Filling Of Mangla, Hydropower Projects In Jeopardy1 February 2010
Islamabad: The filling of Mangla Dam’s additional 2.33 MAF (million acre feet) storage capacity built at a cost of more than Rs90 billion and construction of cheap hydropower projects of about 4,500MW are in jeopardy because of non-implementation of the dam’s up-raising agreement and three provinces’ opposition to allocation of water for Azad Kashmir. Background discussions with government officials and documents available with Dawn suggest that the controversy has resulted in cancellation of a scheduled visit of President Asif Ali Zardari for inauguration of the Mangla dam up-raising project at the eleventh hour when AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider and his government threatened to boycott the ceremony and declined to receive the president at Mangla. The officials said the Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, Manzoor Watoo, had to make hectic consultations to persuade the AJK government not to create a scene during the president’s visit to Muzaffarabad on Jan 5. A hurriedly-formed committee comprising AJK President Raja Zulfiqar, Chief Secretary Khalid Sultan, federal Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and member planning Gen Zubair met at Mangla recently and decided to take up the matter with all chief ministers. “The delay in water allocation to AJK has created unrest and mistrust in the minds of people and may hamper the filling of the reservoir and resettlement of people dislocated by the project,” said a summary sent to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani by the ministry of water and power. The ministry sought an executive order to get the Mangla agreement implemented. The non-allocation of water under the federal government’s binding agreements could also severely affect the implementation of seven hydropower projects of 4,500MW, a senior official said. The projects include 969MW Neelum-Jhelum, 1,100MW Kohala, 700MW Mahel, 800MW Karot, 600MW Azad Pattan and 180MW Gulpur and 135MW Kotli. The AJK government has sought a meagre allocation of 614 cusecs of water for drinking, irrigation and fishery needs. The ministries of water and power and law and the Punjab government have supported the demand on the basis of agreements with the AJK government and from other legal standpoints. The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) and the governments of Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP have opposed the water allocation on the ground that Indus system waters stood allocated to the provinces and these could not be shared with AJK under the Irsa Act. The people displaced by the construction of Mangla Dam in the 1960s and the up-raising project have also threatened to stop the filling of the dam if the resettlement issue is not resolved. The ministry of law has supported the allocation of water for AJK, as calculated by an independent expert committee comprising Nespak and ministries of Kashmir affairs and water and power from the legal point of view. The law ministry says: “It flows from the obligation of the government of Pakistan under the June 27, 2003, agreement. The obligation has become operative with the completion of the project.” The AJK prime minister, the officials said, had already told Prime Minister Gilani that neither Irsa, nor any federating unit could decide about water rights and uses in AJK. He said that Irsa had no jurisdiction over AJK and that AJK was not represented in Irsa. The AJK government has also informed the federal government that the filling of the dam would not be allowed until final resolution of pending issues, including water allocation and resettlement of affected people. In a recent meeting with Prime Minister Gilani, the AJK premier was reported to have protested over the stance taken by the three provinces. He said: “Water is not coming from the Arabian Sea and flowing towards AJK to necessitate permission from Sindh and Balochistan. Rather it is the other way round. The AJK, being an upper riparian, has prior rights under all international water conventions and agreements with the federal government which should be honoured by the centre.” The officials said the water and power minister had written to the chief ministers of Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP, asking them to allow allocation of water for AJK because it was mandatory under the 2003 tripartite agreement between the government of Pakistan, AJK and Wapda. It also cited a 1904 agreement between the then Darbar government of the state of Kashmir and the Punjab administration. According to the officials, the ministry has requested the four chief ministers to attend a meeting of all stakeholders. A date for the meeting would be fixed in consultation with the chief ministers, the added. A spokesman for the water and power ministry said the commitment made with the people and the government of Azad Kashmir at the time of implementation of the project was one of the prime responsibilities of the federal government and it fully supported the stance taken by the governments of AJK and Punjab for allocation of water. About the position taken by the three provinces, he said a broad-based consensus could be developed through negotiations. The spokesman said it was a responsibility of the federal government to keep all federating units on board to resolve all disputes in a fair manner.