“India’s Wular Lake, a popular picnic and tourist spot nestled in the Kashmir Valley, is an unlikely site for conflict. But India’s plan to build a structure on the Jhelum River at the mouth of the lake that will allow it to release water during the river’s lean winter months has outraged neighboring Pakistan, which believes the project will give India the power to control how much water flows downstream to its farmers. After two and a half decades of deadlock and 15 marathon rounds of bilateral talks — the most recent occurring in late March — the countries appear a long way from finding common ground.
The dispute isn’t the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. The waters of the Indus River and tributaries like the Jhelum — and the dams built on them by India — have long been one of the main points of contention between the rival neighbors, along with the disputed region of Kashmir itself and cross-border terrorism. Pakistan, whose agriculture-dominated economy is heavily reliant on the Indus and its tributaries, fears upstream dams allow India to manipulate the flows of water as it sees fit. Many in Pakistan accuse New Delhi of wantonly exacerbating the country’s dire water shortages, choking its agricultural production and ruining livelihoods.
“Indeed, India has ramped up its hydroelectricity projects in recent years to try to boost its woefully inadequate power supplies. The government has a total of 45 projects either already completed or in the proposal stage on the western rivers, some as large as 1000 megawatt and many as small as 2 and 3 megawatt. This expansion has irked Islamabad. “India is putting more and more restrictions and constrictions on Pakistan’s waters,” Kamal Majidulla, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani’s special assistant on water resources and agriculture, tells TIME.
A 2011 U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report said that studies show no single dam will affect Pakistan’s access to water, but the cumulative effect of multiple hydroelectric projects could give India the ability to store enough water to limit Pakistan’s supply at crucial moments in the growing season. India has never abused its water supplies in this way, the report adds, and New Delhi rejects the theory as an unsubstantiated hypothesis. But the report’s observations serve as a suitable analogy for India and Pakistan’s water conflicts overall. While no single legal or diplomatic tussle will rupture the fragile relations between the countries, the cumulative effect of a series of standoffs could cause tensions to boil over.”
Read more: TIME