Thursday, February 25, 2010

Waters of Peace and Concord

Water need not be a dispute between India and Pakistan! Rather than signify discord and disagreement - it could instead be a Carrier of Peace and Concord between the countries.

How? Siddharth Varadarajan of the Hindu newspaper has an article and a blogpost on the subject. He details the history of the issue:

The early years of independence saw bitter disputes as India treated the waters of the Indus's five tributaries — Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej — as its own. Geography and terrain meant the Indus itself could not be harnessed on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir but intermittent, small-scale, diversions on the tributaries generated considerable tension with Pakistan.[...]
Under the IWT, India renounced its right to block or divert the flows of the ‘western' rivers and agreed to confine itself to run-of-the-river hydroelectric projects and the drawing of irrigation water for a specified acreage of farm land. This partitioning was irrational from an ecological standpoint

He suggests that an integrated hydro-electric generation and supply agreement involving energy swaps could form the basis of a broader joint Indo-Pakistan water management program for the entire Indus river water system, become a major confidence builder, and eventually turn the waters of current discord into Waters of Future Peace and Concord, provided India and Pakistan address each others' issues in a spirit of genuine dialogue and accomodation.

It is worth noting that the US and Canada share the waters of the Niagara River to generate power on each side which then becomes part of a common North American grid. The waters are managed jointly so that hydroelectric power stations on either side of the US-Canada border can be run properly, and this is done in an integrated way. I suggest that this also forms an aspirational model for India and Pakistan to jointly share the waters of the Indus - both for hydroelectric power generation and for other uses (including consumptive, recreational, agricultural uses). The picture above shows the Canadian Niagara Falls on the right, while the American Niagara Falls are to the left, in a panoramic view.