Indus Waters Treaty | UPSC Notes

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Indus Waters Treaty | UPSC Notes

• The Indus Water Treaty is an agreement between India and Pakistan about how to share water. It was signed in 1960.

• The Indus Water Treaty was signed by Jawaharlal Nehru, who was Prime Minister of India at the time, and Ayub Khan, who was President of Pakistan at the time.

• The meeting between the two countries to talk about the Indus Water Treaty was set up by the World Bank. The Permanent Indus Commission of the UN asked the World Bank to make the Indus Water Treaty in 1954, and it was signed on September 19, 1960.

• The deal sets up a way for the two countries to work together and share information about how the water from the Indus River and its five branches (Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Jhelum, and Chenab) is used.

A short history

Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej are the six rivers that flow into the Indus river system.

These rivers start in Tibet and run through the Himalayas to Pakistan, where they end south of Karachi.

• In 1947, the line of separation split the Indus river system in two. It also set the geographical borders between India and Pakistan.

• Both sides needed water from the Indus river region to keep their irrigation systems working, so there needed to be a fair way to divide the water.

• The Inter-dominion agreement of May 1948 was signed as a first step.

After the two countries met for a conference, it was decided that India would give Pakistan water in return for a payment from Pakistan every year.

This agreement fell apart quickly, though, because neither country could agree on how to read it.

• Because of the water-sharing disagreement in 1951, both countries asked the World Bank for money for their irrigation projects on??the Indus and the rivers that feed it.

At this point, the World Bank offered to bring the two sides together.

• In 1960, after almost a decade of gathering information, negotiating, World Bank proposals, and changes to those proposals, the two countries finally came to a deal.

• The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was signed by Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the Prime Minister of India at the time, and Ayub Khan, who was President of Pakistan at the time.

W.A.B. Iliff, who used to be Vice President of the World Bank, also put his name on it.

Key Provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT):

• The deal said how India and Pakistan would share the water from the six rivers that make up the Indus River System.

It gave Pakistan free use of the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum rivers, which are in the west.

o India can’t use it for some non-consumption, farming, and domestic uses.

The three Eastern rivers—the Ravi, the Beas, and the Sutlej—were given to India with no restrictions on how they could be used.

This means that Pakistan got 80% of the water, or about 135 Million Acre Feet (MAF), and India got the remaining 33 MAF, or 20% of the water.

• It also said that both countries had to set up a Permanent Indus Commission made up of permanent members from both countries.

The commission’s jobs include being a place where knowledge about rivers can be shared, where people can keep working together, and where conflicts can be solved first.

• Even though Pakistan owns the waters of the Jhelum, Chenab, and Indus rivers,

Annexure C of the Indus Waters Treaty lets India use some of the water for farming,

Annexure D lets it build ‘run of the river’ electricity projects, which don’t need to store water.

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It also tells India what design rules it has to follow when making these kinds of projects.

• The treaty also gives Pakistan the right to complain to similar projects built by India if it doesn’t think they meet the requirements.

• India has to tell Pakistan about the plan of the project or any changes made to it. If Pakistan has any objections, it has three months to let India know.

• India is also allowed to have a minimum storage level on the western rivers, which means it can store up to 3.75 MAF of water for flood storage and water saving.

Dispute resolution mechanism

• The IWT also has a three-step process for resolving disagreements.

• “Questions” on both sides can be answered by the Permanent Commission or at the level between governments.

• If there are still questions or “differences” between the countries about how to share water, such as technical differences, either side can ask the World Bank to select a Neutral Expert (NE) to help make a decision.

• Eventually, if either side isn’t happy with the NE’s decision or if there are “disputes” about how the treaty should be interpreted or how far it goes, the issue can be taken to a Court of Arbitration.

• The IWT doesn’t have a way for one country to leave on its own, and it’s meant to stay in place unless both countries sign another pact that they both agree on.


• The Treaty is seen as one of the most successful ways to end a war on a global scale, but between the two countries, it has led to disagreements about how it should be interpreted and carried out.

• The treaty is very complicated, so the two countries have very different ideas about how to understand it.

For example, the treaty says that there are limits to how much storage can be made. But because of the scientific details, it’s hard to say under what conditions projects can be done.

Reasons for Dissatisfaction with Indus Waters Treaty

From the Indians’ perspective:

o The main thing that makes them unhappy is that the treaty says they can’t build any storage systems on the western rivers, even though they can build them in some rare cases.

From the point of view of Pakistan:

o Because of its doubts, keeps track of every technical part of the project and tries on purpose to stop it.

The situation is made worse by the fact that the western rivers are in the disputed area of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been a source of conflict between the two countries since they got their freedom.

Why people aren’t happy with the Indus Waters Treaty

• From India’s point of view, the IWT makes it impossible for the country to build holding systems on the western rivers. The treaty says that storage systems can only be made under certain special circumstances. However, India says that Pakistan stops any such work on purpose because of its political rivalry with India.

• From Pakistan’s point of view, India’s claims that it doesn’t use its share of water in western rivers and that building storage dams won’t break the treaty are false.

Does the deal help Pakistan in any way?

• Eighty percent of the water in the six-river Indus system goes to Pakistan. This is 90 times more water than what the US agreed to give Mexico in 1944.

• It is the only pact in Asia that spells out how water flows across borders will be shared.

• The Indus basin is split by what looks like a line on a map of India. India is in charge of the lower rivers, and Pakistan is in charge of the top rivers.

• Only water deal that forces a state upstream to take into account the needs of a state downstream.

There needs to be a new deal.

• Pakistan has always said that it is being treated unfairly.

• People in Pakistan worry more about climate change.

• Improvements in the ways that water is stored and managed.

When India has tried to use newer designs and technologies, like with the Baglihar dam, Pakistan has protested.

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• There needs to be joint management, more freedom in how water is used, and a basin-by-basin method to how river water is managed.

• Some Pakistanis also hope that renegotiating the Treaty would make it possible for China to join, which would make India’s edge go away.

India’s Stand

• An internal argument about renegotiating the treaty or leaving it.

• After the Uri attacks, “blood and water don’t mix.”

• Calls for making the Treaty a weapon.

• It can be seen as India’s answer to Pakistan’s repeated protests to every irrigation or power project on the Indian side of the Indus basin.

• This could be very scary on its own, considering how much Pakistan depends on the rivers in the Indus region.

Why is India giving this pact a second thought?

• Mostly in favour of Pakistan: Even though it seemed fair, India gave Pakistan 80.52 percent of all the water that runs through the Indus system as a whole.

• Too kind: It also gave Pakistan Rs 83 crore in pounds sterling to help build new roads from the western rivers. This kind of kindness is rare for a person who lives upstream.

• Reclaiming riparian rights: India gave up its right to be on the upper bank of the western rivers in exchange for having full rights on the eastern rivers. India’s hopes for growth depended on water.

Current Issues

• Both countries are fighting over the Kishanganga project (330 MW) and the Ratle project (850 MW), which are both being built on the Jhelum and Chenab rivers.

• Pakistan said that the design of the Kishenganga project broke the rules of the Indus Waters Treaty and would reduce the flow of water by 40%.

• Pakistan also wants the Ratle project’s storage space to go from 24 million cubic metres to 8 million cubic metres.

Hydroelectric Project Kishanganga

The Kishanganga project is 5 km north of Bandipore in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

• It is a run-of-the-river project that includes a 37 m high concrete-face rock-fill dam.

• Water from the Kishanganga River needs to be sent through a tunnel to a power plant in the Jhelum River area.

• It will have a capacity of 330 MW once it is set up.

• This hydropower project’s building began in 2007.

• Pakistan was against the idea because it would change the flow of the Kishanganga River, which they call the Neelum River.

• In 2013, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (CoA) in The Hague decided that India could take all the water as long as certain rules were followed.

Project Ratle Hydroelectric

• It is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station on the Chenab River in the Kishtwar area of the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

• It has a gravity dam that is 133 metres tall and two power plants that are right next to each other.

Both power plants will have 850 MW of total power.

• The Indian Prime Minister at the time laid the foundation stone for the dam in June 2013.

Pakistan has often said that India breaks the 1960 Indus Water Treaty.

• An investment of about Rs. 5282 crores is planned, and the project will be finished in 60 months.

• Other Chenab Basin Projects:

 Kiru Hydro Electric (HE) Project:

o The Kiru HE Project, which would use 624 MW of installed power, is planned for the Chenab River in the Kishtwar area.

Hydroelectric Project Pakal Dul (Drangdhuran):

It is a plan to build a reservoir on the river Marusudar, which is the largest right-bank tributary of the river Chenab in Kishtwar Tehsil, Doda District, Jammu and Kashmir.

Power Station Dulhasti:

o It uses the hydropower potential of the river Chenab in the Kishtwar area. It is a run-of-river plant with a capacity of 390 MW.

The Salal Power Plant:

It is a run-of-the-river project with a capacity of 690 MW that uses the river Chenab’s hydropower potential. It is in the Jammu and Kashmir district of Reasi.

Project Ratle Hydroelectric

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How important the deal is

• Proof that people can live together peacefully: The treaty is often used as proof that people can live together peacefully despite their difficult relationship.

• Withstood a lot of fighting: It has lived through three important wars.

• Most successful bilateral treaty: It is seen around the world as a good example of how to solve a problem between two countries that would otherwise be at odds with each other.

Why did the pact stay in place?

• India’s kindness: It is because India is kind to Pakistan by letting Pakistan use the water from its own rivers.

• Free flow of water: India hasn’t used water as a weapon. Without this pact, Pakistan can’t stay alive.

• Pakistan’s economy is very dependent on the water from the Indus and the rivers that flow into it. About 80% of Pakistan’s farmland depends on the water from the Indus and the rivers that flow into it.

• Humanitarian reasons: People in Pakistan will go hungry because of floods and droughts, but their leaders will still live in comfort.

• India’s credibility: If India goes back on the treaty, it could hurt its reputation as a reliable partner that doesn’t follow bilateral agreements.

The Next Steps

• India’s role as a responsible upper river that follows the rules of the treaty has been impressive, but the country is under pressure to rethink how much it can stick to the rules as its political relationship with Pakistan gets worse.

• IWT is often used to show that even though relations between the two countries are tense, it is possible for them to live together peacefully.

• For the last 60 years, the Indus Waters Treaty has kept water-sharing issues from getting worse, which shows how important it is. But now that there is a climate problem and natural disasters, the needs of both countries have changed about how they share water. Because of this, the terms of the treaty need to be renegotiated, some technical details need to be updated, and the agreement needs to cover more ground to meet the needs of both countries as the climate problem gets worse.

Hydroelectric Projects

India has built the following dams with water from the Eastern rivers that has been given to India alone. The Pong and Pandoh Dams on the Beas, the Ranjit Sagar Dam on the Ravi, and the Bhakra Dam on the Satluj are all part of these projects.

• Projects like the Madhopur-Beas Link, the Beas-Sutlej Link, and the Indira Gandhi Nahar Project have helped India use almost 95% of the water in the Eastern rivers.

• Even after all of this, about 2 MAF (million acre feet) of water from the Ravi still flows to Pakistan every year without being used. India has recently started projects to stop the flow of these waters, which belong to India and are used by it.

Ravi Beas 2nd Link below Ujh- The government of India called this project a “National Project.” Through this project, the government of Pakistan wants to use the river Ravi’s extra water flow. To do this, a barrage will be built across the river Ravi so that water can be sent through a tube to the Beas basin. This project was made a National Project by the government of India.

The Ujh is a river that flows into the Ravi. The Ujh is a project with many uses. With this project, water from the river Ujh will be stored so that it can be used to grow crops and make electricity in India. This project has the label “National Project.”

Shahpurkandi Project: The Government of Punjab is building the Shahpurkandi Project, and the Government of India is keeping an eye on the work. This project will help the state of Punjab and the UT of Jammu and Kashmir use the water that comes out of Ranjit Sagar or the Thein dam to water crops and make electricity.