Optimize benefits from IWT

Decades ago the landmark Indus Water Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan under the aegis of World Bank. Both countries agreed that this was a fair treaty which distributed the waters of the rivers of Northern India between the two countries. Modalities of distribution and utilization of the waters were stated and it was also laid down that in case of disagreement or clarifications the two countries would refer to the World Bank whose arbitration would be acceptable to both. There have been several occasions when Pakistan approached the World Bank with a complaint or two and these were resolved in accordance with the stipulations of the IWT.
Ravi runs partly through the territory of J&K and partly the East Punjab territory. Consequently both States naturally wanted to draw maximum benefit of the waters of Ravi for irrigation and for production of hydroelectric power. Way back in January 1979 J&K and Punjab entered into an agreement about the utilization of the waters of Ravi. It was proposed that Punjab would build Shahpur Kandi Dam from which water would be supplied through a canal to irrigate vast kandi or dry land areas in the twin districts of Kathua and Samba. It was also agreed by the Punjab Government to give 20 per cent of the generated power to the J&K State besides the agreed amount of water for irrigation. Punjab did not execute the projects in time but continued to use the water including the share of the J&K State. Then some years back Punjab Government legislative assembly passed a resolution rescinding all bilateral treaties with neighbouring states including the Shahpur Kandi dam and related projects with J&K State. This dealt a serious blow to the expectations of our State particularly the farmers in kandi areas whose expectations had been boosted by the proposed canal and power to be generated. This stalemate continued for many years until last year when the Union Minister for Water Resources Oma Bharti intervened and convinced the two State Governments that owing to their disagreement, Pakistan was drawing maximum benefit from the surplus water which unnecessarily flowed to that country. Owing to non utilization of the share of J&K state because Punjab had rescinded the treaty, J&K State was put to great disadvantage. In retaliation J&K Government demanded compensation from the Government of Punjab for the loss of water she suffered during so many decades.
Finally on the intervention of the Central Government, the Shahpur Kandi agreement has been revived last year.
Prime Minister Modi has changed India’s approach to IWT in a manner that he wants India to make the optimum utilization of the quantum of water she is entitled to under the IWT. Naturally, he has expressed his dissatisfaction over the way we are losing water of Ravi to Pakistan. Secretary to the Prime Minister has held a video conference with the senior bureaucrats of the State in which modalities of implementation of the bilateral treaty were discussed and orders issued to concerned departments to proceed in the matter. This decision will facilitate immediate resumption of work on Shahpur Kandi Dam Project. The Cabinet has also authorized the PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Department to execute necessary addendum to the agreement to formalize arrangement for construction of Shahpur Kandi Project. Highlighting the benefits of ratification of the agreement dated March 3, 2017 sources say that Punjab will immediately release the balance cost of land compensation and other allied items which is approximately more than Rs 115 crore. Apart from this, 861 affected persons will be provided employment in the construction of dam.
Over one lakh acres of Kandi area of Samba and Kathua districts falling in the command of Ravi Canal will get irrigation facility. We learn that Punjab Government has already agreed to supply the power at the rate of Rs 3.50 per unit subject to the approval of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) as soon as the work is resumed. After resumption of work of Shahpur Kandi Dam, J&K will start getting 20% of the power generated from Ranjit Sagar Dam and another 20% from the Shahpur Kandi power plant after its completion and commissioning. Moreover, J&K will save Rs 14 crore annually on account of power and operational and maintenance charges being paid for lift stations at Basantpur and Lakhanpur. These are no small advantages and they will contribute to the economic health of the State. The Ujh project which had been hanging fire since 2008 has also been cleared by the cabinet subject to some conditions. It will be owned by the State Government and is expected to generate 162 MW of power when completed.
We congratulate the cabinet for talking the final call for the prestigious projects stated above. In particular the Shahur Kandi project has been the apple of the eye of kandi farmers who are dreaming of a change in their lives once their fields are irrigated. The Government deserves kudos for this good decision.


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