Dr. Shastra Dutta Pant
Water Resource Expert, Nepal
Water riparian rights are usually considered as Lower riparian and Upper riparian. While Bangladesh and Pakistan are demanding lower water riparian rights, Nepal, Bhutan and China are in favor of upper riparian rights. India is holding strongly upper riparian rights in case of Pakistan and Bangladesh and on the contrary of it; India is grabbing waters of Nepal, Bhutan and China as the lower riparian right.
There are three riparian theories in practices. They are: # Riparian rights; # Prior appropriation; # Administrative disposition.
According to the first one is recognition of equal rights to the use of water by all ordinary owners as long as there is not resulting interference by the rights of other riparian owners. Ordinary use refers to the use of water for household purposes and for domestic cattle. In other words it is simply water rights to have to come to him in its natural state. ‘Water must continue flowing by the law of nature’ (Race vs. Ward, 1855 4 e &b 702) has now been changed into proprietorship by registering its source points what is called the liberal economy and privatization. However this principle denies the benefits of modern technological uses of water resources to non-riparian land owners.
According to the prior appropriation theory the water in the natural course is the property of the public and cannot be owned. However, the practice is that the first user establishes the prior right and subsequent users can only appropriate what is left by the first user. India has been building dams close to the boundaries of Nepal to obtain the maximum advantage by increasing the lands under cultivation as much as possible. At the same time, for example, in case of Rapti and Kankai India dismantled the projects by means of bullying / conspiracy. On the other, India is not willing to pay water for irrigation and flood control after constructing high dams such as West Seti, Sapta Koshi and Budhigandaki. Instead it starts claiming as the user water rights for such dams constructed at the Nepali border without the consent of Nepal.
The other theory as passed by the International Law Association held in New York in 1958 that the best way to apportion water of inter country rivers is to treat the entire basin as an integrated whole and not different parts. The Helsinki rules 1966 says- “Each basin state is entitled within its territory, to reasonable and equitable share in the beneficial use of the waters of an international drainage basin.”
Water storage in the country has assumed alarming proportions following reduced flow in the western rivers from the sources of Indian held Kashmir in case of Indus basin. So is done for the Bangladeshi in case of Brahmaputra basin. Nepal is highly influenced by the uncontrolled use of water by India ignoring the international norms and values. Nepal is lagging behind in the management of its water resources and is in very poor social conditions due to India. India is not fair and friendly to Nepal in case of water management and proper and justifiable use of water on the basis of humanitarian ground as well. It is, therefore, in aggravating tensions over sharing of the available water among Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan and China. India is currently constructing Chutak Dam with 59 meter height, Nimoo Bazgo with 57 meter height, and Dumkhar with 42 meter height in the west. While at the same time it is trying to construct a canal to connect its Assam states by the water route through Bangladesh and pumping water for irrigation. All the rivers entering India from Nepal are tapped at the borders and used in inundating Nepal.
What also needs to be remembered that building a reservoir not only provides augmented flow to the downstream area but also results in flood control for which the beneficiary of the lower riparian needs to recompensate Nepal. Columbia treaty recognizes that the power benefit due to building of the reservoir is entitled to share one-half of the additional power generated due the reservoir. In Nepal, for example the specific site of West Seti project (and similar others) would have generated 100 MW without the reservoir. Therefore, Nepal is entitled to get its share of 325 MW (not meagerly 75 MW).
In this backdrop, therefore, agreements related to West Seti needs to be revised accordingly. India gets its right as the Upper riparian in case of Pakistan in the Sind River Basin and ignores in case of Nepal, China and Bhutan. What rights it seeks from Nepal as the upper riparian ignores to give same right to Bangladesh India as the Upper Riparian country. This is what is called the bullying boy right.
Irrigation and Water Storage:
All major hydro projects contemplated along the Himalayan ranges in Nepal are of a storage type that have regulated water (i.e. monsoon waters that have been stored for release in the dry season) as a major product, at par or even more valuable than electricity. In the semi-arid but very fertile Ganga plains (semi-arid because it suffers from four months of floods and eight months of drought in the monsoon-dominated precipitation regime), electricity can be had from a variety of sources even though they might be more expensive than the cheaper hydro power; but crops develop mutual relationships. Nepal can also benefit from the melting water of the Himalayas, a perennial source of hydropower in Nepal.
Whereas Bangladesh and Pakistan are facing problems as the nations of lower riparian regions and at the same time Bhutan, Nepal and China suffering as the nations of the upper riparian region. Bangladesh and Nepal are primarily facing problems created due to the attitude of India, not due to any shortage of water. Contrary to that Pakistan is facing problems primarily due to shortage of water. For, India, merely Rajasthan and adjoining Pakistani areas do have desert areas and having low rainfall and high demand of water volumes.
On the one hand without building new dams for storing river supplies, we have no future for our agriculture based economy, especially with an ever growing population and on the other hand, without securing consensus among all countries of this region for building new dams, it will be a risk that may bring about conflicts and wars. By not trying to find alternatives and creating ways and means to develop water storage, there is a definite sign in the future there is no alternative but to fight with each other.
Some other points that have to be understood are that the global warming has depleted the flow of water mostly on glacial runoffs; for example like the Koshi river in Nepal, such rivers carry heavy sediments resulting in silting, which damages dams and barrages; there is heavy seepage and there occurs loss of water in the canals for irrigation; optimum crop rotations have not been done to save water; no serious steps are taken for winter Kharif crops; dwindling water flow has reduced the power generation and similar other activities have created more negative impacts than there had to be.
In Europe and elsewhere, water scarcity has promoted trans-boundary water co-operations, but here in South Asia, the regional nations are inciting a virtual war over this issue.
The SAARC transmission lines proposal along with the Asian Highways all tell the same story. The story is of submission to India which is detrimental to the vital national interests of other neighboring nations. India must make compromises in accordance with equity, fair-play and no harm to either party policy not in words only but in practice as well.
The success story of the neighboring countries, Bhutan and China, and on the other hand, is bound to draw myriad questions regarding proper water storage and hydro-power development in Nepal. Can the Nepali leaders in decision making positions since its independence, have any viable reasons to justify the country’s failure in hydropower development and thus keeping the country poor? When a smaller Bhutan and big China have succeeded so well, why Nepal, which is in between these two nations, has not been able to do the same? If they, the leaders, were not corrupt and if they had the sense of nationalism, can they justify the reasons for the high costs and delays of hydropower projects in Nepal? Do they have any sense of understanding that as long as cheap power is available, there will always be buyers looking towards Nepal for fulfilling their hydropower needs? Is Nepal doomed to limit its electric generation only to meet domestic consumption and dispense the same to the Nepali consumers at tariffs 6 to 10 times higher than in China and Bhutan? And if the answers to these questions are “NEGATIVE”, is it not high time that it be understood (a) that the national policies are wrong and it is necessary to bring drastic changes, (b) that strong action and punishment should be meted out to the nation’s politicians, planners, bureaucrats and power pundits. After all did they not make all Nepalis poor just to make their families richer? Even if such people are dead aren’t they supposed to be punished just as Cromwell was punished in the history of Great Britain?
Thanks the author: Ed.