Water resources, the line ministry in this case, has favoured a stringent approach. This, policy makers in the ministry say, isn’t an act of war aimed to “de-hydrate Pakistan” in return for its avowed policy to bleed India, but due to four simple points of national interest affecting ordinary people in Jammu & Kashmir:
* Out of 1,35,000 million cusec of water (the Indus system has six rivers, and despite being the upper riparian partner Nehru gave the three western rivers of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum to then Pak president Gen Mohd Ayub Khan, keeping the much drier Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej) Islamabad allows 33,000 million cusec to flow into the Arabian Sea! The explanation Well, how about arguing that if this weren’t done, the sea will move in! No talk of sea walls, small falls, or dykes. This in a day of immense global concern on conserving fresh water resources. The ministry therefore wants Gujarat to wake up and demand a channel connecting this excess water.
India today has nearly three times the population now. “Sheer socio-economic need demands that injustice done to the Indians in J&K, due to undue generosity in the past, and pressure from the World Bank, be rectified,” stressed an engineering planner in the ministry.
* The ministry admits that its own approach to the Tulbul navigation project and storing water from the western rivers has been lackadaisical and irresponsible. But that’s also because MEA has been keen to smoothen feathers in Islamabad, rather than looking at the problem of the farmer in J&K. The solution, the ministry suggests, is to urgently pursue the homework involved in diversion of waters from Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum, as per
their optimal potential: indeed to integrate this to the inter-basin study being done by the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) with stiff, time-bound completion deadlines.
* In a signal of changing times, the example of Turkey turning the screws on Iraq over their rivers is being discussed, as also questions on why a set of services are being provided to Pakistan for free. For example, a control room is operational round the clock during monsoon periods (July 1 to October 10) on Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej looking at flood flows. Last year, for the first time, as advised by MEA, some charges were levied on Pakistan for the communication of flood messages. These remain ridiculously low and need to be ramped up.
It is interesting to note the growing converge on the subject between MEA (since the coming of minister of state Omar Abdullah) and his line ministry counterpart Bijoya Chakravarty. Ms Chakrabarty, it is learnt, has raised the issue of aqua-security in the context of glacier systems in J&K and has argued for looking at hydro-resources (and water power) as a way to address genuine disaffection among the Kashmiri people.