HotSpots H2O: In Test of Regional Water Cooperation, Pakistan Inspects Indian Hydropower Projects

The Rundown

India and Pakistan will rekindle the cooperative spirit of a nearly six-decade-old river-sharing treaty this week, when a delegation from Pakistan inspects two Indian hydropower projects along the Chenab River. Pakistan asserts that India’s dam projects violate the treaty, but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the country is committed to their construction.

The Indus Waters Treaty was drawn up in 1960 to regulate the use of six rivers that flow through India and Pakistan. The Treaty has survived despite several challenges, but increasing water shortages are putting strain on the landmark agreement. India and Pakistan are among the world’s most water-stressed nations, and are carefully monitoring any threats to their water supplies.

“Tensions over water will undoubtedly intensify and put the Indus Waters Treaty — which to this point has helped ensure that they have never fought a war over water — to its greatest test. The prospect of two nuclear-armed rivals becoming enmeshed in increasing tensions over a critical resource like water is unsettling and poses highly troubling implications for security in South Asia and the world on the whole.” –Michael Kugelman, a senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, in reference to the tenuous water relations between India and Pakistan.

By the Numbers

90 percent Proportion of Pakistan’s agriculture that relies on water from the Indus waterways.

91 percent Proportion of water in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, that is contaminated.

6 years Length of time until Pakistan will face widespread water scarcity, according to international agencies.

3 Major wars that have been fought between India and Pakistan in the past 71 years.

On the Radar

Relations between India and Pakistan are positive right now, especially since the election of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s prime minister in August 2018. The upcoming inspection of the Chenab hydroelectric projects has been hailed as a “breakthrough” by Pakistani officials. However, it will not include an inspection of the Kishanganga project, another controversial hydropower facility, which is in the Jhelum River basin. The outcome of the inspection, which began on January 27 and concludes on February 1, will help define whether relations stay cordial between the two nations.

Resources and Further Reading

In context reporting from Circle of Blue: India and Pakistan Water Tensions Escalate to the Hague

A Water Crisis Is Brewing Between South Asia’s Arch-Rivals(Bloomberg)
Pakistan Indus waters team to visit India (India Today)
Water wars: Are India and Pakistan heading for climate change-induced conflict? (DW)

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