SRINAGAR/ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has expressed serious concerns about the inauguration of a hydroelectric power plant in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday laid the foundation stone of the 330 megawatt Kishanganga hydroelectric project in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district, amid protests from Islamabad which says the project on a river flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies.
Pakistan has opposed some of these projects, saying they violate a World Bank-mediated treaty on the sharing of the Indus river and its tributaries upon which 80 percent of its irrigated agriculture depends.
“Pakistan believes that the inauguration of the project without the resolution of the dispute is tantamount to violation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT),” the foreign ministry said in a statement ahead of the dam’s inauguration.
The Kishanganga project was delayed for several years as Pakistan dragged India to the International Court of Arbitration, which ruled in India’s favor in 2013.
India has said the hydropower projects underway in Jammu and Kashmir are “run-of-the-river” schemes that use the river’s flow and elevation to generate electricity rather than large reservoirs, and do not contravene the treaty.
A day before Modi’s trip to the northern state, at least nine people were killed on both sides of the border due to firing by each other’s security forces.
The two countries have fought three wars, two over Kashmir that they rule in part but claim in full.
According to an official release, Kishanganga project will provide free power to 13 percent to the hilly state. It is also estimated that the project, which cost INR5882 crore, engaged around 1850 locals during the construction stage and 750 when the operations started off.
Modi, who is on a day-long visit to the state, also flagged off the construction of the 14 km (9 mile)-long Zojila tunnel to provide all-weather connectivity between the cities of Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.
The government said it would be the longest road tunnel in India and Asia’s longest two-way tunnel, to be constructed at a cost of $1 billion.
Another Pakal Dul project, supported by Government of India as well as the puppet Government of Jammu and Kashmir, will be built at a cost of around INR8112.12 crore. The official release also mentioned that this project will provide an additional power of 650 MU in downstream projects since it is a storage type project.
The project is touted be completed within 66 months.