In an exclusive interview with Radio Pakistan along with Senior Legal Counsel of Government of Pakistan Shumaila Mahmood on Tuesday (19 February)‚ he said India is building about 150 dams of different sizes on the Western rivers meant for Pakistan and the verdict of the Arbitration Court is a clear message that India cannot construct them as per its whims.
He said India has officially acknowledged construction of three more dams on Western rivers but there is information that it has plans to build 47 projects of more than 50 MW each. He said construction of 150 dams meant depriving Pakistan of its share of water but the verdict in Kishan Ganga dispute has sent a clear signal to India that it cannot do so violating provisions of the Indus Basin Treaty.
Kamal Majeedullah dispelled the impression created by a section of the media that the verdict of the Arbitration Court was‚ in any way‚ in favor of India or against Pakistan. Instead‚ he said‚ this would compel India to change design of the project.
He explained that as per verdict of the arbitration court India‚ in principle‚ can divert water but there is no decision as to the volume and timing. He said this would disturb Indian plan for construction of the power plant as they would not be knowing about quantity and flow of the water and the quantity of water that it will have to ensure down-stream.
The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister said India wanted annual draw down flushing which would have deprived Pakistan of its share of water. Pakistan argued before the court that if India was allowed diversion or flushing then Pakistan might not get water at all from Neelum River for about seven to nine months a year depending on rain and snowfall. The court acknowledged Pakistan's point of view and it would give its verdict about quantity of water that India can divert.
He said the court has also asked Pakistan and India to provide data about flow of water‚ irrigation and drinking water requirements and needs of hydel power stations by June this year.
Asked how implementation of the verdict would be ensured‚ Senior Legal Counsel Shumaila Mahmood expressed hope that the arbitration court would lay down clear mechanism for the purpose. She hoped that the final award would not only define and clarify different provisions of the Indus Basin Treaty but its interpretations would also serve as guideline for future.
Replying to a question‚ Kamal Majeedullah said credit goes to President Asif Ali Zardari and the present government for taking the issue of water to the International Court of Arbitration that would help safeguard rights of the country. He said this is a message to India that it cannot go beyond the framework of the Indus Basin Treaty as it did in the past.
He said India‚ which has ambitions to become a major power‚ would stand exposed before the international community if it persisted with its plans in violations of the provisions of the Indus Basin Treaty and verdict of Court of Arbitration. He said in the past India did not show seriousness in settling water disputes through dialogue and that is why Pakistan had to resort to the mechanism laid down in the Indus Basin Treaty.
The interview was also aired in ‘Naey Ufaq' programme of National Broadcasting Service at 08:05 on Tuesday night.
COMPLETE TEXT OF INTERVIEW OF KAMAL MAJEEDULLAH AND SHUMAILA MAHMOOD
Shahid Afraz: Present with us are advisor to Prime Minister on Water‚ Kamal Majeedullah and Shumaila Mahmood‚ a senior legal advisor to the Government. Kamal Sahib‚ I would like to know your comments about a decision taken by the International Court Justice at The Hague in which India has been given a limited permission to divert direction of water‚ contrary to its stance on the Kishanganga hydel Power Project.
Kamal Majeedullah: I am thankful to you for holding discussion on an important issue. Water is a basic requirement for human life; it makes the land fertile‚ runs civilization and we have been living and depending on it for the past one hundred and fifty years. Therefore‚ the decision which has come forward will have to be viewed carefully. But it cannot be presumed that something has gone against us. India had initially put in its stance or in its design some provision of changing some limited diversion of its water. So far as the court decision is concerned‚ it permits India in principle for a limited diversion but does not specify the quantity of water‚ period of time and water flow impact on the downward power projects because a hydel power plant is based on quantity and flow of water yet these two things are unclear in the case. If everything is looked at minutely‚ they will have to change the design‚ they will have to think about the shape and lifetime of the plant. I think this decision has been given in accordance with the Indus Basin Treaty which permits India to construct power plant on the run of the river. But it is very necessary to mention here that it can do so in accordance with the rules laid down in the agreement under which contrary to its stance‚ India is not allowed to do a few things including taking out water as a whole.
Shahid Afraz: Will you please clarify reports circulating in some media circles which term the decision is in the interest of India?
Kamal Majeedullah: I am thankful to you for this specific question. Regretfully‚ the stories circulating in the media are based on reports downloaded from the Indian press and websites. The people by presenting these stories have‚ in fact‚ represented the Indian stance which is a very shocking and regrettable move. In other words‚ they presented the Indian thinking and viewpoint. I clearly say that India had gotten nothing but the way it highlighted the decision apparently gives the impression that it had got everything. Why should we represent India's stance by saying that we have gotten nothing? Therefore‚ I can comfortably say that India cannot succeed in achieving whatsoever it wished to get. Second point is the diversion of water course. India does not even know about the quantity and timing of water‚ likely to receive by it because a decision to this effect is about to come in December 2013. India and Pakistan will present relevant requirements including code of arbitration and data of use of water till June 2013. Quantity and downward flow of water to the dam site at Gurez will be assessed later. Presenting arguments‚ Pakistan had made it clear to the court that the flow of water becomes slow in winter season and that India can stop the whole water for a period of six to seven months to meet its own requirement. The court was also told that India could stop water of the Neelum River for its own needs even beyond seven months. The court after understanding our view point said it was up to it to decide the quantity of water to be used by India and the quantity‚ which will flow downwards. Secondly‚ we had challenged the complete infrastructure of the dam and its operation for water storage by India. India said that it will bring the water level to the dead storage for flushing out stones and sand down to the river. But the heavy storage of stones and sand at the basement of the dam can change the centuries old natural flow of water. We had also made it clear to the court that the surrounding environment including trees and fields and the entire environment will also be badly affected. The court said that the draw down flushing cannot be brought below dead storey level. India wanted the draw down flushing every year‚ bringing the water level down to earth‚ excavation of sand and pushing it forward and preventing flow of water downwards‚ but the treaty signed by us called for free flow of water without causing any loss to Pakistan. Under the treaty‚ segmentation is not included. It means life of dam cannot be enhanced with flushing out system. India suffered another setback due the court decision that it should change the design of the dam. India will now have to keep in mind the quantity and flow of water.
Shahid Afraz: Kamal Sahib‚ I would like to know the effects of construction of Kishanganga hydel power plant on the hydel power projects in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan particularly on Neelum-Jhelum hydel power project?
Kamal Majeedullah: By the grace of Almighty God‚ there would be little impact‚ because the court has clearly said that we should provide detailed flow data regarding our water requirements for agriculture‚ drinking water‚ and for the power projects. Neelum-Jhelum power project is already under construction but there are several other such projects that can be constructed in Neelum valley. Had the court accepted the Indian stance that it would utilize the entire water for six months‚ irrespective of water availability‚ as in some years it goes very low and some time it is available in high quantity‚ construction of these projects would not have been possible. We also urged the court such a decision should not be given‚ which could stop our future development. The court considered the right of people and their future needs‚ and realized that downstream people have very strong right on water‚ and that people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir should also benefit from the water. The Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir has given some suggestions to keep the beauty of the valley intact‚ and we have also presented those suggestions before the court. Hence‚ instead of using diesel fueled pumps‚ they are using and they want to use solar pumps. Secondly‚ the hydel energy would be more environmental friendly. They had also made it clear that the projects would not create any hurdle in the flow of river because those living downstream are also our own people. Hence‚ their projects for coming 15 to 20 years are for the benefit of the entire area not just for them. But the projects‚ India wants to build‚ are detrimental for Azad Kashmir‚ India says that Azad Kashmir is not any independent territory and just a part of India‚ but the projects of the country are fatal for Azad Kashmir. India realizes in thoughts that Kashmir is not a part of India and it is an occupied territory and it is clear from its actions. Indian stance and action clearly depict that the country considers Kashmir as an occupied area and it is attempting to benefit from area‚ whatever benefit it can draw without considering the damage and losses of other people.
Shahid Afraz: The award of International Court of Justice has made it clear that India has been breaching the Indus Basin Treaty‚ now what would be the strategy of Pakistan to safeguard its interests?
Kamal Majeedullah: The Court itself has done it for us. We should be thankful to the court. India had been wrongly interpreting the Indus Water Treaty. They wanted to do everything as per their whims. The Court has made it clear upon India that there exists a Treaty known as the Indus Water Treaty. Ideally‚ it provides for a complete mechanism to settle all the issues‚ including difference of opinion. I think India would be mourning the court decision. The Court has attached certain conditions on wishful thinking of India. Please tell me how it goes in India's favour after such a lengthy interpretation of the court. It does not go in India's favour in any way. The court has even stated that whatever India is doing is wrong‚ what it has already done is also wrong. Please tell me in whose favour it goes. It goes in favour of those who have no control over water‚ who live downstream. The court has protected our right. The court decision is not only for the present‚ it is also for future. Now‚ India cannot go an inch beyond the decision. Previously‚ they constructed Salal Dam‚ Dulhusti Dam and Nimobazgo Dam in addition to Baghlihar Dam. Each of us knows about Baghlihar Dam. Now if India violates the court decision‚ it would be presenting its real face to the international community. Let it do that so that the world should know its real face. Now‚ the question arises how the court decision would be implemented. The Court of Arbitration is an international court and the international community is obliged to have the decision implemented. If India does not adhere to the decision‚ it will naturally expose itself.
Shahid Afraz: Shumaila Mahmood Sahiba‚ you are senior Legal Advisor of the Government and have played a very vital role in this entire process. Some reports suggests that India has been constructing several dams on western rivers which have been reserved for Pakistan. I would like to inform you that on what lines we are working to safeguard Pakistan's interests in this connection?
Shumaila Mahmood: With the decision that the issues relating to Kishanganga and other dams would be raised in the International Court of Justice for third party mediation‚ has delivered a message to India that we are very serious on the issue and that we will invoke the mechanism in the treaty for safeguarding our rights. The era has passed when we spent several years in negotiations and there was no result of the negotiations. So we have taken a very important step because the directions from the court will make India realize its obligations and respect Pakistan's rights. In Kishanganga case‚ we took two questions to the court. As far as‚ the diversion issue is concerned‚ it is not final decision and we cannot go into details at the moment.
The second question was regarding depletion of dead storage level and draw down flushing. In the Baglihar case ‚ an expert gave a verdict in which India was also given permission for sediment control. So when India designed Baglihar Dam‚ it was on the basis of this decision. India also designed many other dams while keeping in view this decision.
We took this question to the court and a final decision has come. The court has clearly said that India does not have the right of draw down flushing. Permission can be granted for draw down flushing in emergency only and according to the treaty‚ sediment control is not an emergency. The court has dealt with the case in great detail. The court also said that there was a defined criterion for the run of river. India does not have an unlimited and unrestricted right.
Pervez Akhtar Zia: There are contradictory news about the number of dams being constructed by India on the western rivers. I ask Mr. Kamal about his information in this regard and preventive measures‚ being taken by the govt.
Kamal Majeedullah: When we were in the court‚ India sent a letter to us that it was constructing three dams. They did not realize that we are in the court to decide about the Indus Basin Treaty and there will be scrutiny of Kishanganga Dam. Now they have realized that what they were thinking. They have signed a treaty and they have to follow it. But their manners and thinking reflect that they want to adopt their own free will. India wrote to us about the construction of three dams. But we visit their websites and we have come to know that they are building 47 dams that have the capacity of more than 50 MW each. Actually‚ they are building nearly 150 dams on western rivers that will have adversarial effects on Pakistan. We explained this before the court‚ that is why‚ the court gave a detailed verdict. India's stance towards us is not a good one. Their actions show that they consider the water as weapon. The incumbent government realized this from the very first day. During the Baglihar Dam case‚ the people of the existing government used to sit together and consult that what was going on. They realized that the things are not going in direction. This is the first government since the signing of Indus Basin Treaty that took the case to an arbitration court. Morally and logically‚ it is a big step.
I can say it easily that whatever steps we took‚ we took them on the directives of President Zardari. He knew earlier that this is happening with us. He sat down with us‚ consulted and shared his views with us. He directed us to take the case forward to the court of arbitration as it was a legal way. When interim order came in which stay order was given‚ there were stories against us. They were taking Indian point of view against us. When our counsel wrote a letter to them and told them that they are doing something wrong and inquired about the source of stories and questioned as to why they are doing so‚ they cooled down because they realized that they were presenting Indian point of view. I was unable to deal with them. I think present government‚ President and the Prime Minister showed great determination and interest in the issue. They realized that if they do not solve the matter‚ our future will be at stake as the water is future of every nation. I thank President and Prime Minister‚ as they allowed us‚ they permitted us to go ahead and helped us to take the issue in the court of arbitration. It has been conveyed to India that it will not be given free hand. I think this decision of court of arbitration has saved our future.
Shahid Afraz: Kamal Majeedullah Sahib‚ and Shumaila Mehmood Sahiba‚ Thank you so much.