Baglihar verdict

Published: Thursday 15 March 2007

A fter nearly two years of arbitration, the contentious Baglihar power project over the Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir's Doda district has been given the green light. The World Bank's neutral expert submitted his final verdict clearing the project on February 12, at Berne, Switzerland.

The hydel project--which aims to supply 450 mw power to power-starved Jammu and Kashmir--has been a long-standing matter of dispute between India and Pakistan. The Chenab flows from India to Pakistan and the latter had always contended that a power plant on the river would divert water from its territory.

In 2005, Pakistan had sought the intervention of the World Bank, saying the Baglihar project violated the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960, on sharing river waters. Pakistan had also raised objections to the design and height of the dam, following which the World Bank--third party to the treaty--appointed Swiss professor Raymond Lafitte as the neutral expert to examine the issue.

Lafitte's final report is now binding on both countries. According to the verdict, the dam can be completed with slight modifications to the design. India will have to reduce the height of the dam above the maximum storage line from 4.5 metres to 3 metres; raise the location of the power intake turbines, which determine control over runoff, by 3 metres; and reduce the pondage (capacity of the reservoir) from 37.22 mcm (million cubic metres) to 32.5 mcm. Lafitte also held that the design of the sluice spillway, with five outlets, was appropriate and permissible since this technology was recognised by the International Organisation on Large Dams. Lafitte overruled all other objections raised by Pakistan.

The changes will not affect the dam's power generation capacity. When completed, it will produce 900 mw power. Following the announcement, the pace of construction has been expedited to complete the first phase by the end of this year.

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