GAME OF RIVERS: The Indus water treaty

 Indus water treaty is a water distribution treaty between two countries India and Pakistan.

First let’s take a look at the geography and flow of Indus River. The Indus River originates in the western part of the Tibet close to the mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake and from the source of origin, river first flow through India then enters Pakistan. So now we know why water sharing agreement put in place that is to avoid creating drought especially during war time.

How it was started

It was signed in 1960 at Karachi by Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan and negotiated by World Bank. According to this treaty, the river system is mainly divided into two parts:-

1.The eastern rivers ( Sutlej, Ravi, Beas )

2.The western rivers ( Indus, Jhelum, Chenab )

The exclusive rights of western rivers were given to Pakistan and exclusive rights of eastern rivers were given to India. According to this treaty, all disputes are resolved by the legal framework. The countries agreed to contribute in all matters and created a permanent Indus water commission for this purpose. They meet regularly and all consultation and conflicts and resolved by them.

So what are the problem with this treaty?

#1. India is allowed to use 20% of Indus water for irrigation, power generation and transportation purposes, which is very less than as compare to Pakistan having 80% share.

#2. The storage capacity permitted to India for hydropower generation is less than the silt being generated in this process, so desalting is costing us heavily.

#3. The treaty has not considered Gujarat state of India as a part of the Indus basin. The Indus River enters the great Rann of Kutch during floods. After the partition, Pakistan constructed Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) without consenting India. What this does is, it bypass the saline and polluted water which is unfit for agriculture use to reach sea via Rann of Kutch area without passing through Indus delta. The water release from LBOD is enhancing flood in India and also contaminating water bodies which are a source of water to salt farm spread over vast area.

The Indus water treaty fail to address division of water between India and Pakistan during dry years. It also does not take into consideration of population increase i.e. higher the population, higher will be the demand. The storage capacity of Pakistan is 28 days whereas world’s average is 900 days. Also glaciers contribute to large reservoir of fresh water to the river and making river flow highly variable and give rise to crises frequently.

Recently hon’ble PM Modi stated that, “blood and water cannot flow together” after 2016 URI attack. So the Indian government stated that, it would exercise its right under Indus water treaty to the fullest and would expand its utilisation of its rivers flowing through Jammu and Kashmir and as per the treaty has allowed India to use 20% of water of western rivers, India has hardly use more than 4% and even the Indian farmers have not fully utilise the water of eastern rivers, thus letting the water flow freely into Pakistan. Pakistan is already a water starved country and if India decided to fully utilise its allotted water, it will create some serious trouble between India and Pakistan.

Take a look over disputed areas and see how valid they are:-

The Indus treaty does not permit India to build storage dam over the eastern rivers but allows India to make limited use of rivers for power generation which require limited storage. The Baglihar Project as well as two other Kishanganga and Ratle Project is objected by Pakistan and seek World Bank help which took India’s stand completely.

The Indus water treaty clearly lays down the rules for dispute settling between two countries. Firstly, the dispute has to be discuss bilaterally at the commission level and then go for the neutral expert and later to the World Bank if both approach jointly. The problem here is that, Pakistan has only approached World Bank but not India which totally works in our favour.

The best part of the treaty is that it is the most successful water treaty in the world, even 3 wars were fought between India and Pakistan but this treaty is never broken. So the best thing we can do is to keep the treaty intact and make some changes that suits both the needs of countries

Few post articles notes:

  1. The Indus water treaty is like a “Brahmashtra” for India against Pakistan.
  2. It is the most successful water treaty in the world.


Article by Aman Dev Punia


{P.S: This article is just for informative purpose not to offend anyone, my apologies if someone is offended.}


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