Militant Blitzkrieg Sends Govt Into Tizzy

Militant Blitzkrieg Sends Govt Into Tizzy

31 August 2012
Rising Kashmir
Wasim Khalid

Srinagar: Alarmed by an audacious militant attack on Wullar Conservation Project Office, the state government has asked security agencies to look into the “clear attempt to sabotage” the project.The commando style attack by nine militants, one of the biggest on a sensitive location in recent times, is seen as a loud and clear message with far-reaching ramifications for the unresolved issue of Wullar barrage between New Delhi and Islamabad. Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control, Taj Mohi-u-Din said nine militants armed with AK 47 and pistols were involved in the attack on the 398 crore Wullar Conservation Project site at Adipora Sopore. The attack took place at around 10 pm on August 28. “They were not wearing masks. They went to coffer dam and returned from there. Later they opened fire with their pistols. They ordered the 300 laborers staying at different huts on the site to come out and assemble at one place,” Taj told Rising Kashmir. The minister said later they beat up scores of laborers (around 40) and threatened them not to work on the project. “Afterwards, they asked the laborers to identify JCB (earth movers) drivers. They asked the drivers to drive the JCB towards the spillway and dismantle it. They destroyed around 1.5 feet of spillway.” He said the militant action was purely an act of sabotaging the project. Taj said the militants also planted an IED in the spillway and blasted it. “There was nobody there when this was happening. They also burst the tyres of trucks and threatened the workers to stop the work on the project. They told them that by 6 am next morning, they should leave the place or else face dire consequences. Their sole aim was to stop the work on the project.” During the assault, he said, the militants also damaged huts and other infrastructure. The militants had planted another IED under a hut which blew the following day at around 12 noon. Taj said the auto spillway was constructed to increase the level of receding Wullar Lake water by 2 metres. He said the lake has shrunk to 18 sq kms from its earlier area of 98 km. “Spillways and embankments were constructed under the project to increase the lake area by increasing the water by 2 metres.” The minister said the project was undertaken to prevent floods and conserve the lake. “The Indus water Treaty allowed us to do so. If we won’t do this, Sopore would be flooded. We want to protect the place from floods.” The minister said Wullar was at the brink of extinction at. “What was the relation of militants with the act?” the minister questioned, adding that the security agencies have been alerted to look into the attack “and it has also been brought to the notice of the chief minister”. Asked as to why would the militants resort to the act in the first place, he said Tulbul barrage was also stopped by militants in similar fashion. “In 1980’s, the work on the barrage was going on in full pace. In early 1990’s it was also in full swing. Then militants came and stopped the project. They also took away 250 ton of iron and it was stopped there and then.” Wullar barrage or Tulbul Navigation is an unresolved issue between New Delhi and Islamabad. The construction of 439-feet long and 40-feet wide barrage with a navigation lock at Wullar Lake near village Ningli in Sopore has been strongly opposed by Islamabad. India started work on this project in 1984 aimed to increase the water level in the barrage. However, the work was stopped in 1987 following Pakistan's objections, claiming it violates the water sharing treaty reached by the countries in 1960. India says the barrage was not in violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and will be used only for transportation purposes. However, Pakistan believes the Indian control over river Jhelum’s waters has the potential to disrupt the triple canal project of Pakistan-Upper Jhelum Canal, Upper Chenab Canal and Lower Bari Doab Canal. Experts say transportation aside, the water storage in Wullar barrage would significantly help the two downstream power projects Uri-I and Uri-II and region's Lower Jhelum power project in the lean season and thereby maintain the power generation from the projects in winters as well. Water has been contentious issue between India and Pakistan. Pakistan has several times objected to the construction of power projects on the downstream rivers flowing into that country, claiming it violates the IWT. So far the two countries have held more than a dozen secretary-level talks to resolve the issue but are yet to reach any consensus.