for continued cooperation and as the first stop for the resolution of conflicts.

Operational provisions

  • Although Pakistan has rights over the waters of Jhelum, Chenab and Indus.
  • Annexure C of the treaty allows India certain agricultural uses.
  • Also, Annexure D allows India to build ‘run of the river‘ hydropower projects (projects not requiring live storage of water).
  • India needs to share information on the project design or alterations made to it with Pakistan who can raise objections or can reserve its concern within 3 months.
  • India is allowed to have a minimum storage level on the western rivers – meaning it can store up to 3.75 MAF of water for conservation and flood storage purposes.

Dispute resolution mechanism

  • The IWT provides a three-step dispute resolution mechanism, under which
  • First, “Questions” on both sides can be resolved at the Permanent Commission, or can also be taken up at the inter-government level.
  • Disputes/differences unresolved on the first level can be taken to the World Bank who appoints a Neutral Expert (NE) to come to a decision.
  • Eventually, if either party is not satisfied with the NE’s decision or in case of “disputes” in the interpretation and extent of the treaty, matters can be referred to a Court of Arbitration.

Annulment provisions

  • The treaty does not provide a unilateral exit provision to either country.
  • It is supposed to remain in force unless both the countries ratify another mutually agreed pact.

About Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project

  • The Kishanganga project is located 5 km north of Bandipore in Jammu and Kashmir, India.
  • It is a run-of-the-river project that includes a 37 m tall concrete-face rock-fill dam.
  • It requires to divert water from the Kishanganga River through a tunnel to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin.
  • It will have an installed capacity of 330 MW(3units X 110 MW)
  • The construction of this hydroelectric project began in 2007.
  • Pakistan objected to the project arguing that it will affect the flow of the Kishanganga River (called the Neelum River in Pakistan).
  • In 2013, The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (CoA) ruled that India could divert all the water with certain conditions.
  • It had to leave a minimum amount of water downstream of the dam on Kishanganga River for environmental flows.

Why is there a dispute over Kishenganga and Ratle HEPs?

  • The World Bank backed Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan sets a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers.
  • However, India and Pakistan disagree over whether the technical design features of Kishenganga and ratel hydroelectric power plants contravene the Treaty.
  • Pakistan asked the World Bank to facilitate the establishment of a Court of Arbitration to consider its concerns about the designs of the two hydroelectric power projects.
  • India has asked for the appointment of a Neutral Expert to consider similar concerns over the two projects.

Way forward:

  • In the last six decades the Indus Waters Treaty has been successful in keeping the water sharing disputes at bay which signifies its importance.
  • However, in the present times of climate crisis coupled with natural disasters the demands of water sharing of both the countries have changed.
  • Therefore, there is a need to renegotiate the treaty terms, update certain technical specifications and expand the scope of the agreement to address demands of the two countries amid the rising climate crisis.

Source: The Hindu

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Consider the following pairs:

Reservoirs                 :          States

  1. Ghataprabha :     Telangana
  2. Gandhi Sagar :    Madhya Pradesh
  3. Indira Sagar :      Andhra Pradesh
  4. Maithon :             Chhattisgarh

How many pairs given above are not correctly matched? (2022)

  1. Only one pair
  2. Only two pairs PAY
  3. Only three pairs
  4. All four pairs

Q.2) With reference to the Indus River system, of the following four rivers, three of them pour into one of the which joins the Indus direct. Among the following, which one is such river that joins the Indus direct?  (2021)

  1. Chenab
  2. Jhelum
  3. Ravi
  4. Sutlej


For a dedicated peer group, Motivation & Quick updates, Join our official telegram channel –

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel HERE to watch Explainer Videos, Strategy Sessions, Toppers Talks & many more…

Search now.....

Sign Up To Receive Regular Updates