Arbitration & Kishenganga project

It should not be extremely difficult to arrive at a negotiated settlement on the reconciliation of the conflicting interests of the Kishenganga and Neelum-Jhelum projects, as also on the extent of agricultural use that needs to be provided for, and on the ‘ecological flows’ that must be maintained.

The Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project in Jammu & Kashmir is proceeding towards arbitration under the Indus Treaty 1960. This article is an attempt to explain the issues involved for the information of the general public, without expressing any personal opinions on the issues that are going before a judicial body.

While water-sharing in the Indus system stands settled by the Indus Treaty 1960, divergences are possible, and have occurred, over the question of the compliance of Indian projects on the western rivers with certain stringent provisions of the Treaty which were meant to take care of Pakistan’s concerns as a lower riparian.

The Treaty recognises three categories of such divergence: ‘questions’ to be discussed and resolved at the level of the Indus Commission, or at the level of the two governments; ‘differences’ (that is, unresolved ‘questions’) to be referred to a Neutral Expert (NE) if they are of certain kinds (that is, broadly speaking, differences of a technical nature); and ‘disputes’ (going beyond ‘differences,’ and perhaps involving interpretations of the Treaty) that are referable to a Court of Arbitration. In the Kishenganga case, both ‘difference’ and ‘dispute’ come into play. Pakistan has proposed the reference of certain technical issues to a Neutral Expert, and the submission of a couple of other issues to a Court of Arbitrators.

The Jhelum river in Srinagar. File photo: Nissar Ahmad

The Kishenganga is a tributary of the Jhelum. It originates in J&K, crosses the Line of Control, runs for some 150 km in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and joins the Jhelum (in PoK). India proposes to build a dam on the Kishenganga shortly before it crosses the LoC, divert a substantial part of the waters of the river through a tunnel to the hydroelectric project (330 MW, that is, 110 MW x 3) located near Bonar Nala, another tributary of the Jhelum, and then return the diverted waters, after they have passed through the turbines, to the Jhelum via the Wular Lake.

The ‘differences’ to be referred to a Neutral Expert will be regarding the compliance of the project features with the conditions and restrictions laid down in the Treaty (design of the project, quantum of pondage, need for gated spillways, placement of the gates, etc.). This reference, which will be somewhat similar to the reference to the NE in the Baglihar case, will not be discussed further in this article.

The main ‘dispute’ to be referred to a Court of Arbitration is on the issue of whether the diversion of waters from one tributary of Jhelum to another is permissible under the Treaty. Art. III (2) of the Treaty requires India to let flow all the western rivers to Pakistan and not permit any interference with those waters, and Art. IV (6) calls for the maintenance of natural channels. If we go by these provisions, the diversion of waters from one tributary to another seems questionable. On the other hand, there is another provision (Ann. D, paragraph 15 (iii)) which specifically envisages water released from a hydroelectric plant located on one tributary of the Jhelum being delivered to another tributary; this seems to permit inter-tributary diversion. The correct understanding of these provisions and the determination of the conformity of the Kishenganga Project to the Treaty is a matter for the two governments to agree upon, or for the Court of Arbitration to decide.

Any diversion of waters from a river is bound to reduce the flows downstream of the diversion point. It is true that the diverted waters will be returned to the Jhelum, but there will certainly be a reduction of flows in the stretch of the Kishenganga (some 150 km) before it joins the Jhelum. This will affect not merely certain uses of the waters but also the river regime itself and the ecological system. It may be true that only a small part of the waters (30 per cent or so) flows from the Indian part to the Pakistani part and that the rest (70 per cent) of the flows arise after the river crosses the LoC. However, the diversion of a substantial part of the former by India will undoubtedly have some impacts downstream.

Assuming that diversion from the Kishenganga to another tributary is found permissible, there is a condition attached: the existing agricultural use and use for hydro-electric power generation on the Kishenganga in Pakistan must be protected. There is indeed some existing agricultural use along the Kishenganga (Neelum) in PoK. Pakistan is also planning the Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project at a point on the Neelum before it joins the Jhelum. These claims of existing uses will probably be contentious issues between the two countries, with reference to (a) the crucial date for determining ‘existing use’ and (b) the quantum of existing use.

Arbitration is action under the Treaty and is therefore not a matter for concern. In this case, the arbitration process has already been initiated. However, it seems to this writer that even at this stage an effort should be made to reach an agreed settlement on this project. The reasons for saying so are as follows:

First, arbitration by a court of seven arbitrators of the highest international standing will be a very expensive process; it may also take a long time — possibly several years.

Secondly, arbitration is essentially an adversarial process. Each side will try to make the strongest possible presentation of its own case, and question the other’s. The media in both countries will keep reporting developments in the case, probably in a partisan manner. All this will definitely cause an accentuation of strained relations between the two countries.

Thirdly, the outcome of the process is uncertain. There are three possibilities: a clear negative finding (that is, the diversion of waters is impermissible under the Treaty), in which case the project will have to be abandoned; or a clear positive finding (that the diversion is permissible) in which case, the project can go ahead as planned; or a mixed finding that the diversion is permissible but must be such as to minimise adverse downstream impacts, in which case India may have to reduce the planned diversion and let a larger quantum of waters flow down. It would be very rash to predict the outcome of the process, but undertaking that rashness, the author would venture to suggest that a mixed finding seems more likely than a categorical one (positive or negative).

If that tentative forecast seems plausible, is it really necessary to go through a costly and time-consuming process of arbitration to arrive at that result? Is it not possible — and more sensible — for the two countries to try for an agreed settlement of the dispute even at this stage? It should not be extremely difficult to arrive at a satisfactory, negotiated settlement on the reconciliation of the conflicting interests of the Kishenganga and Neelum-Jhelum projects, as also on the extent of agricultural use that needs to be provided for, and on the ‘ecological flows’ that must be maintained.

A second issue that Pakistan proposes to refer to the Court of Arbitration is the legitimacy of drawdown flushing of the reservoir for sediment-control. This is not specific to the Kishenganga project but is a general issue applicable to all future projects. In the case of Baglihar, the Neutral Expert had strongly recommended periodical drawdown flushing of the reservoir as a means of sediment control, which (in his view) was part of proper maintenance, and had observed that while the dead storage could not be used for operational purposes, there was no objection to its use for maintenance purposes. Pakistan has been unhappy with that recommendation, but could not challenge it as the NE’s findings are final and binding. It is now raising this as a general issue before the Court of Arbitration. Three questions arise:

(i) Can an issue on which a NE has given a final and binding finding be raised again before another NE or a Court of Arbitration?

(ii) If the NE’s finding is applicable only to the particular project in question and not to others, should we accept the position that there can be substantially different (even contradictory) principles (laid down by different NEs) applying to different projects?

(iii) If drawdown flushing is ruled out, then must the corollary of heavy siltation and reduction of project life (as in the case of Salal) be accepted as inevitable? If so, does this not amount to ignoring the words “consistent with sound and economical design and satisfactory construction and operation” and again “unless sediment control or other technical considerations necessitate this” in the Treaty?

These questions will no doubt be argued before the Court by the two countries.

Ramaswamy R. Iyer – From THE HINDU

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Eco-Tourism: Kashmir’s climate frontline

“We used to have good money in saffron,” says Ali Mohammed, a weathered 46-year-old farmer, as he looks over the fields of purple flowers ready for the autumn harvest in Indian-administered Kashmir. “But now no rain for months, bad saffron crop this year.” 

Used as a spice and for medicinal purposes, saffron has been grown in Kashmir for millennia. Mohammed’s family have farmed the crop for five generations, but as the weather patterns in Kashmir change, they wonder how much longer their business can survive.

Farmers say the Kashmiri saffron harvest is down by up to 40 per cent - Credit: Hubert

Kashmir is beginning to recover from two decades of bloody conflict. But the region, once known as “Paradise on Earth” because of its stunning natural beauty and abundant resources, is now facing another crisis – a changing climate.  

The thousands of glaciers in the Western Himalaya Mountains that wind through Kashmir are receding as fast as any on the planet, melting due to increased temperatures.

This causes heavy flooding in the region, which is followed by drought during critical planting times. The early glacier melt, combined with a decrease in rainfall and snowfall, directly affects farmers like Mohammed.

Lack of research

Like many of the countries in the Northern Hemisphere, Kashmir has felt the effects of climate change over the past decade. But little research has been done to measure the specific effects of the phenomenon in the region.   

“The local people and farmers know the environment is changing, but what they don’t know is how they will adapt,” says Dr. Shakil Romshoo, a professor in the department of geology and geophysics at Kashmir University. 

“Critical measurements in food security policies and better water management practices must be addressed if the region’s horticulture is to be sustainable in the future.”   

As world leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss future carbon emissions and how to minimise the effects of climate change, Kashmir is looking for ways to shrink its own carbon footprint. 

Emissions could be lowered by reducing the number of cars in the state, shifting people’s diets to vegetarianism, building a tourism industry that focuses on eco-tourism, and by ending the rampant deforestation throughout the state. 

But this is just a tiny part of a solution to a much bigger problem. If the decisions made at Copenhagen are going to have an impact each nation will have to make changes. 

Resolutions cannot stop the early bloom of crops throughout the Northern Hemisphere, or the recession of Kashmir’s glaciers. But they can help people in this region and across the world adapt and make more informed environmental decisions.

Kashmir's farmers face an uncertain future - Credit: Hubert

Rise in temperatures

According to the Indian Meteorological Agency, temperatures in Kashmir have risen by over one degree Celsius and are expected to continue rising at .05 degrees Celsius each year. 

Ali Mohammed does not know about the changes in degrees, but knows what he sees when it comes to changes in weather patterns.

“In the past the snow would start falling in December, but now the snow does not come until February and March, and it only snows a few inches,” he says.  

The data collected by Romshoo over the last 10 years shows that temperatures were consistently warmer than the average of the 50 years between 1947 and 1998. He says that the warmer winters have led to less snowfall and exponential increases in both the melting of snow and glaciers in the spring and summer. 

“The increase in temperatures will also have an effect on drinking water, irrigation, and hydropower,” he says.

Dr. Jim Jarvie heads the Climate Unit at Mercy Corps, an international aid agency. “Countries around the world who find themselves dependent on glacial water systems will have two interrelated shocks in store,” he says.

Traditional rainfall water supply practices will have to be revised so that proper irrigation systems can be implemented, he says. He also thinks that long-term glacier recession could lead to the demise of even the most basic water supplies. 

He compares the change in Kashmir’s climate to global projections and believes that similar adaptations, like drought resistant crops, should be applied. 

Changing crops

Romshoo agrees. “Though climate change is a global phenomenon, we can combat it by changing our crops from rice paddies that are highly water intensive to crops that need less water,” he says. 

Dr. Nazeer Khan, the director of the Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture (CITH) in Kashmir, believes that if diversified crops are used and better horticulture practices are adopted, crops will fare well in the next 20 years. 

“The productivity of some crops is expected to increase with the slight one to two degree Celsius rise in temperature, provided there is sufficient precipitation,” Khan says. “As the temperatures rise, apples are already growing in more hilly areas. There are now pears, peaches, and apricots where the apple orchards once were.” 

He believes that crops like walnut trees, which require little water and have shallow root systems, are viable options for the future. While this is encouraging, saffron, a water intensive crop, will not fare as well. 

Rainwater harvesting and alternative crop selections are two of the practices that are just starting to be discussed in Kashmir. But Jarvie emphasises that more needs to be done. 

“We need to engage national governments and regional bodies in taking the threat to farming communities seriously, and allocating serious budget streams towards protecting farmers, and overall national food security,” he says.

Programmes like this would directly affect farmers like Mohammed. 

Local knowledge key

Though there are climate models that attempt to downscale data to district level, Jarvie believes that the most reliable sources of information on climate change are the local people who watch their environment and livelihoods change.  

“What we do know is that yes, we are seeing a real warming pattern. How that pattern is felt comes largely from anecdotal evidence exactly like the farmers are providing; changes in flowering patterns and bird nesting times; trends in shifts in local rain patterns.”

“These two data sources – broad scale climate models corroborated by independent local information – are in agreement and reinforce not only the reality of the problem, but also that the problem is already being felt by some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.” 

People like Ali Mohammed may have to face the reality that the warming of Kashmir is going to demand a shift in thinking, planning and planting choices. If they do not, then their way of life will, like Kashmir’s shrinking glaciers, melt away with the changing climate.   

By Rebecca Byerly in Srinagar from Al Jazeera

Jammu: Infrastructure to be developed in Ramnagar sanctuary

Jammu, Dec 12 (PTI) Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary in Jammu district will emerge as an attractive tourist destination with planned development of infrastructure, state Environment and Wildlife Minister Mian Altaf Ahmad has said.

Altaf, who visited the sanctuary to take stock of construction of eco-tourism huts for the benefit of tourists, said the park would help generate employment avenues for the local youth.

Measures would be taken to safeguard the protected place with focus on nurturing its flora and fauna, he said.

He said similar eco-tourism huts would also be established at Dera Gali in Rajouri and Mahamaya in Jammu as these locations are also thronged by tourists.

From PTI

J&K for Golf Tourism

Jammu,November 18: Stressing on diversification of tourism related activities in the State, the Minister for Tourism and Culture, Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora has said that Jammu and Kashmir is blessed with natural lush green plains and meadows, making it an ideal destination for golf tourism.

Speaking, while inspecting the laying of the first phase of Sidhra Golf Course, here today, the Minister said, “Golf Tourism has taken a flight in our State due to its wonderful locations and we need to develop proper infrastructure to attract western as well as domestic tourists”.

The 18 hole golf course, spread over 1400 kanals of land, is being developed at an estimated cost of Rs. 44 crore. In the first phase, the 9 hole golf course will become operational in December this year.

The Minister said that Sidhra Golf Course, being developed as per the international standards, will have all the modern facilities. He said golf course will be easily accessible and provide an opportunity to our youth to take up the sport, in a big way. He said that being a high end sport, it will generate much needed foreign exchange for the State.

Mr. Jora said that it was his third visit to review the progress of work on the golf course, adding that the Government is exploring all possibilities to diversify tourism sector in the State by venturing into adventure tourism, golf tourism, eco-tourism etc.  He said that public-private partnerships are being invited to explore the adventure sport’s potential in the State.

Outlining Jammu’s tourism potential, the Minister made a specific reference to the pilgrim tourism gaining momentum in the region. “Jammu, the city of temples, attracts a number of pilgrims to pay obeisance at various holy shrines. We need to tap this enormous advantage and create facilities for extending their stay”, said the Minister. He stressed on taking measures for extending the stay of pilgrims by offering them attractive packages, golf being one of them.

While reviewing the work of Rs. 15 crore first phase of Sidhra Golf Course, Mr. Jora was informed that the work on the project began in September 2007 and so far Rs. 11 crore have been utilized. He was told that a recreation club would be also constructed as part of the golf course at a cost of Rs. 6.50 crore, which will have the facilities of restaurant, change hall, office and party hall besides other facilities.

Mr. Jora stressed on proper landscaping of the course by plantation of ornamental trees and flower beds in and around the course. He instructed the Tourism authorities to maintain close co-ordination with Floriculture and Forest departments, so as to give a picturesque look to the golf course. He directed the concerned authorities to expedite the upgradation of link road to the golf course and said that all necessary facilities like swimming pool, eco-park, theme and amusement parks and guest houses would be also developed in a phased manner outside the golf course for the facility of sports lovers.

From Etalaat

Srinagar: Two officials suspended over use of polythene around Dal lake

Srinagar Taking serious note of use of banned plastic bags on the banks of world famous Dal lake, Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday suspended two officials.

Two officers from Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Lakes and Waterway Development Authority were suspended after Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand during his visit on Tuesday found plastic bags in use around the area.

The ban on polythene had proved successful this summer, he said, adding flouting of rules will not be tolerated.

He called for joint efforts by the administration and people to restore the pristine glory of this world famous water body.

The officials said that they have again launched a campaign against use of polythene and daily quintals of plastic bags are being seized.

The deputy chief minister also inspected the construction of parapets and fencing around the Lake.

Tara Chand also paid a visit to under-construction Habitat Centre at Bemina at a cost of Rs 5.82 crore which will house offices of Architect Organisation, Town Planning and Local Bodies.

From ExpressIndia

India: No evidence to link global warming and Himalayan glaciers: minister

The IPCC, in its fourth assessment report in 2007, said that Himalayan glaciers are retreating faster than in any other part of the world, and if this continues, they are likely to disappear by 2035, or perhaps sooner

New Delhi: Receding glaciers and global warming cannot be conclusively linked, the environment ministry said, despite forecasts that Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2035 because the planet is heating up.

Under threat: A file photo of a forward camp of the Indian Army on the Siachen Glacier. AFP

Under threat: A file photo of a forward camp of the Indian Army on the Siachen Glacier. AFP

“There is no conclusive scientific evidence to link global warming and Himalayan glaciers, nor to link the black carbon in the atmosphere with the glaciers,” environment minister Jairam Ramesh said. “We also cannot link retreating glaciers in the Arctic because of climate change to those in the Himalayas.”

The minister on Monday released a discussion paper titled Himalayan Glaciers, A state-of-art review of glacial studies, glacial retreat and climate change.

“If we see the cumulative average of rate of retreat over the past 100 years, no glacier has deviated from that,” said V.K. Raina, former deputy director general of Geological Survey of India and author of the report. “There is no abnormal retreat.”

Using the Gangotri glacier as an example, Raina said: “This glacier is 30km long. Even if we assume it retreats at the rate of 30m a year, it will still take 1,000 years to disappear.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its fourth assessment report in 2007, said that Himalayan glaciers are retreating faster than in any other part of the world, and if this continues, they are likely to disappear by 2035, or perhaps sooner.

The IPCC, which is the leading body for assessing climate change and established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization, attributed the receding and thinning of Himalayan glaciers primarily to global warming.

R.K. Pachauri, who heads the IPCC, could not be immediately reached for comment.

“There are a number of scientific reports, including in the IPCC, that there is a clear threat,” said Vinuta Gopal, climate and energy campaign manager at Greenpeace India. “The time now is not about trying to find conclusive evidence, the time now is for action.”

Some scientists say research and field data are too limited to conclude a direct link.

“There is no field data to corroborate that the glaciers will disappear in the next 20-30 years. The range has 9,000 glaciers and we study about 30. And whichever we have studied, we need more detailed data. If we want to study glacier behaviour, we need to monitor for 8-10 years, but we only manage two years at most,” said R.K. Ganjoo, director of the Jammu University’s regional centre on Himalayan glaciology.

Shakeel Ahmad Romshoo, associate professor, department of geology and geophysics at the University of Kashmir, said that although very few glaciers have been studied and data is inadequate, it is evident that global warming affects glaciers.

“Out of those that have been studied, in Himachal (Pradesh), Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, there is no doubt that they are retreating and it is due to increase in temperature,” Romshoo said. “But we don’t have enough data to establish by how much.”

Raina said that studying the mass balance of glaciers is more critical and indicative of their health than their retreat. The environment ministry will collaborate with the Indian Space Research Organisation to undertake a three-year study to map glaciers through satellites.

“The effect of black carbon on Himalayan glaciers, which is a highly contested viewpoint, will also be studied,” Ramesh said.

From LiveMint

Kashmir: Bangus Valley Being Developed as Eco-Tourism Resort

Kupwara, Nov 03, KONS– In the major initiative to tap tourism potential of the frontier district Kupwara, Minister for Tourism, Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora and Minister of State for Tourism and PHE Mr. Nasir Aslam Wani alongwith MLAs Handwara, Langate and Kupwara today visited Bangus valley to have first hand appraisal  of the picturistic landscape.

The beautiful Bangus valley have great potential for becoming Asia’s biggest golf course spreading around 300 sq km which is locally known as Bodha Bungas (big Bangus) consists of a linear call bowl aligned along the east west axis.

The valley is surrounded Jawar and Mawar in east, Shamusbarry and Daglungun mountains in the Chokibal and Karnah galli in the north and Leepa mountains in the west. A similar sight valley known as Lokut Bangus (small Bangus) lies in the north side of the main valley.

The foundation stone of tourist guest house was also laid at Chandigam Sogam by the Ministers which are being constructed at a cost of Rs. 98 lakhs as first phase. The guest house are comprising of nine bed rooms and one conference hall. In second phase some doormatries, camping sites and indoor games would be developed in the area for adventure tourism.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Jora said that the government has accorded top priority to development of Bungus Valley so that it becomes a permanent fixture on the tourism map of the state. “Efforts would be made to provide better road connectivity to the Bungus Valley as well as creation of tourism related infrastructure,” He said adding that tourism potential of the district offer avenues of employment generation for the educated jobless youths.

The Minister said that project worth Rs. 2.32 Crores have already been released for the development of the Bungus Valley on first phase to provide basic infrastructure. He said a comprehensive project worth Rs. 4.77 crores have also been formulated for the second phase adding that tourism department would develop it as a biosphere tourist destination to maintain its ecological balance and natural beauty. He said there would be no construction within the 300 Sq. Kilometers of Bungus Valley. He said that tracking paths would be constructed from Wader Bala via Zachaldara side and Nildoori via Nowgam Langate side. He further said that foot bridges would also be constructed on this track.

Minister of State for Tourism Mr. Nasir Aslam Wani said that the government has launched an ambitious project of tourism development in the state and identification of new scenic spots like Bungus is a step in that direction.  

Referring to the tremendous potential of the Valley of Bungus, Lolab and other areas of the District, the Minister assured that the government will augment resources and develop these areas in phase wise manner. “We have specially called all MLAs of the District to discuss formulation of a strategy to firmly entrench Bungus valley on the tourism map of J&K and world”, he said, adding that the government would soon coordinate with connected sectors like R&B, Telecommunication, PHE, PDD and District Administration to provide fillip to the development of tourism of the border district .   

The Minister said that the government would soon promote expedition package tours to attract tourists to the Bungus and Lolab valley.

From Kashmir Observer