India and Pakistan may have a power transmission line
The prevailing bonhomie between India and Pakistan may soon have a grid interface as Islamabad is seeking 500 MW energy from New Delhi.
This, however, may be a simple trading exercise and will lack any impact on the existing cold war over water resources, union power secretary Dhruv Vijay Singh hinted in Srinagar.
In a hot debate over Indus Water Treaty and allied controversies involving the two neighbours, Singh said the water sharing treaty is continuously generating a lot of debate for last few years but most of it is half truth.
"It needs an exercise to understand how much of it is presumed and how much of it is a fact," Singh said.
"I believe India has not been able to harness the water resources to the extent the treaty permits and that includes J&K”. Even though 87 per cent of the water goes to Pakistan, Singh said India still is unable to use the share it has.
Cold war over water notwithstanding, Singh ruled out the possibility of Pakistan blocking any power project in J&K as long as it is run of river project. "Pakistan seems to have decided not to permit any dam in J&K," Singh said.
"We are contesting a case in the international court of justice over Kishanganga power project and now they (Pakistan) are hinting at taking the upcoming Nimoo-Bazgo (in Ladakh) to the international arbitration."
Some of the engineers disagreed with Singh. They asserted that Indus Water Treaty has, in recent past, led to the reduction in the dam height of Baglihar and other changes in the design that reduced generations.
Instead of confrontation, they suggested India and Pakistan should enter into some relationship so that they have mutual benefits from projects in J&K on either side of the LoC.
But power secretary said there is no such requirement.
On Kishanganga which is currently being adjudged by the International Court of Justice, Singh said Pakistan has built it's case mostly on the environmental and ecological impact of the project.
Singh refused to be dragged in a debate over the massive losses that J&K has suffered because of the Treaty. Dr Mubin Shah, a business leader asked him about the possibility of central government compensating the losses that the state suffered since 1960 by returning some of the projects that NHPC runs and owns in the state.
"I would be keen to fly specially to discuss this issue here but I think this is nit the right time to discuss the issue," power secretary said.
Singh made his displeasure public that the J&K government is charging twenty five paisa as water usage charges per cubic feet of water used for the power producers," he said. "I would request the state government that they should revisit it because it does not exist anywhere in any Indian state."
His response came suo moto amid suggestions that the state government should change the system by seeking the water usage charge on per unit basis rather than quantum of water that goes into the generation.
Singh later had a detailed meeting with states water resources minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din who piloted the initiative that is fetching state government around Rs 800 crore a year.
However, at the conclusion of the inaugural session, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in his detailed speech refused to withdraw the water usage charge saying this is the only resource that is with J&K.
Interestingly, he publicly announced that J&K will not be comfortable in working with NHPC in future on the existing terms in which hot stats get only 12 per cent of royalty.