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Manmohan seeks report on Baglihar

Saturday 18 June 2005, by PARSAI*Gargi

Water Resources Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi visits project site

Pakistan objects to dam construction Dasmunsi hopes inspection by Neutral Expert will be completed by January next year Final hearing in dispute after inspection

NEW DELHI: Union Water Resources Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi will submit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a report on the status of the 450-MW Baglihar hydropower project being constructed on the Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 with Pakistan.

Mr. Dasmunsi, who along with a high-level team of officials and experts, visited the dam site in Doda district on Friday, said he would submit the report, which Dr. Singh had sought,on Saturday.

The visit is part of India’s strategy to present its case before the Neutral Expert appointed by the World Bank to resolve its differences with Pakistan over the design of the Rs. 4,000-crore project, slated for completion by 2006-07. Pakistan approached the World Bank for the appointment of the Neutral Expert to address its objections to the design of the project.

Under the treaty, brokered by the World Bank, the waters of the Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej are allocated to India. The waters of three other rivers, Jhelum, Chenab and Indus, are allotted to Pakistan.

Neutral Expert Raymond Lafitte of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne held his first meeting with India and Pakistan on June 9 and 10 to set the procedure to arrive at a determination of the differences. The Neutral Expert will conduct a site inspection in October.

During his visit to the site, Mr. Dasmunsi expressed the hope that the inspection would be completed by January-end next.

Pakistan says the dam design will affect water flows downstream. India maintains that the technical design of the run-of-the river project, not involving storage, is well within the provisions of the Treaty and national and international practices.

Pakistan argues that the gated structure could restrict the flow of about 8,000 cusecs to it. India denies this claim, saying the limited pondage facility is only to get the required depth for power generation.

In January this year, both sides "converged" on six technical points during Secretary-level talks. However, the talks broke down after India rejected Pakistan’s request to stop construction as a precondition for returning to the negotiating table. India suggested renewing the talks after a week, during which both sides could study the technical objections raised by Pakistan to the design.

Pakistan then indicated that as a "natural next step" it would bring in a Neutral Expert to arbitrate. However, just before Pakistan President General Pervez Musharaff’s visit to India in April, New Delhi offered some changes in the design to accommodate Pakistan’s objections without compromising the safety of the dam or the benefits that are to accrue from the project.

The Government has involved legal experts Fali Nariman and Shankar Das to represent its case before the Neutral Expert.

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