Published Date: Jan 12, 2012
HIMALAYAN GLACIERS BE PROTECTED TO SECURE FUTURE
Pakistani and Indian experts have urged their respective governments to declare all Himalayan Glaciers as “protected area”, and demanded immediate demilitarisation of Siachen to preserve this second longest glacier of the planet, which they fear will otherwise fall in the watershed of the Indus River.
In a letter sent to the prime minister, Arshad H Abbasi, a water and energy expert at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), said that a series of dialogues with Indian water and energy experts, environmentalists and other experts in New Delhi, Islamabad, Bangkok and Dubai had helped reach win-win doable solutions. He said that experts from both the countries had accepted the proposals unanimously.
“Glaciers are important and a major source of the Indus Rivers System. To preserve these glaciers; there is an immediate need to declare all Himalayan Glaciers as protected area,” he said, quoting consensus development during deliberations between Indian and Pakistani experts.
The experts of both countries also proposed setting up an independent Indus Water Commission consisting of neutral experts from various international agencies including the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Union (EU). They proposed that the commission would directly be under the control of the United Nations (UN) with a mandate to compile a real time data bank in the form of web portal.
The data would consist of minor and major tributaries at all head-works, dams, etc, along with three-dimensional models of dams to represent geometric data of dams (flood storage + hydal power projects). The data thus compiled will also be beneficial for the global community at large.
He also said that experts were of the view that the Indus Water Treaty was evidently the most successful confidence buildings measure (CBM) between the two countries, and “nevertheless, there is a need to make the treaty more transparent using state-of-the-art information and communication technology tools”.
“By diluting mistrust on data exchange, a satellite-based real-time telemetry system in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) be installed at a minimum 100 locations for monitoring water quality and quantity,” Abbasi said, referring to the proposal by experts from both the countries. He said that both India and Pakistan have agreed to the fact that environmental threats respect no national borders.
During the last three decade, watershed in IHK has been badly degraded. To rehabilitate watershed in IHK and Himachal Pradesh (HP), both countries are to take initiative for joint watershed management in the two states. Experts suggested that in order to rehabilitate watershed in IHK and HP, environmental impact assessment was the best instrument to assess the possible negative impacts of a proposed project on the indigenous environment.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a trans-boundary context provides the best legal framework for trans-boundary EIA.
This shall lead to a sustainable flow in Indus Rivers System and bounds India to share trans-boundary EIA before physical execution of any project, including hydal power.
Abbasi also drew the attention of the prime minister to the work on 990MW Kirthai Dam and 690MW Rattle projects on the Chenab River in Kishtwar district of IHK that started last year.
“Unfortunately, neither the Ministry of Water and Power, nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken up the case with government of India. This is to emphasise that we are left with a very short time to plead our case, as both projects are likely to complete in the next five years,” he said, adding that accumulative live storage of these projects would have adverse impacts, both in terms of causing floods and running the Chenab and other rivers dry. It should also be noted that during the lean period, Pakistan meets the demand of water from these rivers only.