India’s Modi inaugurates controversial power project despite Pakistan’s protests

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By Muhammad Luqman

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated a hydropower power plant in the disputed Kashmir region despite protests from Pakistan which says the project on a river flowing into Pakistan will stop water supplies to its Neelum-Jhelum hydro-electric project.

The 330 megawatt Kishanganga hydropower station  work on which started in 2009, is one of the projects that India has fast-tracked while violating the Indus Water Treaty that was signed between New Delhi and Islamabad in 1960.

Pakistan has opposed Kishanganga and other projects in Indian-occupied Kashmir , saying they violate a World Bank-brokered treaty on the sharing of the Indus river and its tributaries upon which 80 percent of its irrigated agriculture depends.

“Pakistan is seriously concerned about the inauguration (of the Kishanganga plant),” its foreign office  said in a statement on Friday. “Pakistan believes that the inauguration of the project without the resolution of the dispute is tantamount to violation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).”

The Kishanganga project was delayed for several years as Pakistan took India to the International Court of Arbitration.

Despite several rounds of bilateral negotiations as well mediations by the World Bank, India continued with the construction of the project, the Foreign Office said, adding that ‘this intransigence on part of India clearly threatens the sanctity of the Treaty’.

The Foreign Office reiterated that being the custodian of the treaty, the World Bank must urge India to address Pakistan’s reservations on Kishanganga hydropower project.

Pakistan maintains that India had completed the project during the period the World Bank ‘paused’ the process for constitution of a court of arbitration as requested by Pakistan in early 2016. The Pakistani request was countered by India by calling for a neutral expert. In December last year, India decided to move ahead with its controversial decision to start work on the project.

The project will store around 0.65 million acre feet (MAF) of water from Ujh (a tributary of Ravi) to irrigate 30,000 hectares and produce over 200 megawatts of power.

Experts believe that the construction of Kishanganga hydel power project in the Indian-occupied Kashmir will badly affect the water flows needed for the 969 Megawatt Neelum Jhelum project being constructed downstream in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.  One of units of this project has started contributing 242 megawatt power generation to Pakistan’s national grid while second unit would soon be connected to the grid.

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