Monday, July 23, 2012

Thirsty South Asia's river rifts threaten "water wars"

Nita Bhalla in Reuters: As the silver waters of the Kishanganga rush through [the] north Kashmir valley [of Kanzalwan], Indian laborers are hard at work on a hydropower project that will dam the river just before it flows across one of the world's most heavily militarized borders into Pakistan.

...The 330-MW dam is a symbol of India's growing focus on hydropower but also highlights how water is a growing source of tension with downstream Pakistan, which depends on the snow-fed Himalayan rivers for everything from drinking water to agriculture.

Islamabad has complained to an international court that the dam in the Gurez valley, one of dozens planned by India, will affect river flows and is illegal. The court has halted any permanent work on the river for the moment, although India can still continue tunneling and other associated projects.

In the years since their partition from British India in 1947, land disputes have led the two nuclear-armed neighbors to two of their three wars. Water could well be the next flashpoint. "There is definitely potential for conflict based on water, particularly if we are looking to the year 2050, when there could be considerable water scarcity in India and Pakistan," says Michael Kugelman, South Asia Associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

"Populations will continue to grow. There will be more pressure on supply. Factor in climate change and faster glacial melt ... That means much more will be at stake. So you could have a perfect storm which conceivably could be some sort of trigger."...

The waters of the Kishanganga River will be diverted to the River Jhelum (shown here), shot by Dr. Basharat Alam Shah, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

No comments: