Q 18 . Present an account of the Indus Water Treaty and examine its ecological, economic and political implications in the context of changing bilateral relations. UPSC MAINS 2016 GS I

Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) is a bilateral river-water sharing treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by World Bank. It was signed by Pt. Nehru and General Ayub Khan in 1960.

According to this treaty, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, which constitute the eastern rivers, are allocated for use by India before they enter Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan has rights of the use of  western rivers Jhelum, Chenab and Indus.

With the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan, it has been indicated by India that it can use Indus water as a pressure technique if Pakistan doesn’t control the cross border terrorism.There have been suggestions that the treaty is unfair to India as it has been allocated a smaller water share. Further, it is also stated that India underutilises its  share of waters from the three western rivers, and that Pakistan is not forthcoming with respect to river data sharing.

However if the treaty is annulled it will have serious ecological, economic and political repercussions.

Ecologically, construction of dams in India will lead to inundation of large areas. This will force many animal species to migrate. Since most of the species here are very rare, habitat loss can trigger extinction. Formation of lakes will further alter the local ecological balance. Since Himalayas are structurally fragile, it will further increased fragility and may cause local level adjustments, thus causing minor earthquakes, landslide in hilly areas, etc. On the other hand, Pakistani territory will be water starved and species will be affected because of lack of water.

On the economic front, India will need to invest huge amount of capital for building dams and reserviors to stop flow of the rivers into pakistan.However India will get more water for irrigation, power generation and other purposes.For pakistan,it will create drought like situations and severe decrease in hydro power generation.The agriculture and industries of Pakistan are greatly dependent upon Indus. Water shortage will be a setback to  Pakistan’s economy.

Politicaliy, it will further intensify tensions between the two nations and may lead to a full-fledged war. Also current sentiments in Kashmir may result in increased hostility if any relook at the treaty is undertaken.Moreover it can raise questions about India’s commitment on international pacts and treaties. It could further be a jolt to the accomodative nature of India and to her pro-talk attitude. Also China may threaten to block Brahmputra waters.Since Indus starts from Tibet, there is also a possibility of China trying to tinker with its path or causing artificial floods.

Thus while there is an urgent need for some action, but tinkering with the treaty is not only unrequired, but may do more harm than good to the country.