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Islamabad willing to go for water treaty with Kabul

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Water and Power (MoWP) has expressed its willingness to sign a water treaty with Afghanistan.“We have held many brainstorming sessions at the ministry on this particular issue after receiving credible reports about Afghanistan’s plans to build dams on Kabul River.

Some of Pakistan’s ambassadors appointed in various capitals have taken up this issue with the officials of the ministry and sometimes the Foreign Office also agitated this issue,” a top official of the ministry told The News.

He said the ministry had asked many agencies to initiate the process for formulating a water information share mechanism with Afghanistan. Being the low riparian, Pakistan has the right to have the data of water flows in Kabul River in the vicinity of Afghanistan.

The News in its edition of June 4, 2013 carried a news report that the Afghan authorities with the help of Indian experts had completed feasibilities and detailed engineering of 12 hydro power projects on Kabul River to generate 1,177MW electricity.

It was also reported that if the 12 projects get completed, they will store 4.7 million acre feet water squeezing flows into the river that are destined to reach Pakistan.Documents also show that the World Bank will fund the 12 projects that will cost $7.079 billion.

The most ironic part of the whole episode is that Pakistan has failed to build Kalabagh dam at the site where Kabul River merges into the Indus River.

Similarly, Pakistan has also failed to build Munda dam on Kabul River. Failure in developing water uses has weakened Pakistan’s case against the resolve of Afghanistan to build 12 hydropower projects.

The World Bank is also ready to conduct a study for a water treaty between Pakistan and Afghanistan provided they desire so.Quoting the World Bank authorities concerned, the official also told The News that the bank would facilitate both Islamabad and Kabul to enter into a water treaty on the pattern of Indus Water Treaty signed between Pakistan and India in 1960.

The technical committee on water resources and dams, headed by AGN Abbasi in 2003, also recommended the government to enter into a water treaty with Afghanistan to ensure the right of the low riparian country — Pakistan.

The top leadership has already made a plan to construct big dams on the Indus River wherein water from Afghanistan enters through the Kabul.As far as a water treaty with Kabul is concerned, a government official said the WB had asked one of the UN agencies to help collect data on water from the upper riparian country — Afghanistan.The official said this data was required for the draft of treaty and work on its collection had already started.

The Pakistan government was in contact with Kabul through the World Bank, he said.Islamabad and Kabul had felt that there ought to be a treaty between them on sharing the water of Kabul and Kunar rivers and other tributaries entering Pakistan from Afghanistan.

Pakistan formed a nine-member committee on September 9, 2003 headed by the chairman of Flood Commission.The commissioner of Pakistan’s Permanent Commission of Indus Water (PCIW), Lahore, is the secretary of the committee.

Member Water Wapda, DG Foreign Office of Afghanistan and ECO countries, joint secretary of Law and Justice Ministry, additional chief secretary NWFP, additional secretary Balochistan, MD National Engineering Services of Pakistan and chairman Indus River System Authority (Irsa) were members of the committee.

“The committee was tasked with making a draft of the water treaty within three months, but it failed to do so because the Afghan authorities did not cooperate,” the government official said.

He said the nine-member committee had prepared an interim report which stated that about 17 million acres feet (MAF) water enters Pakistan through the Kabul River every year. Currently, Afghanistan irrigates 12,000 acres of land with water from the Kabul River.

The report also states that the Afghan government had not provided the data required for finalising the water treaty draft.

The official said in the interim report the nine-member committee had also recommended that the government of Pakistan take steps to ensure that the required information is received from the Afghan government especially about any large water projects that Afghanistan might undertake in future.

The interim report also said the NWFP and Balochistan governments had failed to provide accurate information of water discharges at various locations on the rivers flowing into their areas from Afghanistan, including Kabul, Kaitur, Tochi and Gomal rivers, the official said.

Replying to a question, the official said a water treaty was signed between Afghanistan and the British government of India in 1921, but it did not contain enough details to form the basis of a future water treaty with Kabul.

However, the official said Pakistan should accelerate its pace for entering into a water treaty with Afghanistan to ensure its water right once and for all in the light of ANG Abbasi committee recommendations.

Article By Khalid Mustafa; Published in The News International on July 20th, 2016