A 10-member Indian delegation has arrived in Pakistan for the annual meeting of the Permanent Commission on Indus Waters (PCIW) and the two sides will discuss among other topics arrangements about flood flow information during the current season and finalise future programmes, meetings and inspections.
The delegation, headed by the Indian Commissioner for Indus Waters, arrived here via Wagah border on Monday to attend the annual PCIW meeting being organised by the office of Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters under obligations of the Indus Water Treaty-1960, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The meeting is scheduled for March 1-3 in Islamabad. The Indian delegation’s visit was earlier scheduled for mid-January, but it was postponed at the request of India due to COVID-related restrictions.
“The Indian delegation entered the country via Wagah border (Lahore) and then reached Islamabad. The delegation, headed by Indian Commissioner P.K. Saxena, includes three female officers,” a senior official of the office of Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters was quoted as saying in the report.
This is the first time since the signing of the treaty that three female officers will also be part of the Indian delegation, which will be advising the Indian Commissioner on various issues during the meeting.
The delegation will comprise Saxena’s advisors from the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation and the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Pakistani official said the participants are set to discuss arrangements regarding communication of advance information about flood flows during the current season, maintenance of free flow of water into Sutlej river and finalisation of future programmes, meetings and tours and inspections.
The meeting is taking place amid the chill in bilateral relations over the Kashmir issue.
The participants, under the agenda items of the meeting, will also finalise and sign a record of the last PCIW meeting.
“There is no plan for any field visit/inspection by the Indian delegation members during their stay in Pakistan as they have come to participate in the meeting only,” the official said.
Besides objections already under discussions over 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnai hydropower projects, Pakistan has also expressed concern over the construction of 10 hydroelectric power projects — Durbuk Shyok, Nimu Chilling, Kiru, Tamasha, Kalaroos-II, Baltikulan Small, Kargil Hunderman, Phagla, Kulan Ramwari and Mandi.
“Therefore, all these projects have been made part of the PCIW meeting during which the Pakistani Indus water commission’s team, headed by Syed Muhammad Mehr Ali Shah, will reiterate its objections and seek reply/justification from the visiting Indian delegation,” explained the official.
“Moreover, both countries will also resume talks on Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects,” he added.
Since annual meetings, under the treaty, are to be held before March 31 each year, alternately in the two countries, the Pakistani delegation had paid a two-day visit to New Delhi from March 23 to 24 last year.
During the meeting, the participants discussed Pakistan’s objections to the designs of Pakal Dul, Lower Kalnai and other hydroelectric projects, including 19MW Durbuk and 24MW Nimu-Chilling plants, and other data-related issues.
The Indian side had shared some information/documents related to 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnai hydropower projects with Pakistan.
It had agreed on getting the site of the controversial KishanGanga hydropower project inspected by Pakistani experts, the report said.
According to the treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through run-of-the-river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation.
The pact also gives the right to Pakistan to raise objections to designs of Indian hydroelectric projects on the western rivers. Pakistan has raised objections on the design of these projects.
India, however, asserts that the design of the project is fully compliant with the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) and certified by the Central Water Commission and the Central Electricity Authority, the apex organisations of the country in the field of water resources and power.
Under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, all the waters of the eastern rivers – Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi – amounting to around 33 million acre feet (MAF) annually is allocated to India for unrestricted use.
The waters of western rivers – Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab – amounting to around 135 MAF annually have been assigned largely to Pakistan. India is permitted to construct the run of the river plants on western rivers with limited storage as per criteria specified in the treaty.
Under the provisions of Article VIII(5) of the Indus Waters Treaty, the Permanent Indus Commission is required to meet regularly at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan. The last meeting of the Commission was held on March 23-24 2021 in New Delhi.