Water to become ‘flashpoint’ between Pakistan, India without World Bank mediation — official

Labourers walk on a bridge near the newly inaugurated 450-megawatt hydropower project located at Baglihar Dam on the Chenab river which flows from Indian Kashmir into Pakistan, at Chanderkote, about 145 km (90 miles) north of Jammu October 10, 2008. (REUTERS)
Short Url
Updated 10 August 2020

Water to become ‘flashpoint’ between Pakistan, India without World Bank mediation — official

  • Pakistan Indus commissioner urges World Bank to help resolve water disputes with India to keep 1960 Indus Water treaty intact 
  • Experts say the two nations should renegotiate the treaty to include groundwater resources, climate change concerns 

ISLAMABAD: Outstanding water disputes between nuclear-armed neighbor Pakistan and India have the potential to become a flashpoint if the World Bank fails to mediate and implement a water treaty to resolve them amicably, Pakistan Indus Water Commissioner Syed Mehr Ali Shah said on Monday. 
The Indus Waters Treaty between Pakistan and India was brokered by the World Bank and signed in Karachi in 1960. The treaty gives control over the waters of the three eastern rivers — the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — to India, while control over the waters of the three western rivers — the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum — lies with Pakistan. 
Under the treaty, both the countries can approach the World Bank for arbitration in case of disputes over the use of water resources.

People ride a boat on the Ravi River in Lahore on December 16, 2019. (AFP/ File photo)

In August 2016, Pakistan approached the World Bank to constitute a court of arbitration over India’s two disputed projects: the 330 megawatts Kishanganga and 850 megawatts Ratle hydropower projects. 
The Bank has not yet set up the court as India has sought the appointment of a neutral expert to resolve the conflict. 
“Pakistan insists that the World Bank must constitute a court of arbitration on our request that is pending with it for the last four years,” Shah told Arab News in an interview. “If the World Bank shirks from its responsibility, water disputes are going to become another flashpoint [between India and Pakistan].” 
“The bank should have immediately constituted the court instead of dilly-dallying,” Shah added. 
He said two ongoing disputes with India – over the 1000MW Pakal Dul and 40MW Lower Kalnai – were at the Indus commissioners’ level, and Pakistan would take them to the World Bank for mediation if it failed to resolve them at the bilateral level. 
In recent years India has begun ambitious irrigation plans and construction of many upstream dams, saying its use of upstream water is strictly in line with the treaty.
Pakistan has opposed some of these projects saying they violate the World Bank-mediated treaty on the sharing of the Indus waters, upon which 80 percent of its irrigated agriculture depends.
Shah said that India had planned at least five future hydropower projects on the shared water, therefore the World Bank as a guarantor of the treaty “will have to play an effective role to keep this peace instrument between Pakistan and India intact.” 
Shortly after the partition of the sub-continent into Pakistan and India in August 1947, tensions soared over the water rights of the rivers flowing between them. Since the ratification of the treaty after nine years of negotiations, both the neighbors have not engaged in any water wars, despite waging full-scale wars over the Muslim majority Kashmir valley, which both claim in full and rule in part. 
Dr. Pervaiz Amir, water expert and regional member of the Global Water Partnership, said that Pakistan would face ‘existential threat’ in case India stopped its water and kept building hydropower projects in violation of the Indus Water Treaty. 
“Pakistan needs to enhance its technical capacity including engineering and legal to evaluate Indian hydropower projects, and can take them to international forums for settlement, other than the World Bank,” he told Arab News. 
He, however, said that both the countries should renegotiate the treaty to include subjects like groundwater resources, environmental flows like canals and climate change.
“Both Pakistan and India should cooperate with each other.” he said, “to make the best possible use of water resources instead of wasting time over arbitrations.”

Urdu comic book 'Little Master' to help Pakistani children fight COVID-19 misinformation

Updated 19 September 2020

Urdu comic book 'Little Master' to help Pakistani children fight COVID-19 misinformation

  • The book tells the story of a young boy from Karachi's Lyari, who is learning about the virus to help others
  • 'Little Master' is illustrated by Umair Najeeb Khan, the creator of Pakistan’s first superhero comic book series 'Paak-Legion'

RAWALPINDI: "Little Master," an Urdu-language comic book, is going to be released on Monday to guide Pakistani children how to stay safe amid the coronavirus pandemic and cope with COVID-19 misinformation.
Published by Mehrdar Art & Production (MAP), the book tells the story of Ahmed, a young boy from Karachi's Lyari area, who is trying to learn about the coronavirus to help keep others safe, regardless of their community background.
"Comics are a great way to tell a story positively and are really useful in countering misinformation,” Muhammad Faheem, documentary filmmaker and MAP founder, told Arab News on Saturday.

The cover of "Little Master," an Urdu-language comic book to help Pakistani children cope with COVID-19 misinformation. (Photo courtesy of Muhammad Faheem via AN)

The efforts have been funded by MAP itself and through government and private support. To illustrate "Little Master," Faheem asked for help Umair Najeeb Khan, the creator of Pakistan’s first superhero comic book series "Paak-Legion."
Thousands of copies of "Little Master" will be distributed at schools in underprivileged areas such as Lyari, where misinformation has led to blame games and community tensions that affected virus response. Some narratives even questioned the very existence of the virus and necessity to follow any precautions against it.

Umair Najeeb Khan is working on an illustration for the "Little Master" comic book in Islamabad on Sept. 19, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Umair Najeeb Khan via AN)

In May, Faheem rolled out "Hum Sab Saath, Corona ki Kilaaf" ("All of Us Together Against the Coronavirus"), a campaign through posters, social media and talks by community leaders to address the situation.
"It got to the point where relief efforts in these areas were being compromised because people were questioning who deserved help," Faheem said. "We needed to address not only the severity of what was going on but educate the citizens of these areas on what was real information to help combat the fake news and rising bigotry."
The comic book is a follow up to these efforts.
"When kids read our comics, we hope they will learn more about the pandemic and how it is a collective effort that we all have to join together, regardless of our backgrounds."