Wullar Barrage: An Unresolved ‘Question’

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construction of a 440-feet long structure with a navigation lock, at the mouth of the Wullar Lake near Ningli in Sopore started in 1984 with the avowed objective to increase the water level during lean season (late-October and mid-February). CPWD was executing the project. It was stopped in late 1987 following Pakistan’s objections claiming it violates the water sharing treaty.
Against an initial cost of Rs 29.78 crore, Rs 20.15 crore has already been spent. Till March 2005, the maintenance costs (staff salaries) stood at Rs 45.50 crore as the project costs (if revived) escalated to over Rs 200 crore.
 The lock was aimed to help navigation on over 20 kilometre stretch between Sopore and Baramulla besides stabilizing the water level between Khanabal and Khadanyar. It would positively alter the lean season level when river discharge recedes to a mere 2000 cusecs. A level of four feet and a flow of 4000 cusecs are required for navigation.
 Though reintroducing water transport in Jhelum remains distant possibility, the lock would significantly help twin downstream power projects – NHPC owned Uri-I and Uri-II besides the PDC owned Lower Jhelum Power Project – to increase, almost double, their lean season generation.
 India and Pakistan had eleven rounds of talks – the last one in June 2005 – but failed to settle it. They, however, were almost about to strike a deal in October 1991 that would offer India a deal to keep 6.2 meters of the barrage un-gated with a crest level at EL 1574.90m (5167 ft), and would forgo storage capacity of 300,000 acre feet out of the provision permitted to it on the Jhelum (excluding Jhelum main). In return, the water level in the barrage would be allowed to attain the full operational level of 5177.90 ft. But the political factors overrode the economic issues.
Pakistan has a series of objections to the project. Though on record Pakistan says India cannot store water in excess of 0.01 million acre feet (MAF), but, experts believe, its objections stems from a deep rooted apprehension that the Lock may damage its triple-canal project linking Jhelum and Chenab with Upper Bari Doab canal and that stored water might be used as weapon of war.
The project envisages making of 10-parallel water-ways – a lock way, two over-flow ways, six non-overflow ways and a fish ladder. With identical design for all the channels, if cleared, the out-flow channel from the Wular lake (the Jhelum) would be diverted into these constructions for gaining the desired results of maintaining a particular water level.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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