Pakistan expresses concern over scheduled inauguration of controversial KHEP


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday registered its “serious concerns” over the scheduled inauguration of the controversial Kishanganga Hydro-electric Project (KHEP) on May 19.

The 330-megawatt KHEP on the Kishanganga river in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district is all set to be formally inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi on May 19, Indian media reports said.

The dam had been constructed in blatant violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) signed between Pakistan and India in the 1960s, under which Pakistan’s right to waters of three rivers, including Jhelum, Chenab and Sindh, was preserved.

However, India started building the controversial dam in a series of violations of IWT. The dam is the first run-of-the-river scheme that involves an inter-basin transfer of water from the Kishanganga river, a tributary of the Jhelum, in the Gurez valley to Bonar Nallah in Bandipora through a 23.65-kilometre-long headrace tunnel dug across major mountain formations.

“Pakistan believes that the inauguration of the project without the resolution of the dispute is tantamount to violation of the Indus Water Treaty,” an official handout issued here by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“Despite several rounds of bilateral negotiations, as well as mediations under the auspices of the World Bank, India continued with the construction of the project. This intransigence on part of India clearly threatens the sanctity of the treaty,” the statement further said.

“Pakistan reiterates its stance that as the custodian of the treaty, World Bank must urge India to address Pakistan’s reservations on KHEP,” the statement concluded.

Work on the $ 864 million project began in 2007 but was halted in 2011 after Pakistan appealed to the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, complaining that the said project violated IWT as it had allegedly increased the catchment of the Jhelum river and was depriving Pakistan of its water rights since the country was also constructing Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project on the same river on its side of the border.

While allowing India to go ahead with the construction of the dam, the Hague court in its final award on December 20, 2013, however, specified that a nine cubic metre/second of natural flow of water must be maintained in the Kishanganga river at all times to maintain the environment downstream where the river flowed into Pakistan.