Five Dams Being Built In Occupied Kashmir2 February 2010
Islamabad: India has resumed work on the controversial Kishanganga hydropower project and has taken up four other mega projects of about 3,900MW on the Chenab and Jhelum rivers in occupied Kashmir that can result in major water shortages and cause a disaster in Pakistan in the event of an earthquake. Documents available with Dawn suggest that the Indian government has handed over the security of the five projects to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) - a specialised division of the Indian armed forces that provides security cover to the country’s missions abroad and UN peacekeeping operations, besides private and cooperative establishments in the country. The CISF has more than 130,000 personnel to provide security in highly sensitive areas and regions. According to a progress report prepared by the Indian government and the administration of occupied Kashmir after a Jan 10 meeting, seven major water and electricity projects are being executed in the occupied state, besides nine road and infrastructure projects. According to sources in Islamabad, Pakistan has not been informed about some of the major projects although India is required under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty to inform it about a project six months before its launching. Pakistan’s Permanent Indus Commissioner Syed Jamaat Ali Shah was not available for comments. The Indian government’s project update revealed that about 33 billion Indian rupees sanctioned for the 330MW Kishanganga project on Jhelum river in January last year had been increased to Rs37 billion. “Work has restarted after settlement of outstanding issues. The project is expected to be completed by January 2016.” Pakistan has been opposing the project for more than a decade because it could stop water flows into Jhelum river. Bilateral talks have so far failed to yield any result to Pakistan’s satisfaction. But the most crucial and the biggest is the Sawalkot project with a capacity of 1,200MW. Another is the 1,000MW Pakul Dul project for which Rs51 billion has been allocated and the executing agencies are awaiting forest clearance of 311 hectares and security arrangements to start construction. The 240MW Uri-II project on Jhelum river was allocated Rs18 billion, of which Rs8 billion has been spent with 51 per cent physical progress. The project is expected to be completed in February next year. Work on the 1,020MW Busrar multi-purpose project on the Chenab has been stalled because of inadequate security. Despite Pakistan’s objections, the Indian government has been successful in completing the Bagilhar Dam, having a 474m height and water pondage capacity of 37.5 million cubic metres, because the authorities in Islamabad reacted too late, when the project had reached an advanced stage. Indian documents reveal that the Sawalkot Dam project on the Chenab in occupied Kashmir has 646-foot height, which is more than the 485-foot height of Tarbela and 453-foot of Mangla. The project is also higher than the Bagilhar Dam and has 13 times more water capacity. Work on the $2 billion dam is in full swing and is monitored by the Indian home ministry, because of the law and order situation in occupied Kashmir. As of Jan 6, a 10.74kms access road to the project had been opened. The Sawalkot project is located in Doda and Udhampur districts of occupied Kashmir. The project was designed and is being developed by international consortium contractors comprising the NCC of Norway and Hochtief of Germany, including financing and construction, before being handed over to the Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKPDC) for operation. Arshad H. Abbasi, a research fellow at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, said the dam would inundate more than 12 square kilometres. He said the dam would be highly vulnerable to earthquake being in the seismic zone of Kashmir Himalayas. The site is close to the Himalayan Boundary Thrust zone where a number of earthquakes have been recorded in the past. Mr Abbasi, who had worked with Nespak after the October 2005 earthquake said the nearest epicentre was just 50kms from the project site and the Bhadarwa earthquake of 6 degrees magnitude on the Richter scale had been recorded there in 1947. The Badgam earthquake of magnitude 5.5 in 1967 had its epicentre 70kms from the site, while the strongest earthquake recorded in the region (1905) was of magnitude 8.0 and had its epicentre in Kangra, about 160kms away. He said three fault-lines near the place were believed to have serious seismic potential - the Panjal Murree fault close to Damkund, the Sawalkot fault just upstream of the site and the Chakka fault less than 2kms downstream. The dam site had some serious geological and environmental trans-boundary concerns that ought to be addressed, the expert said. Otherwise, he added, it could be an environmental disaster for Pakistan as the lower riparian.