Modi inaugurates Kishanganga Dam, Pakistan protests

  • Indian PM says dam will make region self-sufficient in power as Pakistan seeks World Bank’s intervention in project

SRINAGAR: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated a hydroelectric power plant in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, amid protests from Pakistan which says the project violates the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and will disrupt water flow to the country.

Pakistan has opposed some of the Indian projects, saying they violate a World Bank-mediated treaty [IWT] on the sharing of the Indus river and its tributaries upon which 80 percent of its irrigated agriculture depends.

Furthermore, it has also sent a high-level delegation to the United States, seeking an intervention of the World Bank against the construction of the controversial 330 MW hydropower project in the occupied valley. “The delegation led by  Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf will demand of the WB to constitute an international court of arbitration and will relay its concerns over the matter.

“Pakistan is seriously concerned about the inauguration (of the Kishanganga plant),” the foreign ministry had said in a statement on Friday. “Pakistan believes that the inauguration of the project without the resolution of the dispute is tantamount to violation of the IWT.”

However, India states that the hydropower projects underway in Jammu and Kashmir are “run-of-the-river” schemes that use the river’s flow and elevation to generate electricity rather than large reservoirs, and do not contravene the treaty.

The 330-megawatt Kishanganga hydropower station, work on which started in 2009, is one of the projects that India has fast-tracked in the volatile state amid frosty ties between the nuclear-armed countries.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony in held Kashmir’s capital Srinagar, PM Modi said the region “can not only become self-sufficient in power but also produce for other regions of the country”.

A day before Modi’s trip to the northern state, at least nine people were killed on both sides of the border due to firing by each other’s security forces, officials said.

The two countries have fought three wars, two over Kashmir that they rule in part but claim in full. India accuses Pakistan of promoting militancy in Kashmir, a charge that Islamabad denies.

Modi, who is on a day-long visit to the state, also flagged off the construction of the 14 km (9 miles)-long Zojila tunnel to provide all-weather connectivity between the cities of Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.

The government said it would be the longest road tunnel in India and Asia’s longest two-way tunnel, to be constructed at a cost of $1 billion.