Tribune News Service
Srinagar, September 28
To exploit water of western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab for irrigation as permitted by the Indus Waters Treaty, the Jammu and Kashmir Government is mulling constructing “mini dams” on their tributaries to double crop production in Kashmir.
Officials said the government would take the help of international experts for the construction of water storage facilities on the tributaries to increase agriculture productivity in the kandi areas and on plateaus.
“We are within the rights under the Indus Waters Treaty to construct mini dams for storage of water on tributaries of the western rivers for agricultural purposes,” a senior government official told The Tribune. However, he said the dams have to be built keeping in view that Jammu and Kashmir falls in seismic zones IV and V.
The treaty, which was signed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan President Ayub Khan in September, 1960, is a water-sharing mechanism to regulate the flow of the transboundary Indus river and its five tributaries – Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej – between India and Pakistan.
Under the treaty, India received exclusive rights of use of waters of eastward flowing Ravi, Beas and Sutlej before they cross border whereas Pakistan has rights to three large western rivers that first flow through J&K — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.
India could use the waters of western rivers for domestic, non-consumptive, agriculture and generation of hydro-electric power purposes in a restricted manner.
Officials said India was yet to avail of its entitlement to build storage for up to 3.6 million acre feet on western rivers. “We have built no storage facilities so far. Apart from a small attempt in Kupwara, the government has done nothing to store permitted water under the treaty,” they said.
Out of the crop area of 13,43,477 acres that India is entitled to irrigate using water of western rivers, only 7,92,426 acres was being irrigated, said the officials.
They said the government needs to put in a place various schemes to scale up the irrigation by another 5 lakh acres.
The officials quantified the annual loss due to the absence of water storage facilities on western rivers to Rs 6,000 crore.
At least 36 major tributaries flow into Jhelum river, which originates in south Kashmir, and travels through Srinagar before entering into south Asia’s one of the largest freshwater lake, Wullar. The number of major tributaries of Indus and Chenab rivers is very good to construct dams for scaling up irrigation.
Chief Engineer Irrigation, Kashmir, Mir Javed Jaffar said the government was yet to avail of its entitlement of water for irrigation under the Indus Waters Treaty. “We will take initiatives to encourage doubling of the crop production in Kashmir and also increase the scope of irrigation in conformity with the treaty,” Jaffar said.
Following the Uri attack that left 18 soldiers dead on September 18, New Delhi is weighing both military and non-military options to give a befitting response to Islamabad. However, there have been consistent calls that the Central government should scrap the Indus Waters Treaty to mount pressure on Islamabad.
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