Failure to defend riparian rights
WHILE senior functionaries in Wapda and the ministry of water and power appeared more interested in playing a blame game, they failed to implement the decision to take the case of India’s Nimoo-Bazgo hydropower project to the International Court of Arbitration.
The decision, which was a great setback for the country, was taken in December last year and approved by the prime minister a month later.
The officials concerned were scheduled to file the case in February this year and then in April but could not do so as the paper work and related documents were not ready. This would have been the third case in a row against India after Baglihar and Kishanganga. But the endless delay benefited India in a big way.
During the secretary-level talks between the two countries held in New Delhi on July 5, Pakistan informed India that it has decided not to file a lawsuit in the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) over the controversial Nimoo-Bazgo hydroelectric power project being built on River Indus in Leh district of Ladakh.
The decision followed after India informed Pakistan that the construction work of the dam has been completed. It rendered Islamabad’s going to the court pointless. A similar delay of about a year had also taken place in filing the petition, seeking stoppage of construction work on Kishanganga river, in The Hague court but Pakistan was still able to get ‘stay order’ in respect of permanent works on the project.
The Nimoo-Bazgoo power project is a run-of-the-river scheme on Indus and is one of the highest hydropower projects in the world, located at over 10,000 feet above sea-level. This project, harnessing the hydro potential of Indus and Zanskar rivers, is capable of generating 45MW of electricity, which is likely to meet the electricity demands of the entire Ladakh region.
However, Pakistan recently objected to India’s move to fill the Nimoo-Bazgo dam, claiming that it could cut off Islamabad’s share of water from the Indus river. The project is reportedly operational now. There are plans to extend it to the northern grid through a 220KV transmission line from Leh to Srinagar and later provide electricity to the Indian troops in Siachen.
Another similar project, also ignored by Pakistan’s ministry of water and power, is a 42-metre high Chuttak hydroelectric project, located on the River Suru, a tributary of Indus in the Kargil district. It is nearly complete. The two projects would reduce the flow of River Indus when it enters Pakistan.
Meanwhile, a new twist to the current scenario is the blame game. A former Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Water Syed Jamaat Ali Shah, a seasoned water expert, who had emerged as a favourite whipping boy for the water bureaucracy has now been declared ‘innocent’ to the distress of his critics by a three-member inquiry committee headed by Wapda chairman Syed Raghib Abbas Shah.
The inquiry report said Jamaat had no role in causing the delay; rather India alone is responsible for illegally carrying out the construction of Nimoo-Bazgo hydropower project in violation of the Indus Water Treaty. He was earlier found ‘guilty’ by the secretary of Wapda, Imtiaz Tajwar, in a preliminary investigation report, and charged with colluding with India to let the project be completed quietly and denying the country the option of counter-measures to bring the project to a halt. Sensing trouble, Jamaat Ali Shah, who retired on September 30, 2011, had fled to Canada before his name appeared on the exit control list (ECL). He was also accused of having never visited the project site in India before and during the construction period of the project which gave rise to doubts about his and his team’s involvement in
facilitating India. The former commissioner, Tajwar report said, remained silent about the hydropower project from 2002 to 2009, nor raised any objections during Pakistan-India meetings. Jamaat Ali Shah says that he had asked the Indians more than 12 times seeking permission to visit Nimoo-Bazgo and Chuttak projects, but they did not allow him. He had asked the ministry of water and power and Kamal Majidulah, special assistant to PM on water, in July 2010, to move the Court of Arbitration against India for Indus Water Treaty violations but all of them remained unmoved and indifferent. In 2002, Pakistan asked India to provide details of the project but India did not respond till December 2006 despite numerous reminders.
The Raghib committee was constituted to determine the ‘criminal negligence,’ if any, on the part of Jamaat Ali Shah in the light of the report of Imtiaz Tajwar. The committee has now exonerated him of all the charges. It means that some Wapda officials are responsible for the deliberate delay in implementing the December 2011 decision of going to ICA. Jamaat Ai Shah was no longer in the picture at that time for he had already retired a few months back. And a Pakistani delegation had visited the site of Nimoo-Bazgo hydroelectric project in October 2011 and raised five objections mainly related to the height of spillways and depth of the dam but the Indians rejected their objections. There was no follow-up.
Earlier, in a surprise move in 2010, Pakistan had withdrawn its objections to the construction of Uri-II and Chutak hydropower projects at the Water Commissioners-level talks. The Pakistani team said it had no objection to the designs of the two power projects after the Indian side provided the details. This was for the first time that Pakistan had willingly accepted the designs of two power projects, keeping in view the fact that it took a ministerial meeting for the country to agree to Salal power project.
Some officials say India had managed to get approval of carbon credits amounting to $482,083 in seven years for Nimoo-Bazgo and Chuttak hydropower projects, after showing a clearance report on trans-boundary environmental impact assessment of the projects from Pakistan.
How it happened remains a mystery. Hindustan Times says Tajwar failed to establish how India managed to secure carbon credits. He was unable to collect any documentary evidence regarding the accumulation of carbon credits by India during the investigation.
According to Indian media, both central and state governments are working on a series of small power generation projects to help Ladakh overcome its power deficit. But Pakistani officials say that India has prepared a master plan to construct nine more large dams in Ladakh region.