Context: The Standing Committee on Water Resources tabled a report titled “Flood Management in the Country including International Water Treaties in the field of Water Resource Management with particular reference to Treaty/Agreement entered into with China, Pakistan and Bhutan”, in the Lok Sabha.

Key points:

  • Renegotiating Indus Water Treaty: There is a need to re-negotiate the Treaty so as to establish some kind of institutional structure or legislative framework to address the impact of climate change on water availability in the Indus basin and other challenges which are not covered under the Treaty.
    • Any renegotiation, however, will need Pakistan on board. 
    • Impacts of climate change on the Indus basin:
      • Change in rainfall pattern: There are instances of more high-intensity rainfall as well as long stretches where there is low rainfall. 
      • Glacial melt: The contribution of glaciers in the Indus basin is higher than in the Ganges or Brahmaputra basins. Because there is a fragile Himalayan region involved, there is greater frequency of landslides and flash floods.
    • India was able to make full use of the ‘Eastern Rivers’, namely the Ravi, Beas and Satluj through a series of dams such as Ranjit Sagar on the Ravi in Pathankot, Pong on the Beas and Bhakra Nangal on the Satluj.
    • The canal systems in Punjab and Rajasthan be repaired to increase their water carrying capacity.
    • Canals in Punjab and Rajasthan such as the Rajasthan Feeder and the Sirhind Feeder had become old and were not maintained properly.
    • Unused water: This had resulted in the lowering of their water carrying capacity. Thus, the water from the Harike Barrage on the confluence of the Beas and Satluj in Punjab was usually released downstream into Pakistan.
    • The Centre should expedite new projects like the one on the Ujh, a tributary of the Ravi, as well as the Shahpurkandi on the Ravi itself to exploit the full potential of the rivers for irrigation and other purposes.
  • Flood management: Under the existing Scheme of State Disaster Response Fund / National Response Fund of the Ministry of Home Affairs, there is no provision to declare any disaster including flood as a National Calamity.
    • States have often demanded natural calamities to be declared as national ones, especially after floods in a region. 
    • In view of the existing constitutional and administrative classification, it appeared that the responsibility of flood management lay with everyone and hence no one paid attention to it. 
    • The Union Ministry of Jal Shakti should take up this important responsibility of flood control.
    • It suggested setting up a permanent National Integrated Flood Management Group under the chairmanship of the Minister of Jal Shakti, with respective state ministers to be part of the group. 
  • On India-China water relations: Three Chinese hydropower projects on the main stream of Brahmaputra River in Tibet Autonomous Region have been approved by the Chinese authorities and a hydropower project at Zangmu was declared fully operational by Chinese authorities.
  • The Committee express apprehension that though ‘run of the river’ projects undertaken by China per se may not lead to diversion of waters, but there is every possibility that water can be stored in pondages and released for running the turbines, which may lead to certain diurnal variation in downstream flow and as a consequence have an impact on water flows in Brahmaputra river and thus affect India’s endeavours to tap the region’s water resources.
  • The Committee recommend that India should constantly monitor the Chinese actions so as to ensure that they do not pursue any major interventions on Brahmaputra river which would adversely affect our national interests.

Indus water treaty

  • Indus Water Treaty (IWT) signed on September 19, 1960, between India and Pakistan and brokered by the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) which fixed and delimited the rights and obligations of both countries concerning the use of the waters of the Indus River system.
  • Geographical location: The origination of the Indus River from southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region of China and flows through the disputed Kashmir region and then into Pakistan to drain into the Arabian Sea. 
  • Distribution: IWT deals with river Indus and its five tributaries. Eastern following rivers like Sutlej, Beas and Ravi were given to India whereas Pakistan got control over Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum.
  • Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, all the waters of the eastern rivers — the Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi  is allocated to India for unrestricted use.
  • The waters of western rivers — Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab is largely for Pakistan.
  • Permanent Indus Commission: This unique treaty led down the formation of PIC which was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty.
  • Significance: The treaty administers how river Indus and its tributaries that flow in both countries will be utilized. 
  • The treaty allocates 80% of the water from the six-river Indus water system to Pakistan and India is allowed to use 20 percent of its water for irrigation, power generation, and transport purposes.