Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday dedicated the state run NHPC Ltd’s Kishanganga hydro power project in Jammu and Kashmir to the nation.
The development assumes significance given the strategic importance of the 330 megawatt (MW) project on the river Kishanganga, a tributary of Jhelum. While Pakistan had challenged the project under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in India’s favour in 2013.
The Jhelum originates in India and flows into Pakistan, and according to the Indus Water Treaty, whoever builds the project first will have the first rights on the river water.
Jammu and Kashmir will not only get free but also sufficient power, PM Modi said in a tweet.
The project in Bandipora district will provide 13% free power to the state including 1% for local area development fund amounting to around Rs133 crore per year.
This come at a time when the projects in Jammu and Kashmir are being expedited in the backdrop of China developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of its showpiece “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) infrastructure initiative.
This project is ready to add a new dimension in the growth journey of Jammu and Kashmir, added Modi in another tweet.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has stepped up efforts to develop the infrastructure architecture for the state which has witnessed an unprecedented cycle of violence in recent years. These projects include developing roads totaling 683.31 km in length, with an investment of Rs10,204.45 crore, constructing the marquee 14-km-long Zojila tunnel and the 6.5-km Z-Morh tunnel on Srinagar-Kargil road.
“Jammu and Kashmir is going to get development projects worth Rs25,000 crore. These projects will have a positive impact on the people of the state,” Modi said in another tweet.
The delayed Kishanganga project involved the diversion of the Kishanganga river, into an underground powerhouse near Bandipur and the discharge of the water into the Wular lake. Also, a 37 metre high concrete dam was constructed in Gurez valley of Bandipora. The projects’ total cost is estimated to be Rs5,882 crore, with the construction work at the project site started in 2009. The construction work was made difficult due to the higher risk associated with the project due to difficult geology and its proximity to the border with Pakistan.
The Indus Waters Treaty regulates the use of Indus river waters by India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s argument was that the Indian project would affect the Neelum-Jhelum project constructed by Pakistan downstream of the Kishanganga project. While Pakistan had questioned the “legality of the construction and operation of an Indian hydro-electric project” under the treaty, India has maintained that building the dam is within its rights.
India has also been critical of China developing the CPEC, cutting through Gilgit and Baltistan areas of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). OBOR, first unveiled by Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to put billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, including railways, ports and power grids across Asia, Africa and Europe.