Who do you blame for looking away while India almost completes a 45-MW hydropower project on River Indus? An inquiry conducted by the ministry of water and power places the blame on former Indus Water Commissioner Syed Jamaat Ali Shah.
“The inquiry holds Jamaat Ali Shah responsible for the delay in dealing with the issue of Nimoo Bazgo hydropower project,” said joint secretary for the water and power ministry, Imran Cheema.
Nimoo Bazgo is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric project on River Indus, with an installed capacity of 45 MWs, near village Alchi in district Leh of Indian Kashmir, about 450 km from Srinagar and 750 km from Jammu.
The inquiry, conducted by Secretary Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Muhammad Imtiaz Tajwar, says Shah lost the opportunity to take issue to the court of arbitration and neutral expert.
“[Shah] was the person to move the authorities concerned to take up the issue of Nimo Bazgo before a neutral expert or the international court,” said Cheema, adding that the water and power ministry had nothing to do with the negligence.
Status: almost complete
Pakistan first received information on Nimoo Bazgo in 2002 and requested India for details. Despite numerous reminders by the commissioner, India failed to respond until December 2006.
“These letters indicate that Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner was in knowledge of the issue and could have approached the authorities to approach the court of arbitration/neutral experts at that stage, however, that initiative was not availed and opportunity was missed,” says the report.
Shah started actively pursuing the matter with relevant government agencies when the project was almost complete, the report adds.
During a recent inspection, the Pakistani team learnt that 80% of the work on dam had been completed; the expected date for its inauguration is August 2012.
Shah dismissed allegations
Shah was on a foreign trip and not available for comments, when approached, but in his statements recorded before the inquiry officer, the former Indus water commissioner had said that Nimoo Bazgo, as proposed by India, may not harm Pakistan as assessed by Nespak.
A similar plant if constructed on River Chenab would have different bearing because Pakistan does not have any storage work on that river, he said.
Shah had said that the lodging of the case with the court of arbitration or neutral expert was to be the next step after receiving the Indian response and that the commission immediately reported the matter to the ministry of water and other concerned departments.
He dismissed the allegations that officials at the Pakistan Indus Water Commission (PIWC) had not taken timely action to safeguard Pakistan’s interests.
Too late to act?
Documents show that the PIWC, through the ministry of water and power, sought the prime minister’s approval, in January 2011, to write to the Indian Water Commissioner and notify him of Pakistan’s intent to resolve the questions on Nimmo Bazgo. The request was approved on May 21, 2011. Appointment of a neutral expert or moving to court of arbitration will require another summary to the Prime Minister.
What about the ‘negligent’ former commissioner?
“As Shah has retired, we have sent an inquiry report to the Establishment Division for advice on what action can be taken against him,” said Cheema.
“I have inspected the dam site and India is yet to complete the dam; therefore the issue can still be taken up with the international court of arbitration,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2011.