Re-negotiate Indus Treaty with Pakistan in light of climate change: Standing Committee on Water Resources

Source: Down to Earth  

Synopsis:

The 1960 Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan did not take present-day issues like climate change into account. This calls for a renegotiation of the treaty through discussion and deliberation among the two countries.

Background:
  • The standing committee of Water resources has submitted its 12th Report to the Lok Sabha on 5th August 2021.
  • The report calls for a renegotiation of the Indus Water Treaty in light of present-day challenges like climate change.

About the Indus Water Treaty

Findings of the committee in its 12th report:
  1. Present-day pressing issues such as climate change, global warming, and environmental impact assessment were not taken into account by the treaty.
  2. It predicted some upcoming impacts of climate change on the Indus basin:
    • There would be instances of more high-intensity rainfall as well as long stretches where there is low rainfall. 
    • There would be a high influx of water due to glacial melt. The contribution of glaciers in the Indus basin is higher than in the Ganges or Brahmaputra basins. 
    • Considering the fragile nature of the Himalayan region, there is a greater frequency of landslides and flash floods.
  3. The report also noted that India was able to make full use of the ‘Eastern Rivers’, namely the Ravi, Beas, and Satluj through a series of dams. This includes dams such as Ranjit Sagar on the Ravi in Pathankot, Pong on the Beas, and Bhakra Nangal on the Satluj.
  4. However, it observed that canals in Punjab and Rajasthan such as the Rajasthan Feeder and the Sirhind Feeder had become old and were not maintained properly. This had resulted in the lowering of their water carrying capacityThus, the water from the Harike Barrage on the confluence of the Beas and Satluj in Punjab was usually released downstream into Pakistan.
Way Forward:
  • The committee urged the Centre to expedite new projects like the one on the Ujh, a tributary of the Ravi, as well as the Shahpurkandi on the Ravi. This will result in optimum utilisation of the rivers for irrigation and other purposes.
    • It also recommended that the canal systems in Punjab and Rajasthan be repaired to increase their water carrying capacity.
  • Further India should use the tools of discussion and deliberation to renegotiate the treaty with Pakistan. 
    • The aim should be to establish some kind of institutional structure or legislative framework to address the impact of climate change on water availability in the Indus basin.
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