Pak to approach Intl Court on Kishanganga project

Pakistan will now approach the International Court of Arbitration to halt Indian project.

Islamabad: Pakistan has decided to approach the International Court of Arbitration to halt the construction of the Kishanganga hydropower project by India on the ground that it violates the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 and has formed a team of legal experts to fight the case.

Professor Kaiyan Homi Kaikobad, an international legal expert of Pakistani origin, will lead the team at the International Court of Arbitration, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying.

The government is estimated to have allocated USD 10 million for the case.

Kaikobad will be assisted by officials of the ministries of water and power, law and foreign affairs, Pakistan`s permanent commissioner to the Indus Waters Commission and a few lawyers.

Kaikobad, who did his PhD from London School of Economics, is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Formerly a legal adviser to the government of Bahrain, he is currently a professor of law and director of research at Brunel University.

Some government officials had recommended that James Crawford be hired for the job because he represented Pakistan before a neutral expert when the country took up the case of the Baglihar project on Chenab river a few years ago.

Prime Minister`s adviser on water resources, Kamal Majidullah, opposed the move, saying the outcome of Baglihar case was not in Pakistan`s favour.

The daily said quoting sources that India had almost completed the 22-km tunnel to divert Kishanganga (Neelum) waters to Wullar Lake in alleged violation of the Indus Waters Treaty and is working to complete the 330MW project by January 2016.

If completed, the project will severely affect Pakistan`s rights over the river, reduce water flows into Pakistan and minimise the power generation capacity of Pakistan`s 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project near Muzaffarabad in PoK, it said.

It said Pakistan`s Permanent Indus Water Commissioner had asked the government in March last year to quickly take up the case with International Court of Arbitration after all options at the level of the Permanent Indus Commission were exhausted but it took the government over 14 months to seriously consider this advice.

Pakistan has been opposing the Kishanganga project for over 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. Sources said Pakistan might have already lost priority
rights over the project as the "tunnel is the major component of the project".

Like the Chenab, the Jhelum, of which Neelum is an integral part, was assigned to Pakistan under the 1960 pact. Under the treaty, India cannot divert waters from Jhelum and Chenab rivers.

The Kishanganga project is located about 160 km upstream from Muzzafarabad and involves diversion of the Kishanganga or Neelum to a tributary of the Jhelum named Bunar Madumati Nullah through a 22-km tunnel.

Its power house will be built near Bunkot and the water will be re-routed into Jhelum river through Wullar Lake.

When completed, the project is expected to reduce flow of the Neelum and decrease the power generation capability of Pakistan`s proposed Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project by more than 20 percent. Neelum-Jhelum project is expected to be completed by 2016.

Pakistan first received reports about Indian intentions to develop the Kishanganga project in 1988.

The issue had been on the agenda of the Permanent Indus Commission for more than eight years, sources said.

Under the Indus Waters Treaty, India cannot change the flow of Jhelum river, even for power generation, if it affects any Pakistani power project.

The treaty provides Pakistan exclusive rights to use the water of western rivers - Indus, Jehlum and Chenab - while the eastern rivers - Ravi, Sutlej and Beas - were assigned to India.