Indus Water Commission plans to meet in Pakistan as India resumes work on shuttered hydropower project

India announced this week it will participate in the upcoming Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) meeting with Pakistan scheduled to take place March 20 and 21 in Lahore, Pakistan.

India’s announcement that it will attend the meeting revolves around the 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan and the potential for conflict over water rights between the two countries.

A meeting on the issues has not been held for the past two years and this month’s scheduled meeting comes in the midst of the World Bank encouraging both countries to agree to mediation regarding the IWT. In November, India announced it would boycott a Court of Arbitration requested by Pakistan with regard to the Permanent Indus Commission.

On March 3, India announced it would continue work on a hydropower project shuttered since 2014.

Government officials of Indian states, Punjab and neighboring Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), signed an agreement to continue work on the 206-MW Shahpurkandi hydroelectric project located on the Ravi River.

The Ravi is a perennial river that originates in the Himalaya Mountains of India in the Multhan tehsil of Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. It follows a northwesterly course and merges with the Chenab River in Pakistan.

Secretaries of Irrigation for both states, K.S. Pannu and Saurabh Bhagat, Punjab and J&K respectively, each signed the agreement to continue work on the project begun in 1999. Work on Shahpurkandi was halted in 2014 over disputes of compensation payments from Punjab to J&K for displacing residents who were relocated from their residences in the project’s catchment area, which is in J&K.

The project’s 55.5-meter high concrete dam and 7.7-kilometer-long flow channel are located in Gurdaspur district of Punjab on the Ravi River. The scheme’s reservoir in J&K has about 789,635 acre feet of storage.

Costs for the entire project are estimated at Rs 2,285 crore (US$342 million) and officials say in addition to helping the states meet irrigation needs, the facility would provide J&K about 20% of the electricity it generates.

In 2014, HydroWorld.com reported India’s Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. was awarded a US$52 million contract  for the design, manufacture, supply, installation and commissioning of Shahpurkandi’s electromechanical equipment.

According to the Indian federal government, the move to resume work will give a boost to the country’s strategy to utilize its entire share of waters under the IWT.

According to the IWT, India is permitted to construct water storage on western rivers – Indus, Jhelum and Chenab – up to 3.6 million acre feet for various purposes, including domestic use.

India said it has not tapped its full quota of water for irrigation under the IWT, according to published reports.

In addition to the Shahpurkandi project, in December the Indian government said it plans to prioritize the development and completion of several proposed hydropower projects in the Chenab River valley and its tributary that include: 1,856-MW Sawalkot, 1,000-MW Pakal Dul and 800-MW Bursar.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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