The Resource

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The Indus Water Treaty has given Islamabad rights over three J&K rivers – Chenab, Indus and Jhelum with an average flow of 135 million acre feet (MAF) in lieu of 33 MAF flow in three Eastern river – Satlej, Beas and Ravi, that New Delhi retained.The Treaty is a major debate in the state, both at public and governmental level, for the direct and indirect losses that the state suffered due to it. A KL report

While experts and institutions in India and Pakistan insist that J&K can increase its Irrigated Cropped Area (ICA) by 425,000 acres within the limitations of the Treaty, there is still a lot of loss on the hydropower front. J&K government is appointing consultants to assess the losses it suffered because of the treaty signed in 1960. Current estimation suggests there is possibility of harnessing more than 20000 MW in J&K within the provisions of the IWT.

Chenab: J&K’s Power House

Chenab is at the core of J&K’s quest for power. Of the 16480 MW, the total identified potential of all the water resources in the state put together, Chenab alone has the lion’s share of 10360 MW. So far, only 1531.50 MW have been harnessed besides the projects which are currently being implementation including Baglihar-II and recently allotted Ratle power project being implemented through Independent Power Developer.

The mighty Chenab has its origins in Himachal Pardesh’s Lahul valley where two rivulets Chandra and Bhaga emanating from two sides of the Bara Lacha Pass, meet at Tandi (where the Manali road to Leh passes) to form Chandrabagha. The fast flowing river is joined by a number of small and major streams and snow-fed mountain streams. When it enters J&K above Kishtwar – after it leaves the forested Pangi valley, it is a roaring, powerful entity. For most of its length till Ramban, it creates spectacular and fascinating, at some places frightening, canyons and gorges that could offer sets to prized films.

Hydrologists say between Kishtwar and Thathri – a distance of around 50 kms, the river runs through class V and VI gorges. For the next 220 kms, up to Ramban, it snakes between “class III and IV+/ V rapids”. Its approximate length is 964 kms of which 144 kms are in Himachal.

Once it crosses the International Border at Diawara Village in Akhnoor into Sialkote in Pakistan, Chenab is joined by the Jhelum River at Trimmu, and then by the Ravi. Finally, it merges with the Sutlej at Uch Sharif to form the Panjnad (Five Rivers), which joins the Indus at Mithankot. Water level starts soaring by late May and reaches around 50 thousands cusecs by June. By August, it starts receding to the normal level.

The Indus River System Authority that compiles the annual average flows – kharif (April 01 – September 30) and rabi (October 01 – March 31) at Marala suggests certain changes in the overall discharge. The average annual flows were at 26 million acre feet between 1922-61, soared up to 27.5 maf between 1985 and 1995 and dropped to 12.38 maf in 2001-02.

Himachal is planning various projects worth 3000 MW on Chenab but the move is being resisted by the environmentalists saying increased dams and tunnels in the region could further weaken the fragile eco-system that is within a high seismic zone. The first of the three projects, Miyar, Seli and Jispa dams in Lahaul region are already in different stages of clearance.

Chenab’s power potential apart, the mighty river has the dubious distinction of not returning anything that gets into it. Usually when buses plunged into Chenab, the government and the relatives of the commuters would stay on banks and wait if the currents wash away the dead.

In April 2006 when a bus carrying more than 45 passengers fell into the river, the government got expert divers from army to fish out the dead.  anything.However,  They tried for more than a week but could not recover they traced the bus under tons of silt which was moving downstream. They put spooks in its rare wheels and tried to get it out but failed.

They said they perform better when water currents are at five knots but Chenab currents flow between nine and 10 knots.  This is true with flying machines as well. In 1988, a chopper of a private company carrying a rich person fell into Chenab due to technical snag. The company got experts from France and the search continued for 30 days. Nothing was recovered. On October 30, 2009, four Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel were killed when their MI-17 helicopter crashed near Tringal in Assar and fell into Chenab.

It had taken off from Jammu and was on an exercise. In the follow up, numerous flying machines were deployed to trace the debris but nothing was recovered except a mutilated body of a crew member that the water currents washed ashore. The river brings in tons of silt and that is key to the crisis that the various power projects especially Salal are facing.

Jhelum: The Backyard River

It has hosted the Kashmir civilization that changed its name many times. The Vale’s entire drainage system runs around the Jhelum as it connects 11 less developed drainage basins on its right bank and six on the left bank from its source in Verinag springs to Uri, where it crosses the LoC.

Massive encroachments on either side of its tributaries have reduced the space for routine river movement as unchecked mass soil erosion is silting up the streams, river and the lakes alike. Part of the waste is dumped in this river.

Only around 200 kms of the total river length of 966 Kms fall in Kashmir. Here it emerges from a placid and sluggish stream, changes into a submissive, lazy and navigable river from Khanabal to Khadanyar through the Wullar lake and then leaves as a major roaring torrent through a gorge. Compared to other major rivers, it has a less catchment area. But its tributaries drain a vast area. The right bank 11 rivulets have a catchment area of 7893 sq kms and the six on left side 3460 sq kms. Kashmir losses around 5334 million tones of soil, annually – 29 percent of the eroded land is permanently lost, 10 percent is deposited as silt in water bodies and 61 percent is displaced.

For most of its recent history, the river was seen as a potential threat during floods when it gets up to 95000 cusecs (its carrying capacity is only 40 thousand cusecs). This very reason led monarchs set up the flood basin channel in 1903 that connects Padshahibagh with Nowgam through Hokersar wetland.

Off late, it is now being seen as a mini-power house for the state. It has an identified potential of 3536 MW of which so far 732.60 MW has been harnessing by the NHPC and the PDC (252 MW). While 241.85 MW capacity is under implementation at various stages, 1050 MW capacity has been transferred to the NHPC that has 240 MW Uri-II almost ready. Even that leaves 2585 MW still untouched. PDC is planning at least two projects on one its tributaries – the Sindh rivulet.

Indus: Fountainhead Of Civilizations

One of the greatest rivers of the world, the Indus was key to the ancient civilizations of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. Originating from Tibetan plateau near the Mansarovar lake, the 3180 kms glacier-fed Indus enters Ladakh crosses into Gilgit and Baltistan and flows through most of Pakistan and finally merges into the Arabian Sea near Karachi.

Its drainage area exceeds 1165000 sq kms and its estimated annual flow stands at around 207 cubic kms. Zanskar is its left bank tributary in Ladakh as the Shyok, Shigar and Gilgit rivers carry glacial waters into the main river. Its discharge soars with the increasing summer temperatures.  Indus is considered crucial to the existence of Pakistan especially its food-basket.  The fast retreating glaciers on the Tibetan plateau have made the Indus yet another crucible for climatic change that has witnessed rising concerns across the world.

Unlike Pakistan, nothing much has happened over the Indus Basin on energy front. Just a few, small and micro hydropower projects – not more than 13 MW, have been set up, part of the reason being the potential spots being far away. Off late, however, efforts are under way to get the best possible within the available resources.

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