Indus Water Treaty (IWT): Water-Sharing Agreement

Water is a vital resource to all aspects of a human’s survival, from its inhabitant biology to their economy.

“Water promises to be the 21st century what oil was to 20th century” the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations”.

The Indus Water Treaty is the treaty between the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan for the optimum utilisation of the waters of the Indus system of rivers.

This treaty was signed under the arbitration of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now World Bank) in Karachi (Pakistan) on September 19, 1960 by Indian Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and the President of Pakistan Ayub Khan. The treaty covers the water distribution and sharing rights of three Eastern Rivers (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej and their tributaries) and three Western Rivers (Indus, Jhelum and Chenab and their tributaries).

Historical Background

The conflict was arises when newly formed states (i.e India and Pakistan) were at odds over how to share and manage what was essentially a cohesive and unitary network of irrigation from Indus River System. Pakistan felt its livelihood threatened by the prospect of Indian control over the tributaries that fed water into the Pakistani portion of the basin. Where India certainly had its own ambitions for the profitable development of the basin, Pakistan felt acutely threatened by a conflict over the main source of water for its cultivable land. Hence, treaty of Indus Water was signed under the arbitration of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now World Bank) in Karachi (Pakistan) on September 19, 1960.

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Brief Provision of Indus Water Treaty


1. Article I of the treaty states about the definition of term used in the treaty. For example- "The Indus," "The Jhelum," "The Chenab," "The Ravi," "The Beas" or "The Sutlej" means the named river (including Connecting Lakes, if any) and all its Tributaries.
2. All the waters of the Eastern Rivers shall be available for the unrestricted use of India, except for Domestic Use and Non-Consumptive Use, Pakistan shall be under an obligation to let flow, and shall not permit any interference with, the waters of the Sutlej Main and the Ravi Main in the reaches where these rivers flow in Pakistan and have not yet finally crossed into Pakistan.
3. India is under obligation to let flow the waters of the Western Rivers except for the following uses:

(a) Domestic Use,
(b) Non-consumptive use,
(c) Agricultural use as specified,
(d) Generation of hydro-electric power as specified

4. India has been permitted to construct storage of water on Western Rivers upto 3.6 MAF for various purposes. No storage has been developed so far.
5. India has been permitted Agricultural Use of 7,01,000 acres over and above the Irrigated Cropped Area (ICA) as on 1.4.60. Out of this additional ICA of 7,01,000 acres, only 2,70,000 can be developed (i.e. a total ICA of 9,12,477 acres including that on 1.4.1960) till storages are constructed and 0.5 MAF of water is released there from every year. ICA during 2011-12 was 7,84,955 Acres.
6. Under the Treaty, India and Pakistan have each created a permanent post of Commissioner for Indus Waters. They together constitute the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC), which is entrusted with the implementation of the Treaty. The PIC is required to hold meetings and tours and submit report on its work to the two Governments every year. It has held 117 tours and 110 meetings so far.
7. Both sides are required to exchange information related to river flows observed by them, not later than three months of their observation and to exchange specified information on Agricultural Use every year.
8. India is under obligation to supply information of its storage and hydroelectric projects as specified.
9. India communicates as a gesture of goodwill, flood data to Pakistan from 1st July to 10th October every year, to enable them to undertake advance flood relief measures. The arrangement is reviewed every year.
10. The Commissioners may discuss the questions arising under the Treaty related to Settlement of Differences and Disputes and in the case of non-resolution, take further action for resolution through a Neutral Expert, negotiators or Court of Arbitration.

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The treaty has survived after three wars between the both countries and India knows the importance of this treaty. So, every time India talks about the "mutual cooperation and trust" between the two sides and still it is trying to work on it. Therefore, it is one of the most successful water treaties that are still surviving but the current tension between both the countries states the changing face of treaty i.e. partitioning of the rivers rather than sharing of their waters.


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