Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project - exploitation of Kashmiri resources
Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar arranged by Kashmir National Party on 04 July 2010.
Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues Aslamo alaykam.
Before I make a presentation on the above topic, I want to make this clear that I DO NOT write or speak against Pakistan. I write and actively protect and promote interest of people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Because wrong doer on this side of the divide is Pakistan or Pakistani officials and I expose their deeds which they do in name of Islam or brotherhood, people wrongly accuse me of being anti Pakistan.
When Pakistani writers and media people expose Pakistani officials for wrong doings inside Pakistan, they get compliments and they are not called anti Pakistan, but when we nationalist Kashmiris expose wrong doings of Pakistani officials inside our territory, we are accused of being anti Pakistan and in some cases ‘Indian agents’.
True, for some years I have paid less attention to issues of Indian Administered Kashmir not because they are not important, but because there are plenty of people to speak for their rights; and if I speak I will be just another voice. Whereas on the Pakistani side of the divide there is hardly anyone to speak out or expose human rights abuses and economic exploitations because of fear and intimidation.
As soon as anyone dares to speak to expose wrong doings of Pakistani officials in Pakistani Administered Kashmir or Gilgit Baltistan he is criticised as being ‘anti Pakistan’ or an ‘Indian agent’. Because of this fear and intimidation people are very hesitant to speak about their plight on this side of the LOC.
I have courageously written and criticised Pakistan’s Kashmir policy for years. It was not criticism for the sake of criticism, as I supported my contentions with historical evidence and facts, and yet I had to pay a big price for this; and because of ludicrous allegation and campaign of hatred, even I feel the pressure. I am a practicing Muslim, and yet I have been called Hindu and Sikh, just because what I write does not promote interest of those who make Kashmir policy for us, and those who have transformed the Kashmiri struggle in to business, whereas people of Jammu and Kashmir continue to suffer.
After announcing this seminar I had a phone call in which the caller verbally abused me and said: ‘If you are a true Kashmiri then you should expose India, because they are killing innocent people including children; and all you care is about water issues in Azad Kashmir’.
I gave him appropriate replies, but for the benefit of this audience, I and KNP condemn terrorism and killing of innocent people. To us Indian policy in Kashmir is exposed and you can’t expose it anymore; however we need to expose Pakistani policy on Kashmir which is carefully disguised in name of Islam and brotherhood.
Water is fundamental to human survival, and many countries have serious shortage of water and energy, yet demand is on increase. Lack of sufficient clean and useable freshwater has adverse impact on economy and prosperity of many countries. Because of this scarcity, water has taken a strategic role for many states; and could be cause of conflicts in future.
In 1995, Vice President of the World Bank Ismael Serageldin said: ‘If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water.’
Egypt went to war with Israel more than once, but when President Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, he said Egypt will never go to war again, except to protect its water resources. Former Secretary General of the Untied Nation, Boutros Boutros-Ghali warned bluntly that ‘the next war in the area will be over water’.
As freshwater resources transcend national boundaries and its management is a major challenge for the future. If amicable mechanism of water distribution is not established, and alternative sources of energy are not discovered then Ismael Serageldin’s prediction might prove to be correct not in too distant future.
Our neighbour, Pakistan has serious energy and clean water problems, and more than 38 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. Despite these serious problems Pakistan has failed to get consensus to construct Kala Bagh Dam, initial planning of which was made in 1950s, and the country has spent millions of pounds on various feasibility reports. All the reports suggest that the dam project was economically viable, but politicians and provinces did not agree with its construction for various reasons.
3. Water – our natural resources
Just like oil is natural resources of some countries, water is natural resources of Jammu and Kashmir; but unlike other countries we cannot sell our natural resources, because it is not under our control. Tragedy is we cannot even use water according to our wishes or requirements.
The water resources in Jammu and Kashmir belong to the people of the State, but it was India and Pakistan who decided how to use our water in Indus Water Treaty of 1960. In the past both countries fought conventional wars and a proxy war to take control of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, as both wanted to make it part of their country. Now fear is that they might clash over the water issue.
Strategic Foresight Group of the International Centre for Peace Initiatives in Mumbai, in a book “The Final Settlement” deals with the issue of water between India and Pakistan in detail and says: Pakistan’s interest is in conflict with the people of Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control; and adds, "A conflict over land between the people of Kashmir and the government of India will soon become a thing of the past. On the other hand, a water war between Kashmir and Pakistan is inevitable in the future."
But the question is who will fight and protect rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir? The puppet leaders who will do anything to please their political masters in Islamabad have no spine to even talk about rights of the people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. When people of Khyebar Pakhtoon Khawa strongly refused to allow Islamabad to construct the Kala Bagh Dam, even though it was in the interest of Pakistan, puppet leaders of Islamabad in Pakistani Administered Kashmir said: for sake of Pakistan we will build 100 dams in Azad Kashmir.
Prime Minister of Pakistani Administered Kashmir, Sikandar Hayat told a seminar on March 6, 2003 “The freedom fighters of Kashmir are in reality fighting for Pakistan's water security and have prevented India from constructing a dam on the Wular Barrage.”
Another Prime Minister of Pakistani Administered Kashmir, Sardar Yaqoob Khan while speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 12 August 2009, said, ‘the AJK had the potential to generate over 14,000 megawatts (MW) of hydro-electricity’.
Pakistan’s electric requirement stands at 14,700 MW, and if our electric generating potential is in hands of a sincere government, then we can export electricity to Pakistan and meet their energy needs. It must be noted that current electric requirement of Pakistani Administered Kashmir is 400 MW; and we produce more than 1500 MW at present and we face long hours of load shedding just because everything is controlled by Islamabad.
4. Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project
In line with its past policies, Islamabad has started a mega project in its colony, known as Azad Kashmir. They did not even care to consult, get permission, or have a formal agreement with the rulers of this territory. They know these rulers are puppets, and are ‘appointed’ there to look after interests of Islamabad.
Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project is located near Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. It aims to dig a tunnel and divert water of Neelam River from Nauseri, about 41 KM East of Muzzafrabad. A Powerhouse will be constructed at Chatter Kalas, 22 Km South of Muzaffarabad; and after passing through the turbines the water will be released in Jhelum River, about 4 Km South of Chatter Kalas. Once completed, the Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project will produce 969 MW of electricity annually at the cost of US $2.16 billion.
1. This project, once completed will benefit Pakistan, but local people will not benefit from it in any form or shape. However, there will be serious economic and environmental consequences for the local people; and their future generations will face very serious economic and environmental problems.
2. The project will have very serious impact on environment of the area, as it plays a key role in the configuration of Himalayan ecosystem. Environmental groups have expressed their concerns about prospective environmental hazards on local economy and biodiversity.
3. Ecologists say the project area has significant conservational importance due to abundant of forests, aquatics life and presence of many species of wild life, which have been declared endangered globally.
4. Majority of population lives in rural areas and their existence and life largely depends upon forestry, livestock and agriculture. River water and natural springs are main source for drinking and irrigation of land; and this diversion of river will have serious water shortage, which will make life miserable for the local people.
5. The project will also have serious impact on the habitat of various rare species considered on the verge of extinction. Developmental activities in the area and other changes will surely have negative impact on the natural habitat of wildlife.
6. Beauty of this area is enhanced by this river; and this diversion will have serious affect on wild life, weather and beauty of the area. The river and the beauty of the area attract tourists and provide clean water to the local people and citizens of Muzaffarabad; and this diversion of water will deprive the area of clean water and reduce the Neelam River to ‘Nalah Lahi’ in Rawalpindi which has dirty water and creates enormous problems for the citizens.
5. Kishanganga Hydro Electrical project
Interestingly India is also constructing a dam on the Neelam River at Gurez which will divert water through 22 KM long tunnel before it enters Pakistani Administered Kashmir; and release the water in to Bonar Madumati Nallah – a tributary of the Jhelum River. The diverted water would be used for generating 390 megawatt electricity and feeding the Wullar Lake. The project will be completed by 2015.
What this mean is that the water of Neelam River will join River Jhelum at Bandipore on the Indian side of LOC instead of its present convergence at Domel in Muzaffarabad, Pakistani Administered Kashmir. This project has potential to benefit people of Jammu and Kashmir on the Indian side of the LOC, but it will surely reduce flow of water in the Neelam River when it enters Pakistani Administered Kashmir; and it will have severe impact on Neelam-Jhelum Hydro Electric Project.
The government of Pakistan believes that the diversion of water to Wullar Lake contravenes the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty, as it affect flow of water and affects the Pakistani project. Bilateral Talks between the countries on this issue have failed and Pakistan wants to resolve this issue by invoking the arbitration process enshrined in the Indus Water Treaty of 1960.
6. Other Hydropower projects in Pakistani Administered Kashmir
Pakistan plans to construct some more dams in Pakistani Administered Kashmir.
They have completed a project at Jagran with capacity to produce of 30.4
MW, and it is already connected with National Grid System in Pakistan. Apart from that they have completed small projects at, Kundal Shahee, Kathai and Leepa. Also they have some micro- level projects completed and in operation at Kail.
The government of Pakistan in its Water Vision 2025 programme has announced to construct more dams in Pakistani Administered Kashmir, details are as follows:
Kohalla hydropower project
Kohalla project: This is also run-of-river project, and the project site is located at Dhal Chattian 22 km from Muzaffarabad upstream on Jhelum and powerhouse is at Barsala 7 km from Kohalla. The completion period is about nine years at the cost of $1381 million.
New Bong with capacity of 74 MW
Gulpur with capacity of 60 MW
Rajdhani with capacity of 86 MW
Chakhoti with capacity of 123 MW
Abbasian with capacity of 244 MW
Harrihgel with capacity of 53 MW
Kotli with capacity of 97 MW
There are some micro and small size projects under consideration, and these are:
Batar with capacity of 4.8 MW
Kathai with capacity of 2.4 MW
Batdhara with capacity of 10.2 MW
Riali with capacity of 24.9 MW and
Dhakari with capacity of 3.2 MW
As noted earlier water is essential for human survival and progress. Jammu and Kashmir is blessed with this by the Almighty Allah; and Pakistan has serious water and energy problems. Due to out of date water management techniques, poor planning, and political problems the situation has become very acute.
We appreciate Pakistan’s water and energy requirements and want to help them in this regard as well; but they should learn to share resources and not to exploit us by behaving like an imperialial power. They need to acknowledge that these resources belong to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and if they want to make use of them then best way is to negotiate that with government of Pakistani Administered Kashmir and pay for the resources they use that people of the area also benefit from this.
This approach will create better understanding and promote goodwill between people of Pakistan and people of Jammu and Kashmir. If on the other hand they continue with their policies of exploiting Kashmir resources like imperial powers do, then it will surely back fire and will generate bad feelings for Pakistan.
I end with a quote of Mir Afzal Suleria, President of Kashmir National Party in Pakistani Administered Kashmir, who while talking to Human Rights Watch, said:
‘Pakistan says they are our friends and India is our enemy. I agree India is our enemy, but with friends like these, who needs enemies’?
Mr Chairman, I thank you for your patience.
Writer is Director Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:email@example.com
To view other articles see my blog: www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com