Indus water talks to resume today amid warnings of scarcity

The overarching background of depleting resources and melting glaciers could add urgency to the two-day talks and a Pakistan delegation, headed by the commissioner for Indus waters, Syed Muhammad Mehr Ali Shah, arrived here on Sunday to resume the conversation.

Sources said an improved atmosphere was expected for the sensitive and intense dialogue, which water sharing always involves.

The two sides held their last meeting in Islamabad in March, where Pakistan’s objections to Indian hydel projects were raised as white heat scorched both countries. Floods and interdicted flow of water are two sides of the problem, both natural and man-made.

“There will be talks on the sharing of flood forecast data while the PCIW (Pakistan Commission for Indus Waters) annual report will also be discussed during the negotiations,” said Mehr Ali Shah, Pakistan’s chief delegate.

In previous talks, Pakistan had shared its reservations over the spillway and freeboard of the Pakal Dul project, and sought a visit to the site in early May. India has rejected the suggestion and so the Pakistani delegation will not be visiting the site.

“The Pakistani delegation will not visit the under-construction Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnaj dams, but the matter and other projects will be taken up with India,” said Mehr Ali Shah, Pakistan’s commissioner for Indus waters.

”Pakistan has always insisted on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty and raised its voice on India’s behaviour in a timely manner,” Mr Shah added.

Discussions on the matter could be made part of the annual report and minutes of the PCIW.

Sherry Rehman, who heads the task force on climate change set up by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, cautioned this week that Pakistan was among the three most water-stressed countries in the world and could become a scarcity-hit country by 2025 if steps were not taken for conservation and to reduce the impact of climate change.

Indian hardliners have frequently prescribed the diversion of waters from rivers flowing into Pakistan, but that would be an act of war, analysts say.

In March, both India and Pakistan had agreed and reiterated their commitment to implement the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) in its true spirit.

The treaty mandates the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) to maintain cooperative arrangements for implementation of the agreement and to promote cooperation between the two sides for development of the water systems.

The treaty mandates the PIC to meet at least once a year alternately in India and Pakistan.

The IWT has been the cornerstone of the sharing of waters of the Indus river and its tributaries between India and Pakistan, and the Indian government remains committed to addressing all matters within the treaty’s purview bilaterally with Pakistan through appropriate mechanisms in accordance with the IWT.

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