THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES
TRANSBOUNDARY WATERS IN SOUTH ASIA: CONFLICT OR COOPERATION?
WELCOME AND MODERATOR:
ATLANTIC COUNCIL SOUTH ASIA CENTER
GORDON MCKAY PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH,
WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 2011
10:00 – 11:30 AM
Federal News Service
SHUJA NAWAZ: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am Shuja Nawaz, the director of the South Asia Center, and I’m delighted to have all of you here for, clearly, what is a very important topic. I am delighted also because this is – it marks the beginning of a new project that the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council is launching, which is to look at water issues in South Asia. And we are going to start initially looking at India and Pakistan but then broaden it to Bangladesh and Nepal, Bhutan, and Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other things.
We are extremely excited about this, and we are also very delighted and excited by the fact that the Ploughshares Fund has seen it fit and has supported this initiative, and we hope that we will be able to not only satisfy them, but satisfy our audience, and perhaps expand this as we go along.
As you know, water is a very critical issue around the globe. Some of the more recent reports that have emerged, including the one from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, from the majority, on water conflicts in our part of the world, have focused on it. We were also lucky to have, at an early stage in the thinking about this project, the very sage advice of Dafik Sadhiki (sp), who had done some work a few years ago with Shiren Tarheli (ph) on water conflicts in South Asia. And his advice is extremely welcome, and we look forward to benefiting from that.
We’ve also talked to people in the region and have started putting together a regional group that we will expand as we go along with this project. But I am delighted that, on my last trip to Pakistan and India in March, former foreign minister Jaswant Singh of India agreed to coach the effort with his contemporary Sartaj Aziz, who was former foreign minister for Pakistan. And we also had former foreign secretary of India Salman Haidar agreeing to help, and we will have equivalent participants from the Pakistan side in this initial phase.
But as I said, we hope to expand the dialogue to bring in other regions within South Asia, and then to perhaps pull back and take a much larger global and regional view. I must say that what we are trying to do is not to replace or to do any redundant work in terms of some of the recent reports that have come out from Washington. I mentioned the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report. There is a Wilson Center report. There have been occasional papers that the USIP has commissioned.
But what we hope is that we can create a forum through the Atlantic Council South Asia Center for the countries of the region to focus on this issue, and to try and find some ways of improving the dialogue and maybe resolving some of the conflicts. For those of you that have been here before, you’ve heard us talk about one of our mandates at the South Asia Center, which is to wage peace in the subcontinent.
And so my colleagues and I are extremely committed to that; so enough about the project and our ambitions. But I am really delighted to welcome John Briscoe today, who has come down from Harvard. Of course, John has years of experience at the World Bank, where his last position was as director for Brazil. He has worked in Bangladesh. He has lived and worked in India. He has worked extensively on Pakistan. And most relevant for what he is going to be saying today is the fact that he co-authored the World Bank’s water sector strategy.
And he also has two books from Oxford University Press. The first one is “India’s Water Economy: Bracing for a Turbulent Future” and the second is “Pakistan’s Water Economy: Running Dry.” So here is, obviously, someone who is now at Harvard, thinking – still thinking about these issues, and we thought to get an overview of the issues – not just for water, but also power and related issues, as well as maybe hinting at the internal water use and the hydropolitics within India and Pakistan and the other countries in the region – it would be really valuable to have somebody with his background.
As you can see, John is neither an Indian nor a Pakistani. He’s a South African. And so I am sure that what we will get is going to be a really valuable introduction to the topic. John will speak for about 25 minutes. This session is on the record, and so when he finishes, he and I will begin the conversation, and we’ll bring you into it. We would like to – love to have you participate. Please wait to be recognized. Wait for the microphone to reach you. Please identify yourself so that we can capture it for our audience that couldn’t make it here today.
And so with those words, John, if I could request you to please present your case. Thank you.
JOHN BRISCOE: Thanks, Shuja, very much.
Thank you very much, and good morning, everybody. I am sorry I have sort of a bad sound. My voice never sounds very good, but I’ve got a cold to boot. So you’ll probably hear some coughing in the middle of this.
Yes, so what I will try and do in 25 minutes or so is give a quite broad and quite quick overview of some of the issues on transboundary waters in South Asia: Are they a source of conflict, cooperation, or both?
A few caveats in starting this: these, obviously, as everybody here knows, very sensitive political issues. As Shuja mentioned, I worked in the World Bank for many years, left two and a half years ago. The three years before that, I didn’t work on South Asia, so it’s been six or seven years since I worked on South Asia, but very important that it be very clear that the opinions that I will give here are absolutely not the sort of revealed internal views of the World Bank. They’re not that at all; they’re entirely my own views.
And secondly, because the World Bank is a player in this, what I say about the position of the World Bank on these issues is based on public information, no insider information.
OK. What I’d like to do is to address three things; firstly, to go over some of the basic facts that will drive cooperation or conflict over water in South Asia; secondly, to look at good and bad experiences in the region on sharing water; third, to look at good and bad experiences on sharing benefits that are generated by water.
So, firstly, some of the basic facts in understanding South Asia and water. Firstly, conflict over water is a very – this is nothing new in this. If we look in our own language, the origin of the word “rival” are those who use a stream in common with another. So rivalry over water is actually built into our language. It’s nothing particularly new.
In South Asia, the Lord Buddha, one of his first public acts was to arbitrate a dispute over water in the subcontinent. So these are things that have been with us for a very long time.
Secondly, it’s very clear that we can’t think about water, as Shuja mentioned, in isolation from a variety of broader contextual issues. The issue of water security can only be understood in the context of energy security, food security, wealth generation, and income security, and a much larger set of relationships which govern the parties who are engaged in water.
The transboundary water issues, again as Shuja mentioned, come on top of very large internal challenges in water management in the countries of the region. These are the covers for the two books, which Shuja mentioned, and India’s water economy, the future – even the present is very turbulent. Pakistan’s water economy – we thought it was a clever title when we had it running dry, and then of course there was the huge flood. But probably Facing Extremes would have been a better title for the book.
These are available on PDFs. Anybody who wants them, happy to share them with you.
In the region of course, there are several major international river basins. In the northwest, the Indus with Pakistan and India as the major protagonists, but China and Afghanistan, also part of the Indus basin. Nepal and India, Bhutan and India, Bangladesh and India, and of course in the northeast, China and India. And we’ll touch on all of these a little today.
These are not only water disputes, of course, but they are often very important territorial disputes. In particular, if we look in the northwest, at the whole Kashmir issue, the waters of the Indus is intimately tied up with the issue of territorial issues in Kashmir. And similarly, the Brahmaputra issues are tied up to the border conflict between India and China in the northwest.
It’s also very important to recognize that all of the international rivers in South Asia come out of the Himalayas. They rise at great level and great height in the Himalayas. And therefore, there is enormous hydro potential in this mountain range and what’s coming off of it.
Now here, if we look at the hydro potential of a few of the countries, of India, Pakistan, Nepal, and indeed, China, you will see Nepal has probably two thirds of the hydro potential that Europe has. But Nepal has developed about three percent of that potential, Pakistan around 10 percent, India going on 25 percent.
So this is very important because there’s actually massive capacity for generation of relatively cheap, greenhouse-gas friendly electricity. And this is very much shaping the discussions, as we will see, around water. And then, of course, there’s climate change, with –I’m sure this will not be the last projection on climate change, but it’s the IPCC one. And there, I guess, you know, this – the glass is always half full or half empty.
If you put a circle around South Asia, the sort of good news is South Asia looks blue, which means that current projections are that there will actually be more precipitation in South Asia, which is – if you don’t live in the Kosi and Bihar and you haven’t experienced floods, sounds like a good thing. But this does raise the prospects of actually much more extremes, both of shortages and of excesses.
So we see, for example, the tremendous flooding. This is the NASA photograph of the middle part of the Indus, around Sukor (ph), August 2009, and August 2010. Not to say that that event is inextricably linked to climate change, but we are clearly going to see a lot more flooding and a lot more extremes in the region.
The first thing that most societies do in dealing with extremes on water is to build a capacity to store excess water and release it in dry periods. So we see in the United States, for example, for every one of us who lives in this country, somewhere there is a reservoir that has 6000 cubic meters of water for every person in the United States. If you go to India and Pakistan, those numbers are not 6000 but 150.
So there is a massive task of building infrastructure. I am quite well aware that building large dams is not the favorite topic for Americans, but this is a reality that this has to be done in the South Asia. And again, this opens both opportunities for cooperation and conflict in the region.
In climate change, of course, huge questions about what’s happening to the glaciers in the Himalayas. And you’re all familiar with the IPCC controversy about that. But what is very clear here is that when we look at the contribution of snow and glacial melt to the rivers of South Asia, for the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, this is around 10 percent of flow into these rivers, which doesn’t seem like much, but this is actually dry season flow so it’s actually very valuable water and important.
But this pales into insignificance when you put it next to the Indus, in which about 45% of the flow of the Indus comes off glacier and snowmelt. So what’s happening in the Himalayas is of tremendous importance for the rivers of South Asia.
Beyond water, of course, the other reality of South Asia – it’s the least integrated economic region in the world. If we compare intraregional trade of South Asia on the bottom with East Asia on the top, you see East Asia – something like 20 percent of trade is intraregional. In South Asia, this is 2 percent. It’s basically – very little crosses the borders in South Asia.
As Montesquieu reminded us, if two nations who traffic with each other become reciprocally dependent, and their union is founded on mutual necessities, this is very much absent in South Asia. And these lack of mutual ties that bind aggravate otherwise resolvable conflicts because there’s not a fabric knitting these societies together. So what the Foreign Affairs has called the new geography of conflict is particularly acute in South Asia.
Now, all of this has meant that the issue of water across the region has become an issue not only for people concerned with economic development, but also for security. And last year, I was invited to Delhi to something that I never knew existed called the Regional Metric of Strategic Study Centers, which covers, as you’ll see in the map at the top, basically South Asia all the way across to Morocco. And what was striking there was that the standard fare for these meetings are discussion of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. But now water has been put onto that agenda as well.
So this is just a few of the facts that I think need to be taken into account when we think about water in South Asia.
So the second issue on sharing waters in South Asia: Some of the good and bad experiences. And let’s start here with I will call a good framework, well-implemented so far, which is the sort of mother of them all, which is the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960.
The familiar – this map is probably familiar to many but perhaps not all, which was one when Sir Cyril Radcliffe drew the line between Hindus and Muslims after – what was it? – a month in the subcontinent, he got his pencil out and he said, this shall the border be. He paid no attention to hydrology.
And so what you have here, the green here are the irrigated areas in 1947. And what you will see, it turns out that about 85 percent of the irrigated areas were then in what is now called Pakistan. But the headwaters were suddenly all in India. And this was a tremendous challenge.
The 10 years of very difficult negotiation about the sharing of the waters – there are conflicting principles for sharing international waters. One principle says equitable utilization is a principle. The other says no appreciable harm. And there’s always a taker for each of these principles that conflict with each other. So the initial point on India was that they hadn’t yet developed. They needed more water to develop in Punjab, in Haryana, in Rajastan. And so they should have about a quarter of the water.
The Pakistanis, taking the no appreciable harm, said it should stay more or less as it is. And that would mean India got 13 percent. In the 10 years of negotiation, the endpoint was, I think, almost exactly the median of those two. About 20 percent of the water going to India, and 80 percent to Pakistan. This is a treaty which I read every in the press, Indians saying it was a bad deal for India, Pakistanis saying it was a bad deal for Pakistan. I think President Ayub Khan’s words were very appropriate about this.
He said that very often the best is the enemy of the good. And the basis of this agreement is realism and pragmatism. And it did indeed lay down a framework for engagement.
So in 1960, the treaty signed by Ayub Khan and Prime Minister Nehru in Karachi, with – if you look at the small print at the bottom here, the World Bank also as signatory – it says, for the purposes specified in Articles 5 and 10 and Annexes F, G and H. The Bank has a very specific – very small, but very specific role in the treaty.
The solution was basically that the three eastern rivers, the Ravi, Bé, and the Satluj, they said all of that water is for India, and the three western rivers, the Chenab, the Jhelum, and the Indus, all the water for Pakistan. But there arose a very major question because the three western rivers – the Pakistani rivers, and in particular the Chenab and the Jhelum – come out of Indian-held Kashmir with a very large amount of hydro potential.
And this was a treaty negotiated by engineers from both sides. And for the engineers, it was unthinkable that you would say, since it’s Pakistan’s river, India can’t touch it, and you will lose all of that hydro potential. So really, the most difficult part of the treaty was to say, how could India use, in a nonconsumptive way, the waters – especially from the Chenab and the Jhelum – without interfering with Pakistan’s right to those waters.
And what is embodied in the treaty is that the energy can be used in Indian-held Kashmir as long as it does not affect quantity or timing of flows to Pakistan. And if you then go and read the treaty, you will see, there, very detailed, site-by-site specifications of what India can do, respecting two broad principles.
Firstly, that these should not interfere with the hydrographs. That is to say, not only does Pakistan have to get its water but it has to get it in the same sequence as it has historically been delivered. And this is because the agriculture in Pakistan is very dependent on water at particular times. And this was, in a sense, hardwired into the treaty by limiting the amount of live storage in the specific Indian hydroelectric plants.
What we mean by live storage – if you look at a cross-section of a – of one type of a dam here, the live storage is essentially the water that can be manipulated by somebody opening and closing gates. And here, this said essentially that India could only take water from relatively high levels in the reservoir, leaving most of the reservoir as dead storage which can’t be manipulated.
So the treaty was signed in 1960. And India, as was entirely its right, then built the Bhakra scheme in northwest India, moved water out of the Indus basin to the Yamuna basin and down into Rajasthan. And this left to Pakistan the enormous task of bringing water from the Indus in particular, but from the western rivers, across to the eastern areas of Punjab in particular, where the irrigation was most intense. This meant building Tarbela Dam, Bhakra Dam on India’s side, and these massive link canals. I have a picture here of the Jhelum-Ravi link – this extraordinary piece of plumbing – taking water across riverbeds from one side of a country to the other.
For our discussion today, what’s very important in terms of the financing of what is called these replacement works in Pakistan: This was in 1960 dollars, around a billion dollars for this, of which India actually provided around 20 percent to Pakistan for the building of these replacement works.
The Indus Water Treaty is widely regarded as a great success as the one area where India and Pakistan have worked constructively together even when they were at war. But after 60 years, for the first time, India and Pakistan have, over the last 7 or 8 years, been unable to resolve a series of issues that have arisen.
The first – the basic issue that’s happened is that, in those 50 years before that, India essentially did nothing in Kashmir. There was very little building of hydropower plants, so there wasn’t much – there were a few issues, but not big issues. As you will see, India is now embarked on a massive program of hydro construction – in my view, entirely appropriate – all across the Himalayas including in Kashmir. So the Baglihar Dam, which you see in this picture on the Chenab became the first issue which the Indus water commissioners from either side could not resolve, and the reason are as follows: In India’s – India had built on the Chenab the Salal Dam a decade earlier. These are – the Himalayas are young mountains pouring very large amounts of sediment, and Salal was completely silted up within a year.
In the 50 years since the Indus treaty was signed, there has been a great deal of improvement in knowledge of how to deal with design of reservoirs in very silty areas, with – I don’t why these are always Chinese principles, but this – that’s the way it goes. And the Chinese principle for managing silt is to store the clear water and discharge the muddy water. So when you get these high rains, you’ve got to be able to flush the sediments out of reservoirs. And this means, as you can imagine, in a reservoir, you got to flush low to get the sediments out. You can’t just take it through the top.
Of course, what this raised was Pakistan’s fears that if there are low gates which can be used for flushing sediments, they can also be used for other purposes. They can be used to manipulate, to transfer a lot of what was once dead storage into live storage, and so makes Pakistan very vulnerable.
So in 2004, Pakistan petitioned the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert, which is the part of the treaty that was the World Bank’s responsibility, and the Bank did this in 2004. In 2007, there was a report from Mr. Lafitte from Switzerland, the neutral expert, in which he gave his finding – which, under the treaty, is a binding finding, non-appealable. And there were six issues that Pakistan had brought – had questioned. And at some level, this appeared to be a Solomonic verdict: There were three findings for Pakistan, three for India, and it all appeared good, that’s great; this is a successful win-win.
But underlying that was, I think, a very, very serious change in the way the Indus treaty is actually interpreted. Legitimately, it took into account new knowledge, especially on sedimentation management for these rivers, which come down heavily laden with silt. But the Baglihar reinterpreted this very essential issue of live storage and dead storage. As you’ll remember from the earlier picture, we had, at the – in the original, in the treaty itself, a very stringent limitation on live storage.
Basically, what Mr. Lafitte did was, he said: No, you can now – in fact, you have to, for reasons of technical reasons, allow outlets further down. And it was actually entirely a sort of a semantic issue, because he said this additional storage is not going to generate any more power, therefore there’s no objection. But of course, Pakistan’s objection was never to generating more power; it was the capability that whoever operated that dam could now manipulate flows much more than previously.
This becomes particularly important because there’s a whole set of projects that India is building, especially on the Chenab but the Jhelum as well, and we then come to the result of the Baglihar neutral expert’s decision. There were the – the two principles in the treaty was that you should be able to make use of the hydro potential, but without giving a capacity to manipulate flows. And essentially, he focused only on the former of these, which is that you must be able to make use of resources, and essentially, in my view, at least, didn’t give any attention to this very important issue of the capacity to manipulate flows.
Back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that once India has done its currently planned hydros on the Chenab, it will have a live storage capacity of about 40 days, so it can store and release 40 days of storage. This is a huge issue for Punjab downstream. The Chenab has no storage sites downstream; it has no reservoirs downstream, so whatever comes out, that will be what goes into the systems of Punjab. And Pakistan is, in my view, left largely without protection if India decided to temporarily withhold water from Pakistan.
This is – as Shuja mentioned in the congressional report that came out recently on avoiding water wars, this is, in a sense, highlighted there where they say the cumulate effect of these projects could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the growing season. So this puts Pakistan in a very vulnerable position.
I want to very briefly touch on – because that, the Baglihar was done – there’s now a project under contention, which is the so-called Kishanganga or Neelum-Jhelum project. And just, very briefly, what this is, is: Here we are dealing with this part of Kashmir, on the Jhelum River, which is the bottom river here – comes through Kashmir, and then into Pakistan. It has a higher tributary called the Neelum, which, basically – the Jhelum is down here, the Neelum is up here. And essentially, by diverting water from the Neelum tributary into the Jhelum, you have a difference in head, and you can generate hydroelectricity; all of that water subsequently coming down into the Neelum near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan.
And basically, the two red lines here is: One is an Indian project, a 300-odd megawatt project called Kishanganga, which would do it relatively high up the Neelum, and the second is the Neelum-Jhelum project in Pakistan. As it crosses the border, Pakistan can do the same thing. And as you can imagine, if the Kishanganga project takes most of the water out of the Neelum, this is going to very substantially reduce the yield on the Neelum-Jhelum project in Pakistan.
Now the treaty, this remarkable document, has an annex which actually addresses explicitly this case. And it says: Where a plant is located on a tributary of the Jhelum, this can be – the water released below the plant may be delivered into another tributary from the Neelum into the Jhelum only to the extent that then-existing agricultural use or hydroelectric use by Pakistan would not be adversely affected. So there’s now a question that sounds a bit like, you know, Monica Lewinski-time – is what’s the meaning of exists– because the Pakistanis are building, the Indians are building – when does the clock start? And that’s essentially the central question before an international tribunal, which is now hearing this case, and we’ll wait to see how that rules. That, I must say, is actually a rather unusual – I don’t think there’s any other case. This is a very particular case, that project. The others are more of the Baglihar type.
So the choice for Pakistan and India is – with these very large increases, the stresses, in my view, are going to become overwhelming on the treaty. They’re going to come fast and furious. It can continue as is, which is basically an impasse, and it’s heading for a train wreck. Basically, India builds, and then asks for permission later.
For Pakistan, very major concerns – the physical protection of limiting live storage has been greatly reduced by the Baglihar finding. For India, this poses major uncertainties for investors. You are going to build, and you never know: It may be declared that your project is, in fact, illegal. And in this, of course, lies the possibility for collaboration.
For India as well, the – obviously this is up in Kashmir; this is tied into much broader issues. And water has become in Pakistan a very major issue for the sort of jihadi forces to start going off to India for water, which, in my view, is the worst possible thing that can happen in India on water – to India with Pakistan – is that water, which is a visceral issue for every Pakistani, becomes captured by that. So you see a lot in the newspapers about Baglihar and about this and the jihadi claims arising over this. For this reason, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee talks about this as a national security issue, not only for the countries but for the United States as well.
What might be done to save the IWT? In my view, the division of property rights is sound and should be maintained. That should not renegotiated. But the dispute resolution mechanism could very well be modernized. This is away from – it’s basically engineers scoring points against other engineers. It could be the engagement of neutral dispute resolution expertise – not trying to be parochial, but there is the Harvard Negotiations Project, which has done this in many places, a neutral people trying to understand how to resolve these – and investments in win-win projects. What we mean by investments in win-win projects: Why not do jointly-planned, jointly-financed and jointly-operated hydro projects?
I was in Brazil, so – Itaipu, the biggest – actually generates more power than Three Gorges – is a joint project between India and – between Brazil and Paraguay, with the – one massive country, one very small country, in which it has been a tremendous source of wealth generation for Paraguay, and which Brazil has dealt with in an incredibly mature fashion.
A year ago, I saw there was a – in an election, a presidential election, when President Lugo was elected in Paraguay, one of the major issues was that Paraguay had got a bad deal on Itaipu from Brazil. And this was a deal signed by willing parties, and the general attitude in Brazil was: They signed it; they’re going have to live with it. But we had Lula as president, and what Lula basically said was, he said, guys, we’re not going to live this, we’re going to triple what we pay to Paraguay, because this is no skin off our backs. We’re a big place; we can handle this. This is going to, as in the Times piece here, is going to calm tensions with our neighbors, assert our leadership, and see this leadership as one which is benign on regional integration rather than domination of one country.
Is such big-heartedness likely on the Indus? I regret to say that in the 30, 35 years that I’ve been working on this, I think the last 10 years have seen, in my view, a very substantial change in the way in which this is perceived. In the past, many times I heard in India, we would never use water as a weapon. This is unthinkable that we would do it. Now, the prevailing sentiment is: This is legitimate payback for Mumbai. If they don’t do something on that, why shouldn’t use this as a method?
India has simultaneously – it, I think, quite accurately says that some of the Pakistani complaints about the Indus treaty is a deflection from Pakistan’s own inadequacies in dealing with its internal water challenges, and they are right, I think, in that. So they advise Pakistan: Why don’t you go and build the storage you need? And then, with their left hand, they pressure the World Bank, which has apparently caved in to such pressure to not invest in exactly the things they say Pakistan should be investing in. So it’s a very – I think it’s a very uncooperative environment that we have now.
I want to go through on sharing waters – very quickly, just a couple of other cases. There’s a good framework badly implemented, which is within Pakistan on the Indus. The Indus, basically, has a – there’s 1991 water accord, which apportions the waters of the Indus to Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, and frontier. This is well-structured for environmental flows as well. There have been tremendous problems in implementation due to a lack of transparency and mistrust between Punjab and Sindh in particular, but other provinces in general. The IRSA – the Indus River System Authority – if you go to try and see what to do, you get from Google – this link appears to be broken. And in fact, the link always broken; it doesn’t function.
So we have a system with a good treaty in place and really terrible implementation. So this is something entirely in Pakistan’s hands. I think there’s some promise of moving forward on this. Perhaps the most interesting part of that is that, going back seven years, Punjab, with a lot of disputes over water, decided that they were going to put all water entitlements and all delivery on water online. And you can go to Punjab Irrigation Department and see for two – updated every two weeks – exactly who has got what water that is allowed to them. So I think that’s going to be something where Pakistan needs to get its act together and can relatively fast.
India is actually a much worse situation. There’s a bad framework, or rather a nonexisting framework badly implemented. The union government on interstate issues in India basically say that, under the constitution, water is a state issue. This is, in fact, not what the constitution says; it says water is on the concurrent list. But the union government is very reluctant to get into any of these, and these interstate issues are left to what are called tribunals, which have no standard operating procedure, which take decades to come to unpredictable decisions, and which stimulates an incredible amount of destructive gaming on behalf of the states. And in the discussion, if anyone’s interested, I can tell you of some of these cases.
This means, when we launched the report that Shuja mentioned, Mr. Chidambaram at that time was the finance minister, and we had the privilege of having both the finance minister and the water minister come to the launching of that. And Chidambaram, I think, made a very astute statement. He said, India is facing a growing set of small civil wars over water rights, between states, between farmers, between farmers and the city, and there is essentially no way to manage these.
The minister of water resources was also there. You know, there’s a very long distance between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Water Resources. And he sat there, looking very sad for himself, and then he said, Sir – which is how he calls the finance minister – Sir, I was told I am the minister of water resources, but I learned I’m really the minister of water conflicts, without any rules for resolving these.
So that here in the – I think, a nice cartoon in the Hindu - this is the Kaveri, which is one of the longest-running disputes in India – this was chief minister Krishna at the time and Jayalalitha, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Every year, there’s a war over the Kaveri, and the only solution is, as they put here: Let’s wait for the Kaveri cloud to rain, and then it will go away until it comes back next year again. And this is what’s happening on India’s rivers.
The last that I want to do on sharing waters is the Ganges treaty between India and Pakistan – between India and Bangladesh. This is, again, the end of very many decades of disputes over the Ganges.
The issue is: Basically, the diversion of Ganga water at Farakka has had a negative impact on Bangladesh – unclear quite how important that is versus that sort of naturally easterly drift of the main channels of the delta. But what has happened is that there’s been basically one of the major distributaries, the Gorai, which comes down through the Sundarbans in southwest Bangladesh; water has not entered into the Gorai for about 10 years now. So you’ve had massive intrusion of salinity. It has had major environmental impacts. Just as an aside, you know, the world is a curious place because that major environmental damage has also given rise to an absolutely perfect environment for shrimp cultivation. So the southwest Bangladesh has become an absolute boom economy of shrimp on the basis of this degradation.
But in 1996, the Ganges treaty was signed between India and Bangladesh, and this is – basically tells you in low flow, medium flow and high flow who gets what. I think a basically – a pretty good treaty. There’s a very interesting paper done by Tariq Karim who was the Bangladeshi diplomat who managed this process, who’s now the high commissioner for Bangladesh in India. And this is highly relevant to our discussion of the Indus, because what they eventually did was, he said, instead of letting these engineers go head to head, they brought the technical experts under the supervision of these foreign ministers, and the discussions were moderated to lend flexibility and give preeminence to a political agenda over what he calls the obfuscation of the engineering technicalities. This is obviously something which, I think, would help a great deal on the Indus. Tariq is now the high commission in Delhi, and I don’t think it’s coincidental that they have managed on another very important river, the Teesta, to have an agreement between India and Bangladesh on the Teesta.
So, last part I want to do is touch a little bit on something which is highly related, but rather different. And that’s instead of sharing waters, which says, this water for you – you know, there’s 100 in the river, you get 50 and you get 50, is to rather say, what benefits can be generated by these, and how can we – how can we profit – mutually profit from this?
The great success here is between Bhutan and India. Bhutan’s main resource, of course, is gravity and water. It doesn’t have much else. And the king of Bhutan was smart enough to see this. This is – I love this picture. This is one of these pictures of gross national happiness, and if you look in South – actually, all of Asia looks a very unhappy place. But there’s one little – you probably can’t see it there, but there’s one little spot of green, which is the happiest place in the world, which is Bhutan.
And what is not generally understood is that Bhutan’s happiness – yes, it is by the beneficence of the king, but it’s also because about 80 percent of the budget of Bhutan comes from hydropower revenues from the hydropower development.
And here you see a situation – of course, a completely different geopolitical situation from India and Bangladesh, in which Bhutan has basically acknowledged that it’s a small country; it lives with a big neighbor; it’s got to learn to deal with that. It’s taken what looks like a very bad deal – these are hydro projects planned, financed, built by India, with the power bought by India – but they have no alternative, and this is a lot better than the alternative of nothing happening.
So you can see when you see the descriptions of this from the Bhutanese side: close and friendly ties with India, win-win situations, India being generous in 60-percent grant – 40-percent grant/60-percent loans – and we now have around 1800 megawatts of power underlying the Bhutanese economy.
Right next to it, we have a situation which is geographically very similar, historically quite different, between India and Nepal, and we have a failure. And Nepal has developed about 600 megawatts of its 80,000-megawatts potential. The great case of this was the case of Arun III, which is a medium-size, 400-megawatt hydropower plant that 10 years ago, the Nepalese were going to do. They did not want to be in the Indian hands, so they turned to their good friends in the international community. And there was a 400-megawatt plant, which was going to be financed by the World Bank.
When Mr. Wolfensohn came in as president, all he had on 1818 H Street was NGOs who didn’t like dams, and he basically said, find me a way – find me a fig leaf to get out of this; I don’t want to deal with this. The fig leaf was that this project was too big for Nepal; very interestingly Bhutan’s Tala project is almost three times the size of Arun. The economy of Bhutan is one-eighth the size of Nepal’s, and Tala’s turned out to be perfectly absorbable. So this was nothing like that. Of course what it was, was to do with Narmada, anti-dam protests, et cetera. Sebastian Mallaby’s book on the back describes this very well indeed.
But this is very important because basically what Nepal had done was rely on donors to do so that it didn’t, in its mind, fall into Indian hands, and it turned out that was a very bad decision. It looks as though Nepal is finally learning from Bhutan and is acknowledging that India can be a good partner – maybe you don’t get first-best, but you can get second- or third-best – and so some of these projects – they always seem to look bright and then fade – but there seems to be some light on that.
Last one I wanted to touch on, which is the great ribbed button issue in India at least now, is the issue of China and India on the Brahmaputra. If you look at the Tsangpo which comes around the bottom edge of – from Mount Kailash, across the bottom edge of Tibet, it gets to what’s called the Big Bend that I hope you can see there, and then it turns down and goes through Arunachal Pradesh into Assam, and eventually into Bangladesh.
Now the Big Bend is a very rapidly descending river. There is about 40,000 megawatts of hydro potential at the Big Bend – twice the size of Three Gorges – and so China is going to develop this hydro potential with great concerns about what this actually means.
The biggest concern is that this is going to be basically a barrage which diverts water to the Yangtze and then from the Yangtze up to the northern China plain, as they are doing already. I think this is extremely unlikely this is will happen. While we have all of this area in white here, the elevation at the Big Bend is around 10,000 feet. It would have to get over mountains of 18(000) or 20,000 feet, and pumping water out over 20 – over 10,000 feet is not generally a very good proposition, and then it has to cross the Irrawaddy and the – I think it’s basically impossible; that will never happen.
The impact of this on India and Bangladesh – in any case, even if the Chinese were able to do that, it turns out that about 70 percent of the flow of the Brahmaputra comes in below, after it crosses into Arunachal. And, indeed, as is the case on the Mekong, these high-level hydropower plants actually smooth out dry-season flows a bit so there could be a positive impact on India. But this is in the great China-phobia world we live in; this is like, oh my god, they’re going to turn the Brahmaputra and take it up to Beijing.
So lastly, just to close, overall conclusions: Tensions over transboundary waters in South Asia are growing both between countries and within countries. The internal challenges are offices – often as serious as international ones except that the provinces do not usually have armies.
To move from conflict to cooperation: In some cases sharing water can be the solution; in other cases, sharing benefits, I think, is the way to go to do this. The solutions are almost always going to involve both soft – as we saw in the Indus treaty case, the treaty is what everybody talks about – but there’s also men building Bakra (ph), Mangla, Tarbela, and all the link canals. So it can only be done if there’s both soft- and hardware on these. External full-service partners, such as the World Bank was for the Indus Water Treaty – a role, I regret, that I don’t think the World Bank can play anymore – can play a key facilitating role, but who knows? Maybe China can – maybe China can help on that.
Cooperation is obviously heavily dependent, as we’ve seen in these cases, on the broader set of relationships between country. Bhutan and India is not Pakistan and India. And, if we can do this – cooperation on these, rather than cooperation being cricket cooperation, which lasts until the end of the cricket match – they could indeed provide the set of ties that bind, and we could have these relationships – in the words of my colleague at the World Bank, David Gray – being things that generate benefits that are well beyond the river and into the societies more broadly.
So thank you very much and happy to discuss anything and all of it.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you, John. Would you like to sit there? I can move.
MR. BRISCOE: (Off mic.) Yeah, yeah, great, thanks –
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you, John. As expected this is a spectacular tour de raison. I think you’ve covered almost all the issues and in a very clear and succinct manner, and we are very grateful for that. I’m sure that there are many, many questions that will arise from the audience.
I just did want to pick up on one thing that you said. Clearly the water issue is very emotive –
MR. BRISCOE: Absolutely.
MR. NAWAZ: – in all the countries of South Asia and particularly India and Pakistan. Clearly there are huge security implications. Very interestingly, one of the comments that is – that was made in one of the papers on the hydro politics of Pakistan talked about the fact that both Pakistan and India, in implementing the Indus Water Treaty, also saw the canals as defense objects –
MR. BRISCOE: Right.
MR. NAWAZ: – meaning they were a mechanism parallel to the border in such a way that if ever there was a war, they would be a huge obstacle. But being a military historian, I can say that, in every conflict between India and Pakistan, both sides are very careful at avoiding any attacks on the head works of the water installations.
So clearly both sides realize the importance of this. With that in mind, I’m wondering if you can shed a little more light on this issue of jointness. And jointness not just for water, but is it possible to conceive of a joint water and power commission that would own, within quotes, the “resources” on both sides of the border and be able to regulate the flow of water and power so that there wouldn’t be this suspicion that one side is somehow doing it to the disadvantage of the other? Are there any examples of this elsewhere that apply to South Asia?
MR. BRISCO: Yeah. Shuja, just a couple of things, and let me come to the – on the points you’ve raised. Firstly the issue of water as a visceral issue. This is actually very important.
At Harvard, we have a famous biologist, E.O. Wilson, who I’m sure many of you know. It was – he was giving a talk recently, and this was actually about biotechnology, but I thought this is equally true about water. Wilson said, today we live with god-like technologies, medieval institutions, and Paleolithic emotions. And this is very much as it is in water.
So, yes, we have technologies that can do a lot. We have institutions which are quite antiquated, and then we have emotions beneath that that are extremely volatile and, as in this case, in particular.
A second comment I would just make on the administration of the relationship between India and Pakistan on the Indus. One of the pervasive problems is about reporting and even when Baglihar was filled, everything is contested. The Pakistanis say that the releases from Baglihar were not compliant with the treaty; the Indians say they were. The Pakistanis have the data available; the Indians say, no, it’s a secret. And it’s very interesting – I wrote a piece maybe a year or so ago about this issue, that was supposed to come out in The Times of India and in Jang. It was part of this summer – (unintelligible) – thing. And Times of India decided not to publish it; it was published and – oh my goodness, my email I got thousands of emails saying that I wasn’t really a Harvard professor, I was a jihadi, or a worked for the ISI – this whole sort of thing.
And I only got one positive one from India, which was very interesting; was one of the prominent leaders of the anti-dam – of Marapaka’s group in India, with whom I’ve had many clashes over the years. He wrote and he said, the problem is this is that the Pakistanis think India is treating them badly on this; this is just how the Ministry of Water Resources treats everybody in India – with a lack of transparency, no data – and this is very, very true. This is a characteristic that this is very un-transparent, so there’s an enormous need for modernization. Pakistan’s side is not much better: It’s a bit better, but not much better.
Now coming to joint projects, I mean, it’s extremely easy to – if this were the United States and Canada, or if this were Brazil and Paraguay, you would not be building two projects which on the Neelum and Jhelum like this; you’d be building one project which maximizes power. I think it’s probably two – the first step in that, in my view, would be a project that is a project jointly financed, jointly owned, power lines going in both directions, and then learn to live with that one and manage that one.
The ones that are being built in Kashmir? You know, Pakistan is now importing power from Tajikistan, for goodness sake, when right there is a huge potential that Pakistan could be working with India on facilitating these, getting these projects done quicker, faster, bringing power into Pakistan.
So, you know, this is easy to say; the question of course is, as Mr. Manmohan Singh knows, this takes place in a sea of contradictory – of many other things, which are very important, that make these difficult, but it’s very easy to see this. I mean, there are many – I’m South African; we have a project with Lesotho Highlands – it’s not actually a hydro project – but the water from Lesotho comes to Johannesburg; it’s 5 percent of GDP in perpetuity to Lesotho for no investment.
So there are many projects of this sort that are binational projects – very easy to conceive. In my view, that’s exactly the sort of thing which should be stimulated; don’t make a big new treaty, but do something that you start building a fabric of tying people together around it – so.
MR. NAWAZ: With that in mind, is it possible, knowing that there’s this tremendous upsurge of private investment in India and Pakistan.
MR. BRISCO: Yeah, yeah.
MR. NAWAZ: You have business houses, individuals who are multibillionaires; is it possible to take this matter – because it’s far too important – take it out of the hands of government and bring in a consortium of private groups, with India perhaps following the India-Bhutan model, investing a larger share in a project which you’re suggesting as a model. Is that a reasonable possibility?
MR. BRISCOE: I don’t think it’s reasonable, Shuja. I mean –
MR. NAWAZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MR. BRISCOE: – I don’t think you think it’s reasonable either. I think there is no – the arbiter of the relations between India and Pakistan are the states; that is never going to be a private – so you would have to have some framework in which – now, could whoever – Mr. Tata or someone – say, as my legacy, I want to do so this, and he goes in the back door in Delhi to say, let’s make this work. But there’s no way in which it can work without – obviously without the state being a partner in this.
But could the private sector on both sides, if there’s a willing dialogue, come to both of their governments and say, guys, we’ve got a project – there’s a good project; don’t try and solve all the issues, but solve it around this; and let’s get this working. I think for sure, and I think that’s exactly the sort of – you know, as we talked earlier – there’s – a lot of the track 2 stuff has been going on for decades there, and I don’t think much comes from that. You need to do something which changes facts on the ground.
And I think the private sector, you know, Pakistan is potentially a great market for India, Pakistan is starved of power. This is the sort of practical proposition which a farsighted private sector on both sides could – I happen – I actually worked quite – although I worked many years in India more than Pakistan, the last few years I’ve worked more in Pakistan, and I have very little doubt that WAPDA in Pakistan would be very keen on doing that. They have enlightened leadership; they would love to see something of that sort happen. So, yeah, I think that’s a sort of thing which should be pushed.
MR. NAWAZ: So with the government facilitating something like this – yes –
MR. BRISCO: Correct. They have to agree because otherwise you’re investing billions without any assurance that it will come to –
MR. NAWAZ: Clearly I could spend the whole morning talking to you, but I have a number of people that want to ask questions. I’m going to go first with Ambassador Schaeffer (sp); let me get the other names down and then –
Q: Thank you, Shuja. I wanted to pursue, just a little bit, this issue of jointness. The reason that the Indus Waters Treaty was structured the way it was, was precisely to minimize the amount of jointness that was necessary. I’ve described it as a divorce rather than a joint custody arrangement.
MR. BRISCOE: Correct.
Q: And interestingly enough, one of the people who helped negotiate it – who is one of the patron saints of Harvard’s negotiating project, Roger Fisher – told me once that he was terribly disappointed, that it was a technically suboptimal solution.
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah.
Q: I think this is a good illustration of why technically isn’t the only thing. But that suggests that if you’re going to think of anything joint in water or in anything else, you have to get – immerse yourself in mechanics of how it is possible to avoid having this be a subject of daily interaction, that will daily push all those hot buttons that we’re all so familiar with.
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah, I –
MR. NAWAZ: Please go ahead.
MR. BRISCOE: Yes, I mean the history, which you obviously know well is – David Lilienthal who was the – whatever he was, the chairman of the TVA – was the one who got the World Bank started down this route. And you know he went there in 1950 and said, oh, this looks just like the TVA, all we need to do is put up a TVA and everything will be hunky-dory from then on.
I – perhaps it’s a – it’s the future always looks brighter than the past. In my view it’s impossible to imagine that – the situation you had in 1950 – you could have actually had joint development around that – I mean – well, it didn’t happen anyway. But could you have – I actually think that sharing is actually a pretty good treaty because it’s physically so clear, their property rights are so clearly defined. Whether it’s suboptimal is not, for me, the big issue.
But are there opportunities within that to now construct projects which are done jointly? I think there’s enormous possibility. Again, I mean, the ties – I happen to have – actually when I was a graduate student, my roommate was a Thai who ended up as the minister of – for the prime minister in Thailand. I was there a few years ago, there’s all the talk about the Chinese on the upper reaches of the Mekong, as I’m sure you’re aware. And he said, well I just came back from Beijing; because how are we dealing with this?
We are basically saying to the Chinese, we’re not going to stop you doing your project, we can’t do that, but what we’d like to be is partners in this; so we would like – we will buy the electricity from you; we will get some of the construction jobs for it – and in that way, we are brought into discussing operating rules and making sure that the system (doesn’t ?) work. And I think it’s that sort of – and for me, it’s not a treaty issue but a project issue – that you’ve got to sort of take the treaty – take that out and make something that starts seeing the benefits of people working together.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you. We have a question here and then – if I just need to remind everyone – please identify yourself when the microphone gets to you, before you ask your question.
Q: I’m Barbara Slavin; I’m here at the council. Two questions: One is whether anything could have been done to alleviate the terrible flooding that occurred in Pakistan last year. Why was the flooding as bad as it was?
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah, yeah.
Q: And then, if I may, a question about Afghanistan. Could you talk a little bit about the hydroelectric potential of Afghanistan and whether there is any possibility it will be developed. Thanks.
MR. BRISCOE: Very briefly on the Pakistan flooding. Living – as you very well aware, if you look at the Mississippi right now – living in big river basins is a fantastic place to live. There’s all this lovely soil, water; life is great most of the time. But every now and then it’s going to wallop you, and it wallops you sooner or later. So this is the reality; it’s a sort of Faustian bargain that we make and, you know, those who say we shouldn’t live in the flood plains – this has never happened and never will happen.
I think there’s a very interesting and complex issue in Pakistan or in any poor country of how people will deal with risk. Just – if I can – just take a moment for this. If you look – I lived in Brazil the last three years – and there’s a permanent issue in Brazil, if any – those of you who’ve been to Rio. The poor are living on the sides of the mountains; whenever it rains heavily, part of those come down; and there’s always a they-shouldn’t-be-living-there. Well, yeah, they shouldn’t be living there, but then they should be living in the Baixada Fluminense taking three hours a day to get to work, taking a third of their salaries to get to work, and poor people make tradeoffs in which they have very, very high discount rates. I’ll take my chance, and I’ll live in a place in which I can live.
And Pakistan is in that situation now. Pakistan – if you compare the Indus with, for example, the Colorado – the Colorado has around 1,100 days of – it can store around 1,100 days of water in the river. The Indus, you can store 30 days of water. Now, what happens is because Pakistan is chronic – every year – right now for example, right after the flood, the problem is shortage of water; the problem is shortage of electricity.
They have only one reservoir which is Tarbela. So the way they operate that is completely logical. That is, as soon as the water comes, keep it as full as you can because you never know how much is coming, generate as much energy as you can and guarantee as much of the irrigation. Well, then, you know, this event happened and it comes and Tarbela’s almost full when it comes. It did actually somewhat reduce the peak a little bit.
But it’s a very interesting tale if you look – at the same time as there was a flood in the Indus this year; there was a very large flood in the Yangtze. And this was actually the big test for Three Gorges. And Three Gorges was built as – Three Gorges is a flood control project that, by the way, generates 20,000 megawatts.
But China has sufficient resilience and redundancy in its energy system that it can take down – it doesn’t take it down completely; but at the beginning of the flood season they take from 175 meters down to 145 meters and they create a cushion for the floods. And they lose about a billion-and-a-half dollars of revenue a year – Three Gorges Corporation hates this operating rule. And the government says, that’s the rule; that’s what it was done for.
This year they had 70,000 cumex coming into Three Gorges, the highest flow out was 40,000 cumex, there was none of the tens of hundreds of thousands of people killed in the lower Yangtze as a result. And that – coming back to Pakistan – the single thing you have to do is build more storage. You’ve got to build more storage. If you had instead of 30 days, if you had 90 days, or if you had Bhasha built, if you had Kalabagh built, Pakistan could start operating multipurpose reservoirs.
But, you know, that’s the reality. And this is something which I feel ashamed of, the institution I worked with at the World Bank. Pakistan – when Tarbela was built in 1970, the plan was that every 10 years you had to build a new storage because Tarbela’s silting up. I mean, slowly, but it’s silting up. And it was very well understood that there were enormous returns to more storage on the Indus. None of that’s ever been done.
Primary responsibility rests with the government of Pakistan. The whole business of Sindhi feeling that every dam is somehow going to syphon water off into Punjab, this is completely resolvable. The Pakistan government has not dealt with it well. And then its international partners have basically all walked away from this.
So this is, now, very well understood. I think there’s now a consensus in Pakistan, not on Kalabagh but on Bhasha and, you know, the government of Pakistan has funding, some from the ADB, some from the Chinese. Even the U.S. government is going to put a bit of money into it. It’s not going to solve all of their problems, but it is an absolutely essential piece for that.
MR. NAWAZ: Afghanistan.
MR. BRISCOE: Afghanistan, sorry. I actually don’t know much about Afghanistan, so I will – the one part that I do know about is the link into Pakistan. And this is actually – there’s a start of negotiations as Kabul River is very important for Pakistan around 16 percent of the flow of the Indus comes from the Kabul. There is great concern from Pakistan about – you know, and this is the way the world works there; everything is a conspiracy theory, right? So any development in Afghanistan is India doing it to try to put another – tie another knot in the noose around Pakistan’s neck.
Now, there is a possibility, I think, of a very good agreement on – and their joint infrastructure because what Pakistan – what Afghanistan’s comparative advantage is in growing high-value crops. Fruits, vegetables, this is what they’ve always done. And there they should be trading with Pakistan for grains; you could have a joint project developing hydro ultimately for Afghanistan, but while they don’t have capacity for Pakistan. So I think that’s, you know, again, it’s not a simple situation but one where you could envisage a treaty and investments which start making collaboration happening effectively.
MR. NAWAZ: John, one of the things that emerged after the flood last year was a finding from the meteorological experts that, perhaps, the monsoon – we are seeing a secular shift in the place where the monsoon ends in Pakistan, which means it’s moved north and therefore, the Indus becomes the main catchment area, rather than the Jhelum and the Chenab and the Ravi. And the Indus being a narrower waterway creates such tremendous force that the dams that you are talking about not just to stop the water, but to regulate its flow – maybe just one dam may not be enough, if that’s the case.
MR. BRISCOE: Everyone will help. I would be – I mean, I’m not a meteorologist but I’d cautious about the extrapolation of that. My understanding was that what you had was, you had this – you know the gulf – you have the global gulf – the jet stream.
What you had last year was – every, I mean, as it comes round like this you get these waves that are called Rossby waves that sometimes circulate back. And we, in fact, had a drought from – they sometimes will cause the jet stream to stall, and that’s what happened in Russia last summer and that’s what happened in the United States. And it so happened right at the time when the atmospheric moisture was so incredibly high.
So, yes, it moved. But the problem was, it just kept raining; it just didn’t stop. So whether – but I think the point is that actually this flood was not such an unusual event; this is flood with probably a 40 or 50-year recurrence; it’s going to happen again; they’ve happened before. So the adaptation to that, whether it be climate change or just dealing with the current climate, you have to do that. These have to be done, and they have to be – yes, I mean, start with one, but there’s, as you know, there’s a plan for doing more. But, you know, Pakistan’s got to get its act together to do that.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you. The gentlemen in the grey suit.
Q: Thank you, and thank you very much for that presentation. I’m David Michel with the Stimson Center. First, two quick observations, and then to my question. The observations go to the idea of joint projects and benefit sharing. Not only are there political tensions hindering joint projects and benefit sharing between India and Pakistan but there are also capacity issues, particularly as concerns electricity.
Having spent some time with the Independent Power Producers Association of India and listening to governors of the Central Electricity Board talk about India’s own electric grid, one of the issues in joint hydropower projects would be connecting the grid to Pakistan’s grid. And there, there’re of course suspicions about potentials for Pakistan to nefariously sabotage India’s power production.
But also just questions about India’s own – or Pakistan’s own capacities of its own grid system, that a failure in Pakistan could lead to cascading failures in India. And so one of the questions that arises, not on the water side but on the electricity side, is we don’t want to be connected to Pakistan’s grid, for that reason. So there’d be need to build up electric power institutions, as you possibly mentioned, and capacity in Pakistan. As well, there’s just the political tensions.
Second observation about benefit sharing on the Mekong – and I think this is transferrable to other regions as well – is that there’s the issue of who is gaining the benefits that are being shared. So between Thailand and China, yeah, China can finance some projects; Thailand can buy the electricity; but many in Thailand see those projects as exporting Thailand’s environmental concerns onto Chinese actors.
So that by having the dam’s hydropower projects being built in China, in Laos, you avoid Thailand’s environmental regulations and damage the environment in this other country in order to buy the electricity, impacting other sectors in Thailand and other countries, like Cambodia, fisheries production and the environment. So there’s a tradeoff to be done in the sharing of benefits.
Now to my question, you mentioned the impacts – potential impacts of climate change on the hydrograph of the Indus. And if we’re postulating building joint projects to derive joint benefits between India and Pakistan on the Indus, how do we – how do you envisage taking into consideration the volatility of risk that might come with shifting snowmelt, glacial melt and how that would impact these projects that are being, you know, built on these shared rivers?
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah the – three things. The grids, I don’t understand why the grids would be connected. I mean, if you look at Itaipu, there’s a line that goes to Paraguay; there’s a line that goes to Brazil. So it’s a detail in a way, but I would be very surprised if India and Pakistan were to integrate their grids. I mean, I see two big lines, one line coming to India’s grid and one to Pakistan’s grid, and there’s no interconnection between them. But I think that’s a detail.
On the Mekong that’s sort of another discussion, I actually don’t agree with you. The dams in the – there’s a very big difference in the dams in the lower Mekong and the upper Mekong. The dams in China on the upper Mekong have essentially no environmental impact except for a positive increase in low flows. I know this is not conventional wisdom, but there’s been a big review recently of those and they, for the most part, are going to augment flows into the lower flow.
It’s when you get down into the lower part of the Mekong – and there’s the lowest of the Chinese dam, this is arguable, that the – otherwise they are actually good for the environment, good for lower flows in the lower Mekong. So this whole thing that these are all destroying it, I at least – but that’s perhaps we can talk about that.
Yeah, I mean, on hydrographs that’s what you build dams for is to moderate hydrographs. So obviously operating rules if all of these – if Kashmir in India were Pakistan’s they would be quite appropriately building these hydropower plants, but into the operating rules, as the case of Three Gorges, you have multiple objectives. So you don’t operate them purely as power projects; there’s a tradeoff between getting the hydrograph you want, in order to get the flows that you want predictably down steam for your irrigation, and the power generated.
For the most part, creating some storage gives you the low flow augmentation capability that’s generally a win-win. But, yeah, that’s built into the operating rules under which you operate the reservoirs.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you, John. I have a question here. Then I’ll be going to the young lady there at the back, and then coming to you, sir.
Q: Thank you very much, Shuja. Ziad Alahdad is the name, former director of operations at the World Bank, so one of your colleagues. John, let me join Shuja is in complimenting you on, I think, what is a very, very lucid presentation of the situation, and the prospects perhaps. My question stems from your comment about the impediments being both internal and external. The internal ones on the Pakistan’s side clearly are the provincial ones; and here we are dealing with, what did you call them, the medieval institutions, and –
MR. BRISCOE: Paleolithic emotions.
Q: Paleolithic emotions. And in what goes by the board are excellent schemes, which due to a lack of trust are just forgotten or sunk. What can, you know, international brokers like the World Bank, which have some success in this water treaty despite the few rifts which are developing over the years. Can the World Bank play a part? Who can play a part?
Can these provinces be brought together because this is costing not only the water management of the country but also of course, as you know, electric power generation of which, on the hydropower side, we’ve only harnessed less than, what, 16 percent of the known economic potential. So John, your thoughts on that.
MR. NAWAZ: Let me just add to that that the most surprising thing in Pakistan, for me, is that we’ve had 10-year military rule for three times in the life of the country. So you had dictators with autocratic powers who had appointed military men as governors of the respective provinces. But the moment they put on the provincial hat, those military men would end up fighting each other over exactly the same issues. So how does one resolve this?
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah, it’s just I – it’s probably a phrase that all of you know very well, it only came to my attention – I was reading Anatol Lieven’s book on – he had a very nice – I like the description. He said Pakistan’s curse has been that its democrats have all tried to operate as dictators and its dictators have all tried to operate as democrats; they’ve had the worst of both worlds. (Laughter.)
But the – and Ziad’s point is very good one. I mean, if you look at Kalabagh, for example, I mean this is obviously the project that should be built. As an outsider you go to Pakistan; you know this very well. For the Sindhis this is another big pipeline into Punjab. If you talk to, you know, WAPDAs in Lahore – and I mean this goes back to the military-agricultural water complex, in way, so it’s tied up in many, many other things.
I think outsiders can play a role as being what I would call tough-love friends. And I describe the experience we had there with the Bank – I mean, when I worked on this in Pakistan. We said to them, guys, you know, you have this and then you speak to the Punjabis who manage most of this – no, no, no it’s the Sindhis; you know how the Sindhis are, there all, you know, it’s all – there’s nothing to it, right?
So I said, well, show me the numbers. No, trust us, the numbers – I said, I’m not mistrusting you, but can I see the numbers? Well, we can get the numbers for you. I said it’s not the point whether you can get the numbers for me. Why if the numbers – if there is nothing, why aren’t they publically available? That’s the way in which you get rid of this.
And this little slide I showed, which was on – you know, there was very – we worked a lot with both, actually, with all of the provinces but we worked a lot in Punjab. Said, guys, this makes no sense whatsoever. Here you are in the modern day in age; put this stuff on the Internet. And everybody laughed. They said you’ve got to kidding. This will never happen, all the rents will go out by this being public.
And then, you know, this was – I mean, they had excellent bureaucrats in the Punjab, and this was with Pervaiz Elahi was the minister. They were progressive feudals who pushed for – Jahangir Tareen, for example is very active in this – pushing for modernization of their system. And they did it. It was the biggest surprise I ever had that they actually did this.
And, to my mind, I’m incredibly pleased because I go back and – you know, I keep thinking is it really true that they’ve done this? And I go back and look and it’s now seven or eight years in which now what they say to the Sindhis is, guys, all our stuff is there. It’s all on the web. Put yours on the web too.
So I think some of this is starting – I think outsiders can make, because – and you all know this much better than I – the mistrust is so pervasive, right? There’re also things on making rules. The issue of who gets royalties from hydropower projects, that it’s where the powerhouse is located, so Tarbela, you know, most of the resettlement is in frontier. They pay the big price and the powerhouse is in Punjab so they get the royalties. This is insane, right? This is insane.
So simple to do that if you really want to move forward on those things. So I don’t see any of these as – I mean, I know the mistrust is – but the way to deal with mistrust is not to tell people to trust but to make things so that there’s a most trusting – and I think outsiders can play, you know, a marginal role. Ultimately the decision’s for Pakistanis to make on that.
The great problem with institutions like the Bank, now, is all they want to deal with is give lectures on governance, so there’s never any building of anything. And you can’t deal with these by lectures on governance; you’ve got to build. You’ve got to invest. And that’s what made the Bank effective in the Indus Treaty and it’s – you know, I actually despair of the Bank having that role again.
I mean, I guess privately we can talk a bit about what’s happening in Pakistan right now, it’s a complete abrogation of the Bank’s responsibility, the way they’re behaving. But –
MR. NAWAZ: Your pension is still secure, John, don’t worry about it.
MR. BRISCOE: Temporarily, yes. (Chuckles.)
MR. NAWAZ: Young lady at the back.
Q: Hello, my name’s Crystal Call (ph) and I’m a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University. My question is in regards to current energy initiative and collaboration –
MR. BRISCOE: Current what? I’m sorry I’ve got a cold; you’ll have to speak louder, I can’t –
Q: Sorry, my question is in regards to current energy collaboration between Central Asia and South Asia. Looking at, for example, the trans-Afghanistan, TAPI, pipeline both – all four countries, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have all signed onto this agreement and it’s, you know, obviously there’s a lot of security concerns now – but be funded by the Asia Foundation.
So I’m curious of if, you know, looking at issues of water security between India-Pakistan if – obviously, you know, there’s political tensions, but if they can follow this type of model and have, you know, an outside international organization be at the World Bank, the Asia Foundation to come in and to, sort of, design a project and have – it’s in both countries’ interest to, you know, collaborate and work together to benefit from hydroelectric power, the water resources in the area. So I’m curious about your thoughts, of sort of, using this type of model.
MR. BRISCOE: I think outside organizations have a role to play. But fundamentally these are decisions of the two governments whether they want them in. And this you hear you have a great asymmetry. I mean, this is an asymmetry between upstream and downstream, right, and between big and small. And so Pakistan would love to have every and all outsiders involved in the issue; India doesn’t want anybody involved in the issue.
And there is no – between India and Pakistan, there’s no way of doing this unless the Indians want to do it. So if the Indians wanted to do it, I’m sure the United States would be happy to help them. Many countries that would be happy to help. But it’s fundamentally a political decision for the countries as to whether they want to invoke such assistance.
There’s no, at least in my view, there’s nothing – the World Bank can’t come in and decree that we can do that does this as these are – and, you know, the World Bank; you have to understand, a country like India is a superpower. It’s a big country with lots of resources. They will call their own shots.
So the thing, I think, is – I think the role of outsiders frankly, is not such much in – maybe doing projects at the end of the day, that’s a part of it. But the main thing is good-faith discussions, good-faith bringing of partners together to try to see or to provide a third perspective on why that cooperation may be something in their interest.
But, you know, if one party doesn’t want to tango at the end of the day, there ain’t no world body that can force you to do that.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you.
Q: Atul Singh, founder and editor-in-chief of Fair Observer, which is a new journal which is covering global issues. My question has to deal with Paleolithic emotions, and you showed a slide of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and the emotions. And you said, the states don’t have armies. But you do know that there are riots, anti-Tamil riots –
MR. BRISCOE: Most likely.
Q: – and anti-Karna riots. And talking of Paleolithic emotions post-Mumbai, there is this emotion in India that we do nothing. So how can, given the rising population’s rising demand for water, groundwater depletion, how can in practical terms both these governments counter the Paleolithic emotion which you’ve just mentioned?
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah. Well, let me – I mean, you’ve got several levels of that. Let’s just start within India. And the two issues that you’ve put – the groundwater issue is probably the biggest, most serious issue that India faces in water, as you – especially in the northwest, right. So Punjab, Haryana, et cetera – Gujarat. And this is a tremendously difficult problem to solve. This is of millions of farmers, each with their own tube wells, each pumping down the groundwater, which you know better than I – you know, the politics of it is, now they’re so deep that if they have to pay for electricity, they can’t farm anymore, so provide it free so they can go deeper. And it’s a irreversible, tremendous challenge.
I think there’s an interesting case where I think there’s a start of something – it’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but at least somebody’s starting on it, and that’s in Gujarat with Mr. Modi. And it’s an incredibly interesting, sophisticated approach he’s taken to this.
My understanding of it is basically as follows: There’s firstly a great unsaid, and the unsaid is that you cannot have high agricultural productivity if you have 70 percent of people depending on farming. You cannot have rural – you’re going to have rural poverty if you have that number of people working one hectare each in agriculture. That’s why – there is no country that’s ever gotten out of poverty with that proportion.
So there’s a natural process of urbanization. I think what Mr. Modi has done without saying it explicitly, he said, the future of Gujarat is in services, in manufacturing, and maybe in some high-value agriculture. And you have to move people to urban areas.
So what he did was, you may know this Jyotigram scheme that he’s done, which is basically – was driven primarily by an electricity problem. And it was the – as if all the state electricity boards is basically bleeding red ink. And so – and this is a lot due to all of the heavy starters, these capacitors that they put on the pumps. And everybody knows that the power – wildly fluctuating; everybody has to have backups, et cetera.
So what he basically said was, to industry, to commerce, to every family, you’re going to get 24-hour-a-day supply, high-quality, and you’re going to pay for it. Well, they’re paying an arm and a leg already, so everybody is very happy.
So you have one distribution system completely for those, and then a second distribution to the farmers, saying, no longer you’re going to have to have your pumps on so that when occasionally the power comes on, they pump water anyway. You’re going to go on to what’s essentially a warabandi for groundwater; it’s very interesting. And that says it’s going to be an eight-hour rotation; you’re going to know exactly when you’re going to get your eight hours. It’s going to be high-quality.
But you are not going to get 24 hours; you’re going to get eight hours. And this means you can plan, you can manage that effectively, and you can start moving towards higher-value products as a result of that.
The early indications, combined with – from – (inaudible) – there’s a lot of recharge into the northern aquifers in Gujarat. It’s a bit early to tell, but at least there’s somebody trying to come to grips with this by essentially rationing electricity. So it’s a tremendous problem.
Between the – like the cavalry, you know, this is, to my mind, an absolute abrogation of its responsibility from the union government. And the costs are enormous in terms of missed opportunities. There was a very interesting, Maharashtra building a whole bunch of nonproductive dams simply to lay a claim for the next round, which no one knows when it will be on the Krishna tribunal.
So it’s a complete mess. And I at least haven’t seen any indication – and as you know, like the Haryana-Punjab case, just defy the supreme court, defy the government, and life goes on like that. So I don’t know what the recipe for India in dealing with that.
What I do know is, when you talk to people like Montek Ahuwalia at the ministry of planning, Montek will tell you the energy issue is a big issue for India, and it’s not an easy issue. But we have an idea of how to solve the energy issue; we have no idea how to solve the water issue. So I think it’s a really, really huge problem for India.
MR. NAWAZ: So it’s becoming a trans-boundary issue within countries now, as much as it is – yes.
MR. BRISCOE: And the city and the country between irrigation districts – as you said, I mean, there are riots everywhere; there are people being killed everywhere over it.
Q: My name is Iqbal Hasnain; I’m from the Stimson Center. John, my question is about the regular challenges – that is, the climate change. And it’s not that the greenhouse gases, but the black carbon is impacting this region very hugely. And we have seen – there’s all scientific evidence that all the glaciers are melting pretty fast.
And particularly now that Pakistan is getting lot of water from Ladakh region, and even from Tibetan plateau. But by 2050, as the Chinese have a very robust glaciological program, they have predicted that 40 percent of the glaciers would reduce. Even in India, where I have worked on the Ladakh region, the glaciers will reduce certainly. So what is your take on this World Bank-brokered treaty? Why don’t they revisit and bring the climate change into the discussion here?
MR. BRISCOE: I think that’s a recipe for disaster. The treaty is difficult enough under the current circumstances. The uncertainty around climate change is gigantic. The beauty of the treaty in a way is that it actually doesn’t give flows to one or flows to the other; it gives rivers to one and rivers to the other. And I would let that – I don’t know if it’s the right metaphor – sleeping dog lie. Whatever comes down the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum is Pakistan’s; whatever come down the Ravi, Bé, and the Satluj is India’s. And in a way, that actually keeps things much simpler.
So I don’t think – for me, that’s not an Indus Treaty issue. That’s an issue for India and for Pakistan and for everybody else around in, can you develop systems which are able to adapt to a future that is obviously very, very uncertain?
And there, I actually – one of the other countries – I know it’s a long way away and very different – but there’s, again, a light at the end of the tunnel. I work in Australia a lot, and there’s a really extraordinary situation happened in Australia. They had in their irrigated agricultural heartland – the Murray-Darling basin, which is basically an irrigated economy; there are no big cities – they had between 2000 and 2007 a 70-percent reduction in water availability in an irrigated agricultural economy.
And the outcome of that was virtually no economic impact on agricultural production. So 70-percent reduction in water availability; no impact on the value of agriculture; enormous impact on what sorts of crops were grown, depending on whether it rains or it doesn’t rain. But because you have a – you have a lot of infrastructure and you have a very sophisticated institutional system, if you can walk on those two legs and put those two together, there’s incredible adaptive capability.
And I would focus my efforts – I think that climate change – I mean, you know, obviously, you’ve got to look at that. But just look how badly they’re doing; look how badly Pakistan has done, even if the climate – I mean, the climate – sorry – the climate always changes; it’s never stationary.
And they’re doing a terrible job under it. The best thing you can do for whatever is coming in the future is to be much better at dealing with the substantial variability, which you have already. And there throughout the subcontinent, everybody is doing a lousy job. So I consider it something of a distraction, not that it’s not important.
But that – you know, and there I think the international community serves everybody – with all due respect, that sort of suggestion is really a red herring because you’ve got these real issues to deal with. Now, deal with those and deal with that one as and when it comes. That’s at least my view of the issue.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you. I have three questioners left; I know we’re over the time, but we’re willing to go on, with John’s permission. So I have Maldood (ph) and Dr. Lynch, and then Mr. Marti (ph).
Q: Thank you. I have a –
MR. NAWAZ: Identify yourself for our –
Q: Maldood Trene (ph), Elliott School and NASA Earth Science Office at Marshall Space Flight Center. You’re talking about the flooding in Pakistan – you know, the climate projection models over the 10 to 30 latitudinal band indicate increases and decrease in precipitation, but one thing is the intensity of these events would increase.
So the resiliency of these structures that are built, you know, 40 years ago is in question. And so, you know, just –
MR. NAWAZ: Like what structures?
Q: That the – (inaudible) – they would be able to withstand twice the size of – you know, an event that is the twice that just saw, or the new structures for that matter.
The other question that I have is that, you know, for planning commission of Pakistan, you have this portfolio of investments that you need to make in urbanization and transportation, in water resources. How do you identify which is more important and when it is important? And how does water fall in those categories? Because you know, if you see right now that energy shortages – and if you think of investing in wind power or nuclear power because of your security posture, it becomes a real difficult issue on, should we be building dams – ecologically sensitive areas, northern areas that are more susceptible to adverse weather, which is going to be more volatile?
So just your thoughts on some of that.
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah. I’m going to try not to – not to be rude, but what happens in Washington and what happens in places like the World Bank is, there’s an incredible, sort of fine look at exactly what should come where, and what – guys, you can’t live in a country if your whole country – Pakistan is built around water use. And you have no storage in your system, and you have no water infrastructure. It is simply inconceivable to me that you can ever have a stable society without that.
Now, you know, whether it should come before a ring road round Karachi or not seems to me to sort of a false – you have to do that; there is no country in the world that can survive its – it’s linked to the energy system; it’s linked to the agriculture system; it’s linked to the flood protection. And you know, this is what countries – I mean, and I’ve looked at this, for example, again, in Brazil. Right?
You know, all these questions – World Bank, agriculture – no, you should be in, out – invest, dis-invest – countries don’t function like that. Countries that are successful basically say, guys, this is common sense. We’ve got to do something like that. And then you got to do it for 30 years.
So this constant isn’t – I don’t think is a useful way to think about it. I think there are some things which have to be made at that decision, but they’re underpinnings of a society which for me, this falls into that category.
And you know, a detailed cost-benefit analysis of this, I don’t think is particularly unlikely. I mean, these are things you – very interesting – Tarbela, for example: If you look at the World Bank, the World Bank never did an economic analysis at Tarbela. Why didn’t it do it? Because it was irrelevant; Pakistan couldn’t survive without Tarbela. So it was built. That was a day in which the World Bank was much more pragmatic than it is now. Now, we would have 20 years of studies of, you know, everything under the sun before you could do anything like that.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you.
Q: Hi, thanks, Shuja. I’m Tom Lynch from National Defense University – Institute of Strategic Studies. I want to follow up on one point you made: You referred to the growing propensity of India to be less inclined towards largesse towards Pakistan on water issues; you also referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report in February which implied, but didn’t go into great detail about, the potential risk for conflict and clash based upon water issues.
And so I’m wondering if you might give us the best case you could make that we are at growing risk for clash and conflict over water, and then perhaps hearkening to Shuja’s point about the assiduous manner in which previous conflicts between Pakistan and India have not attacked or not been focused upon headwaters, the case one could make to say, well, maybe this isn’t something that’s necessarily precipitous of armed clash or conflict risk growing. Thank you.
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah, were you here for the talk?
Q: (Inaudible, off mic.)
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah, OK, because I thought the first part, at least – that’s my best shot at how I see this. I think the issue of conflict on these – that’s an important – I don’t see the conflict as, you know, India coming in and bombing Tarbela. I don’t think that’s the issue.
The issue is much more, sort of, low-level, and these are incredibly important: If the – when you have on the Chenab, when you have 40 days of storage, for the guys who are planting down – who are planting down in Pakistan, it’s a world of difference if the water comes now or if it comes in two weeks’ time. And that’s going to be in the sort of nickeling-and-diming part which has tremendous impact. And that’s the area where I see the conflict being much more conducted, in a sense, in a sort of fog of data – no, it’s not really this; it’s that; it’s this; it’s that – rather than a dramatic blowing up –
I mean, it’s not – I, at least, don’t see that happening. But I see it as – you know, this, again, the Baglihar case is a – when they filled Baglihar, was – is a tremendous contestation. The Pakistanis claim there was a large amount of damage inflicted because the water is not supposed to come; there are rules under the Indus Treaty on what flow is supposed to come. They say it didn’t come, then India says, OK. And I think it’s much more that level.
But these are very large – these affect very large numbers of people downstream in Pakistan. It’s a very – this is a country that’s absolutely rife with conspiracy theories on everything, and you just need a little bit of fuel onto that, and it all blows up into something much larger than it was.
But this is – so you know, transparency, clarity, rules being followed – that’s more where I see it, rather than, you know, marching along with bombs to blow up each other’s power stations. I don’t – maybe that will happen, but I don’t see that as much.
MR. NAWAZ: Mr. Marti?
Q: Mansood Marti (ph) from South Asia Journal. I have one observation, two questions. The observation is that you mentioned about, you know, Pakistan going to the court of arbitration on Baglihar. I think the reason at that time was that India had changed the original design, and therefore Pakistan contested the design. And Mr. Lafitte did agree to, you know, to Pakistan – (inaudible) – to some degree. And he did sort of, you know, ask India to change the design and bring it – I think he said, build down the head of the water by 1.5 meters, I think – things like that. So there’s just – I just wanted to put that on record here.
The question about joint ownership – I think if in a neutral ground like Afghanistan, not really neutral but still – you know, I mean, maybe that is a possibility where India and Pakistan and Afghanistan could work together using the private sector because there is- (inaudible) – government control on both sides. And you know, with United States playing a role there for a long time, you know, I think that could be one example where something can happen.
Now, about the scarcity of water in Pakistan, I believe that it is not just a trans-boundary issue, or India is trapping water, or doing things. It is also the mismanagement of water within Pakistan –
MR. BRISCOE: Absolutely.
Q: For example, you know, the loss of water through unlined canals, or, you know, the extensive use of water where it can be reduced, or the crop rotations. So my question is there, what is the international community doing to make sure that at least this part of the loss, which is controllable within Pakistan and has no political implications – I mean, what are they doing to help Pakistan, you know, reduce the loss I just mentioned?
MR. NAWAZ: Have you looked at some of the projects under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation in Pakistan?
MR. BRISCOE: Yeah, I haven’t looked in detail. I’ve seen some of that. But if I could answer – on the first, it’s true. I mean, there were some things that India had to change. But the fundamental was that this issue of the protection-of-life storage was done away with, and that to my mind completely overwhelms all of these relatively other small ones. I think it’s a great idea: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan – that’s probably much easier, and is, indeed, a very good place to do that.
On the domestic things, this is a – if I start the question at a slightly different level, I think within Pakistan, I’m actually – for all my sins, I serve on a council for Shahbaz Sharif, for the chief minister of Punjab. And that is actually very interesting because basically, he has – you know, the issue of water is looming over everybody, right? And he has formulated in a very interesting process a discussion with political people, with the private sector, domestic private sector in Pakistan, international private sector –
Two big issues for Punjab: The first comes to your first point – is, here you have, if you look at the productivity of agriculture in Punjab in comparison to international, even moderate – it should be producing three times as much agricultural output per unit of land than per unit of water. So to say water is a constraint, this is not the case.
But you have – so he has formulated this sort of vision of how can we make Punjab into a regional agricultural superpower? Now, part of that is, you have an infrastructure that was built in the 1860s when the only thing you had was a clock, so everybody got so many minutes of water. It’s a supply-driven system; you’re going to get the water – you know, mitigated to some degree by groundwater, which has acted as a demand-driven system.
But the huge questions – and I think it’s actually – he’s taken a lot of leadership on this. He’s got very good secretaries – is saying, with this community, for the private sector which has to produce a lot of this value-added, what sort of system do we need to modernize it?
Now, the lining of the canals is – you know, this is a technical – this is a technical issue. In a way, the unlined canals have been the salvation in the Sweetwater areas of Pakistan because it’s actually – they have been what have – and in India – they’ve been what have recharged the groundwater. And so that’s actually a pretty good system; I mean, you get it in, and then the farmers can pump it, and you know – back it comes.
Now, it’s a catastrophe in the saline areas because it makes that issue much – so you have to – I think there’s been too much discussion in my view in Pakistan of – I think actually it’s a problem that the water people have, of which I am – we’re always looking at saving water. I don’t want to save water; I want to produce more, right? So how do I translate that from saving water, which nobody is going to get elected on, into how can I triple production, reduce poverty, et cetera? And so he’s formulated this.
The second issue that he’s formulated is around the sustainable water future for Lahore because Lahore gets a lot of good water from groundwater; a lot of that’s turning saline. The major questions for industry, for everybody in Lahore – how that’s going to survive.
So I think, you know, once you have leadership in the political domain on these, basically the – you know, I mean, there’s some problems with the international – but for the most part, if there’s well-formulated, well-thought-through, they’ll come along. And for me, that’s really the place to act, is to act as good-faith partners to political leaders who are willing to take these on, and find ways of working with them, with the private sector, with the international organizations to make this transformation.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you; thank you very much, John, and thanks to the audience. And I also want to thank Ploughshares Fund again for supporting this effort. As you can see from this very rich exchange that we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of this issue.
We will be having more frequent such exchanges here, but also in the region because part of our role is to act as a forum inside the countries and between the countries in South Asia. And we will most certainly be picking up some of the multinational, Afghanistan-Pakistan-India-type relationships, and the Bangladesh relationships with India, as we go along.
But if you can join me in thanking John Briscoe. (Applause.)
MR. BRISCOE: Thank you.
MR. NAWAZ: Cheers.
MR. BRISCOE: Thank you all.