India invited Pakistani experts to visit two hydropower projects

Vastavam web: India has invited Pakistani experts to visit the sites of its two hydropower projects on the Chenab river next month to address its concerns, but hinted at continuation of the work on them despite Islamabad’s objections, a senior Pakistani official has said. After the conclusion of the two-day high-level bilateral talks on the Indus Waters Treaty, the first official engagement between India and Pakistan since Imran Khan became Prime Minister on August 18, a Pakistani official, on the condition of anonymity, said India rejected Pakistan’s objections on the construction of the 1,000MW Pakal Dul dam and 48MW Lower Kalnai hydropower projects on the Chenab river.

“The major breakthrough of the two-day talks held in Lahore is that India has agreed to get the projects’ sites visited by our experts. Therefore, our team comprising experts will visit the sites in India by the end of next month,” Pakistan’s Water Resource Secretary Shamail Ahmad Khawaja told Dawn newspaper. “During the visit, our experts will minutely examine the sites, construction in the light of the provisions of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and the objections raised by Pakistan,” he added.

Earlier, both delegations reiterated their stance over construction of the projects. The Indian Water Commission led by Commissioner PK Saxena reviewed Pakistan’s objections minutely. It also presented its point of view. Pakistan has made it clear that it will have no option but to appointment neutral experts and take the case to the International Court of Arbitration in case India fails to address its concerns which are genuine, an official said earlier.

According to an official privy to the meeting, Pakistan’s demands included reduction of the height of Pakal Dul’s reservoir up to five metres, maintenance of 40-metre height above sea level while making spillways’ gates of the Pakal Dul project, besides clarifying the pattern and mechanism for the water storage and releases and some technical concerns over design of the Lower Kalnai hydropower project. India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 after nine years of negotiations, with the World Bank being a signatory.

The last meeting of the Pakistan-India Permanent Indus Commission was held in New Delhi in March during which both the sides had shared details of the water flow and the quantum of water being used under the 1960 treaty. The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers. However, there have been disagreements and differences between India and Pakistan over the treaty.