India and Pakistan issued conflicting interpretations February 12 of the report of a ï¿½neutral expertï¿½ appointed to resolve their dispute over India’s project to build the 900-MW Baglihar Dam in the shared Indus River Basin.
India is building the disputed project on the Chenab River, which flows from Indian Kashmir into Pakistan. Islamabad objected to its design saying it violates the World Bank-brokered Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. India rejects the charge.
Under treaty terms, in 2005 the World Bank named Raymond Lafitte, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, to be a neutral expert (NE) to resolve differences over the project. Both sides have said they would comply with his findings, which the treaty says are binding.
Lafitte presented his report to the India and Pakistan embassies in Bern February 12. However, both countries then announced his report — which was not made public — largely backed their conflicting stands.
India: Overall design upheld
India’s Ministry of Water Resources said Lafitte upheld the dam’s ï¿½overall design.ï¿½
ï¿½The three elements of design which require marginal changes, i.e., reductions in freeboard and pondage and increase in the height of the intakes, all arise from calculations and not from basic principles,ï¿½ the India ministry said. ï¿½The NE’s Final Determination confirms that India’s design has been compliant with the basic principles of the Indus Waters Treaty.ï¿½
The India ministry said Pakistan has contended features of the dam did not comply with the Indus treaty, saying: 1. The dam did not require a gated spillway and the gates were not at the highest level; 2. Design flood and dam height calculations (freeboard) were excessive; 3. Required pondage of 37.5 million cubic meters (MCM) should be reduced to 6.22 MCM; and 4. The power plant intakes were not at the highest level required by the treaty.
India said Lafitte upheld the spillway configuration, but found, based on International Commission on Large Dams guidelines, that freeboard could be reduced by 1.5 meters, which the ministry said it had previously offered to Pakistan.
India said Lafitte disagreed with Pakistan’s interpretation of pondage, but did call for a slight reduction to 32.56 MCM. India said the result would be a minor change in peaking power generation, although the number of hours of generation per week would remain the same.
Further, India said, Lafitte said the power intakes should be raised 3 meters, including 1 meter to allow for the slight reduction in pondage, which India said would cause no difficulty.
“India’s point of view has been completely upheld,” Indian Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz said. “The overall design of the dam remains intact.”
Pakistan: Expert declares design a treaty violation
But in Islamabad an official also welcomed the report.
“The neutral expert has in his verdict today clearly said that the design of the project is (a) violation of the treaty so this is good news for Pakistan,” Water and Power Minister Liaqat Ali Jatoi told reporters. “The expert decided that India should modify its design.”
The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 divided the Indus River — into which the Chenab flows — between the two countries and bars India from interfering with the flow into Pakistan while allowing it to generate electricity.
ï¿½Now morally, legally, and politically India is bound to respect the experts’ final decision on Baglihar,ï¿½ Jatoi told reporters.
The World Bank declined to issue a statement on Lafitte’s report.
ï¿½The two governments have agreed that the decision of the Neutral Expert will only be disseminated in accordance with their own rules, and therefore the World Bank will have no role in the public dissemination of the text of the decision,ï¿½ the bank said.
In 2002, a consortium including Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation and VA Tech Hydro received contracts from India’s Jammu &Kashmir State Power Development Corp. to supply equipment for the 450-MW second stage of Baglihar. Work on the 450-MW first stage was begun in January 2000 by the same consortium. Jaiprakash Industries Ltd. of India performed construction work under a separate contract, while Lahmeyer International of Germany was responsible for planning and project management.