With India looking at full exploitation of its rights under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan, a high-level inter-ministerial task force held its first meeting on Friday, focussing on bringing Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir on board for speeding up work on the ground through better co-ordination.
Discussions at the meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister’s principal secretary Nripendra Mishra, revolved around fast-tracking proposed hydro-power projects in Jammu and Kashmir and building necessary infrastructure, including storage capacity, to tap water from three western rivers of the Indus system — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.
Since Punjab’s participation in the entire process is also important due to India’s right over the eastern river system (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej), chief secretary of the state also attended the meeting.
“Idea of the first meeting was to indicate India’s intention to fully utilise the country’s share of waters within the Treaty and bring the two states (Punjab and J&K) on board for speeding up the entire process,” said an official. He said, “Both the states have been asked to get back as early as possible with their respective ground reports. Next meeting of the task force will be held in January.”
Under the IWT, signed between the two countries in 1960, the waters of eastern rivers are allocated to India. Though India is under obligation to let the waters of the western rivers flow, it is permitted to construct storage of water on western rivers up to 3.6 million acre feet (MAF) for various purposes, including domestic use. India has, however, not developed any storage facility so far. India has also not tapped its full quota of water for irrigation under the Treaty.
Besides the chief secretaries of Punjab and J&K, the first meeting of the task force was attended by NSA Ajit Doval, foreign secretary S Jaishankar, finance secretary Ashok Lavasa and water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar. They underlined the government’s priority to speed up works on the proposed hydro-power projects on Chenab and its tributary —Sawalkot (1856 MW), Pakal Dul (1000 MW) and Bursar (800 MW) —for execution in a time-bound manner.