With Pakistan expressing reservations over the under-construction Ratle Hydroelectric Power Project in Jammu and Kashmir, India has sought resolution of the issue through talks.
The Centre’s response came after the Pakistani Government sent a missive to India demanding appointment of a ‘neutral expert’ under provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty for the 850-MW power project being constructed on the Chenab river, sources in the Union Water Resources Ministry said.
In a communication to the Indus Water Commissioner in India about 20 days ago, the sources said, Pakistan raised certain apprehensions over the project design.
Pakistan has raised the issue of setting up of lower spillways for sediment management, which it apprehends could lead to flooding. Pakistan is of the view that higher spillways should be established instead of lower spillways, the sources said.
“In return, we have written to the Pakistan Government 10 days back. In our reply, we have sought to hold talks over the issue,” a senior ministry official, who is privy to the development, told PTI here.
Noting that the design Ratle Hydroelectric Power Project has already been shared with Pakistan, the official said that the date for the next Indus Water Commission meeting between the two countries was yet to be decided.
Under the Indus Waters Treaty, India and Pakistan have each created a permanent post of Commissioner for Indus Waters. As per the provisions, the Commissioners may discuss questions arising under the treaty related to settlement of differences and disputes and in the case of non-resolution, take further action for resolution through a neutral expert, negotiators or Court of Arbitration.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had laid foundation of the power plant on the Chenab river in 2013. The run-of-the -river project, which is the country’s first hydroelectric project that was bid out through tariff based international competitive bidding, will cost Rs 5,500 crore.
The sources recalled a similar case in the past wherein, Pakistan had sought appointment of a ‘neutral expert’ during the construction of Baglihar hydropower project in Jammu and Kashmir about a decade ago.
Later, the World Bank, which Pakistan had approached for arbitration in the issue, named a Swiss national as a neutral expert to resolve the dam issue.
Pakistan had approached the bank, which is a signatory to the 1960 Indus Water Treaty between the two countries, for arbitration after talks between India and Pakistan had failed.
The neutral expert delivered Expert Determination on Baglihar Hydroelectric Project in 2007.