The 1960 Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan has survived disputes between the two countries and provided a framework for resolving disagreements over water use, a top UN official has said.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, addressing the high-level panel on water diplomacy in Stockholm yesterday, said that water can represent a source of cooperation, shared growth and mutual support. She gave the example of the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan.
She, however, warned that getting caught up in “water-war” rhetoric will be a mistake for the international community.
“When we examine history, we see that cooperation over water can prevail over conflict over water. Through water diplomacy, sometimes known as ‘hydrodiplomacy’, neighbouring states can be reminded of the benefits of cooperating around water resources,” she said, adding that water, if fairly shared, can become a confidence-building measure.
Such confidence-building measures are urgently needed in many of the current conflict areas, Ms Mohammed said.
“The 1960 Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan has survived disputes between the two countries, providing a framework for resolving disagreements over water use.”
“In the Middle-East, water use has been an area where cooperation has been possible between some countries. In Central Asia, the United Nations is collaborating closely with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea,” she said.
Ms Mohammed said that by 2050, the world population is projected to rise to 9 billion, who will be sharing a finite resource – water.
“One third of the world’s population already lives in countries with water stress. As the impacts of climate change grows, so too will the prospects of further stress,” she said.
She stressed that water security encapsulates complex and interconnected challenges and highlights water’s centrality for achieving a larger sense of security, sustainability, development and human well-being.
Many factors contribute to water security, ranging from biophysical to infrastructural, institutional, political, social and financial – many of which lie outside the water realm, the UN official added.
India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed nations in south Asia, signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 after nine years of negotiations, with the World Bank also being a signatory.
The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers. However, there have been disagreements and differences between India and Pakistan over the treaty.
While the World Bank has said India is allowed to construct hydro-electric power facilities on tributaries of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers with certain restrictions under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, Pakistan opposes the construction of the Kishanganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydro-electric power plants being built by India.