Pakistan permitted to inspect Baglihar dam: official

May 31st, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by admin  

By Muhammad Najeeb
Lahore, May 31 (IANS) India has agreed to Pakistan’s request to inspect the Baglihar dam project in Jammu and Kashmir and the dates for this will be worked out soon, a Pakistani official said Saturday. “The dates for the inspection will be worked out soon,” the official told IANS after the first session of the four-day 100th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) here.

There was, however, no confirmation of this from the Indian side.

Going into the meeting, G. Aranga Nathan, who is heading the 11-member Indian delegation, said the Baglihar project was not included in the agenda.

“We have a set agenda and would be going according to it,” he told reporters.

His Pakistani counterpart Syed Jamaat Ali Shah agreed that it was not on the agenda but maintained that any issue can be brought up for discussion by either side.

“We are looking forward to taking up the Bghaliar issue in this meeting,” Shah said.

The first session of the meeting concluded with both the sides expressing their satisfaction over the progress they had made. The meeting began with officials of the two sides cutting a cake to mark the 100th meeting of the commission.

The Pakistani official said both sides expressed their satisfaction over the exchange of information regarding flood alerts and other water related issues.

The PIC, a permanent commission between Pakistan and India, was established with the help of the World Bank after the 1960 Water Treaty between the two neighbours.

At least one annual review meeting of the commission is mandatory but on many occasions, the two sides have met more than once a year.

The meeting will continue till June 3 and the Indian delegation is expected to leave for home the same evening.

The Baglihar hydropower-cum-water storage project is being built on the Chenab river tht flows from Kashmir into Pakistan.

“The Pakistani team will urge the Indian side to give an exact date for inspection of the Baglihar project to determine whether or not the work is under way in accordance with the decision of the World Bank appointed neutral expert last year,” said the Pakistani official.

Pakistan has raised concerns on the design of the project and sought modification on freeboard, level of power intakes, poundage and spillway.

After India’s refusal to modify the design, Pakistan in 2006 sought mediation by the World Bank, which appointed Raymond Lafitte as a neutral expert to review the project and examine Pakistan’s concerns.

In his Feb 12, 2007 report, Lafitte said that the Indian calculation on freeboard was inaccurate and said India should set the crust level at the lowest. He, however, rejected other objections by Pakistan saying India can go ahead with the construction of the project.

He directed India to reduce the freeboard by 33 percent from 4.5 metres to 3 metres.

While both sides claimed victory after the Lafitte report, Pakistan has been saying that it needs to inspect the project to determine if the expert’s decision is being implemented.

“Now we want to ensure that the design is being modified and will be commissioned under instruction by the expert,” the Pakistani official told IANS.

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