Indus Water Treaty: Need for Re-imagination of the River

The World Bank brokered 1960 Indus Water Treaty, celebrated as a success story of water-sharing conflict resolution having withstood 3 wars, is basically a water-partitioning agreement with substantial protocols for addressing disputes and disagreements arising out of water-sharing.  The technical density and the nature of division of waters, aggravated by the political conflict between India and Pakistan has subjected the treaty to substantial wear and tear.  With the treaty having no embedded capability of handling variability arising from environmental degradation, uncertain weather patterns and changing climatic conditions, there is a case for reviewing and upgrading it into a more co-operative water management framework necessary for increasing the viability of irrigation and sustainable management of the river system.

Indus Water Treaty: Best Deal of the Times? 

Experts describe the Indus Water Treaty, signed after long and tortuous discussions, as the best deal of the times reflecting the political compulsions and water management philosophy of the times.  It allocated 3 western rivers to Pakistan and 3 eastern ones to India while permitting non-consumptive access to India to the western rivers with maximum 3.6 million acre feet storage for limited agriculture, hydro-power generation and transport. Under it about 80% waters are allocated to Pakistan and 20% to India in what many in India feel is an unfair settlement somehow accepted by the negotiators. On the other hand, Pakistan feels that India has got too much water considering that the territory that went to India historically used only 10% of water. According to officials in Indian Ministry of Water Resources, the treaty provides for a potential of 1.4 million hectares to be irrigated and 19000 MW hydro-power to be generated through run-of-river projects.  However only 8 lakh hectares have been irrigated and only 3000 MW hydro-power is being generated annually. India wants to maximise the water potential under the treaty specially in the background of dissatisfaction in Jammu & Kashmir that the treaty restrictions hamper its developmental potential.  In fact in 2003 the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly passed an unanimous resolution demanding a review of the treaty, while in April 2016 they demanded compensation for lost hydro-power potential.  But Indian efforts at utilizing the water potential under the treaty only fuels Pakistan’s lower riparian insecurity with Pakistan continuously having  technical disagreements in India’s planned power projects. While the Baglihar power plant conflict  could be settled in 2007 only under arbitration by a Neutral Expert, the Kishenganga project dispute is under reference of an arbitration court.

Differences & Disputes inherent in Nature & Structure of Indus Water treaty

Experts agree that it is the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty  limiting the use of western rivers by India that is the main cause of the conflict with differences arising both from the highly technical nature of the treaty as well as the nature of division of waters under the treaty.  The various technical conditions and restrictions under the treaty  relating to different engineering structures and features like crest levels of spillways, location of intake for turbines, pondage levels,  limits to artificially raising water levels in operational pools, etc lend themselves to different interpretations and approaches resulting in technical disagreements over the meaning and applications of treaty criteria.  While Indian engineers approach  is to primarily focus on techno-economic viability of the projects to get best benefits under the provisions of the treaty, Pakistani engineers tend to  focus primarily on the provisions and restrictions treating the techno-economic viability as secondary.   With these two basically different approaches, there is little scope for mutually acceptable modifications in the planned projects.

Differences also arise due to the very nature of the division of waters which has created an adversarial situation in relation to Indian use of the western rivers through technical restrictions and specifications meant to safeguard Pakistan’s interests.  Pakistan feels that Indian structures upstream on the western rivers will reduce water flow downstream or enable India to release stored waters and flood its territory.  Pakistan thus frames the problem partly in terms of water security and partly in terms of national security.  India’s stated position that its capacity to reduce water flow downstream is limited while it cannot flood Pakistan without first flooding itself has failed to assuage Pakistan’s lower riparian anxiety.  That the treaty does not specify the maximum number of projects or the height of dams or total hydro-power capacity or that India is bound to send all technical data regarding the planned projects in advance to Pakistan only adds to the complexity of the issue.  The upshot is that while India tries to make maximum use of its entitlements under the treaty, Pakistan tends to exercise the virtual veto power the treaty gives it stringently rather than in an accomodating manner. It must however be mentioned that water experts in track II discussions have often expressed the worry that while a single project has no capacity to reduce water flows downstream, the cumulative impact of a number of projects could affect water flow downstream.  Indian water expert late Ramaswamy  Iyer had expressed the view in some of his writings that since a cumulative impact study of projects in the Ganges basin is being done, a similar one could be done in the Indus basin with experts from both sides.

Treaty lacks Social and Ecological Perspective on River System 

By virtue of its techno-engineering approach, the treaty has ignored the organic nature of water and its relationships with people and livelihoods resulting in inequitable sharing and insufficient conservation of the precious resource.  By treating the river system as mere volumes of water contained in channels, the treaty has ignored the implications of interconnections between the river’s natural flow and other elements of the ecosystem like lakes, under-ground acquifer, wetlands, marshes and mangrooves.  The treaty does not say  anything about maintaining  a minimum environmental flow for purpose of maintenance of delta ecosystems downstream.  The view that any water that goes into the sea is waste ignores the need for sufficient fresh water to reach the delta to maintain a healthy balance between fresh and saline water and to safeguard the estuarine-mangroove ecosytem. In a very real sense, the treaty does lack a sense of social and ecological sensitivity.  However in the words of late Ramasway Iyer ‘ the treaty is a product of the times which has largely served as a moderating factor in the hydro-politics of the two countries curbing their worst impulses’

Need to Re-imagine the Indus River 

Based on analysis of drivers of conflict in the basin like riparian position, basin dependence, media framing, adversarial institutional structures and processes, relative military and economic strengths, experts opine that while India is precariously balanced between conflict and co-operation, Pakistan is definitely skewed towards conflict.  They say that the absence of open conflict in the basin is not necessarily an indicator of presence of co-operation but of negative peace.  Under conditions of negative peace both countries are taking water decisions in the background of imperfect and insufficient knowledge about the intentions and capabilities of each other with terribly sub-optimal results. Both countries are adopting the  precautionary principle of assuming the worst possible scenario perceiving the other as a threat and taking even more stringent measures.  Experts again opine that the sustainability of the treaty requires both technical and social ingenuity.  While technical ingenuity exists, there is lack of social capital in an atmosphere of mistrust, lack of deep listening, lack of search for common grounds across differences and perceived riparian vulnerability by Pakistan.

New Compact for Indus System Management:

The increasing unsustainability of irrigated agriculture, the need to harness hydro-power in Jammu & Kashmir in quest for clean energy, and climate change with its predicted impact in terms of glacial melt and changing precipitation patterns are strong push factors for a review of the IWT. If division of waters is a flawed water management concept and practice, then handling and harnessing the variability in water flow has been recognised as the crux of sustainable  river management approach.  Further if climate change is about intensification of variability and unpredictability of water flow, then the IWT with its emphasis on neat average flows and statistical predictability of water availability will not be able to handle conflicts arising out of hydraulic volatility.

The techno-engineering approach of maximum water extractions from  the river has been increasingly challenged by ecologists who have demonstrated that fluvial regimes are complex geo-morphological, chemical and biological processes in motion with a natural flow regime which regulates various ecological processes.  Arguing that rivers are integral components of complex ecological systems forming an intricate part of the cultural, economic and social lives of communities, they have said that reducing rivers to the waters that they carry is a sadly instrumentalist view of the river system.  They have advocated that the steel and concrete engineering approaches must give way to a entirely new spectrum of management in which the embedded ecological and social contexts of the river system must be acknowledged.

Pluralistic Narratives Needed:

A renewed compact for the Indus river system requires effective de-centering of the techno-engineering approach based on the expertise of water engineers, and harnessing instead the expertise and experiences of a whole lot of social constituencies across the basin.  This will involve a co-operative dialogue between different river-based communities on either side of the border like fishermen, irrigation-dependent farmers, river ecologists, water historians, sociologists, water experts, agriculture economists, etc.  These plural narratives will impart the new Indus compact with the much needed social and ecological perspective which will have the potential to transform the hydro-politics of the basin into a mutually beneficial co-operation.  That will work in favour of a more prudent management of the basin’s rapidly depleting water resources, and help address issues of environmental degradation and climate change challenges.

While it goes without saying that any negotiation  on reviewing the IWT will be utterly contingent on significant improvements in bilateral relations, it must be emphasized that certain changes in attitudes, approaches and perspectives could prod both countries towards a more constructive and co-operative spirit in the operations of the treaty.  There is a need to reframe the water  crisis in the basin as one of relative water scarcity instead of absolute water scarcity which will limit economic development and affect national security.  Because 75% of Pakistan’s water originates in India and because 95% of its agriculture depends on Indus waters, Pakistan has framed the water crisis in a framework of national security with the discourse strongly marked with existential threat.  But the very fact that over 90%  water drawls are used in agriculture where its efficiency is less than 40% is a clear indication that water scarcity in the basin is more institutional and can be tackled through appropriate engineering and institutional reforms.

Need for Counter Securitizing Narrative: 

Along with a more pluralistic narrative, there is also a need to centre-stage a counter water securitising narrative through a focus on better water management both from the supply and demand side.  Desecuritisation of water scarcity requires that strong sentiments of water nationalism and food nationalism need to be toned down and the water crisis should be framed within a poor water governance matrix in both basin countries. In this context,  both countries have to take steps like focussing  more on open communications on water data and working  out mechanisms for mutual assistance during extreme events and disasters.  The media, specially in Pakistan, should be encouraged not to sensationalize the water scarcity issue as an existential threat, but to focus   the debate on  better water management, innovative agricultural practices, environmental degradation, inter-provincial water-related conflicts, etc.  At the official level, confidence building measures such as thickening of track II diplomacy, softening of borders, and actively enabling exchange of scholars and water experts will be of immense use in diluting the atmosphere of mistrust.  There is also a need to strengthen  integrated multi-disciplinary approach in decision-making over India’s hydro-power projects rather than leaving it to engineers alone  because hydro-power projects on the western rivers fall in the realm of foreign policy. At the field  level efforts should be made to leverage the close historic and cultural ties between farmers in Indian and Pakistan parts of Punjab for sharing  water management experiences. That the Punjab Water Council of Pakistan, a forum of farmers, have already expressed the need to talk to Indian farmers on the issue of water is an indication that stakeholders on either side of the border are ready to take a more integrated view of the river system.


In conclusion I  would like to say that co-operative institutional mechanisms like Joint Data Centres, Regional Environmental Monitoring Centres and platforms like Joint Working Groups for sharing of experiences on technology use, policy and institutional structures will go a long way in paving the ground for a more beneficial management of the river system.  That the arbitration verdicts both in the Baglihar and Kishenganga power projects have chosen to adopt an interpretative approach towards the technical provisions of the treaty in attempts to inform its operations with contemporary international law principles  of environment protection and sustainable development points to the direction in which future development in the basin should move.  While the 2007 Baglihar award upheld India’s right to use state of art technology for building the dam, the 2013 partial award in case of Kishenganga has upheld the need for minimum environmental flows downstream to Pakistan.  In the longer term both countries have to explore every political and cultural opportunity to move towards a joint and holistic management of the river system aimed at sustainable development in the basin and building capacity to face climate change challenges.

Changes in Indus Basin: A Diagnostic Analysis

At a time when the global discourse about water is getting centred around restoring rivers to function as healthy working systems, the discourse in India has again reverted around reviewing and even abrogating the World Bank brokered Indus Water treaty (IWT) signed by India with Pakistan in 1960.  Following  a fiery atmosphere of intensified political conflict between the two neighbours, the river Indus is unfortunately getting seen as a potential political tool. Of course the Government of India has made it clear that it is not in favour of abrogation of the treaty, but of making maximum use of its eligible water share within its framework.  This stand may serve to assuage the people of Jammu & Kashmir who have felt their developmental potential sidelined under the treaty restrictions, but will it assuage the river itself which due to poor management of its resources has turned into a carriture  of its original vibrant free-flowing self?

The Indus basin which once hosted the sub-continent’s oldest and most sophisticated civilization, and today supports a region marked with huge population pressure and immense economic development aspirations, has become one of the most depleted river basins of the world.  Out of an approximate 180 billion cubic metres (bcm) average annual discharge, only around 35-40 bcm flow into the sea, and during certain parts of the year no water reaches the sea.  Pakistan and India withdraw more than 90% of the surface water and extensively mine the groundwater only to support an agriculture system that has one of the world’s lowest water productivities in terms of crop per unit of water and per unit of land.

The Indus Water Treaty, regarded as an example of successful water-sharing conflict that has withstood the test of 3 wars, is basically a water-partitioning agreement  wherein 3 western rivers of the Indus river system were allocated to Pakistan and 3 eastern ones to India. It permits India limited access to the western rivers for irrigation, hydro-power generation and transport with restrictions and conditions aimed at safeguarding Pakistan’s interests. The technical density and nature of division of water, aggravated by the political conflict between India  and Pakistan,  has subjected the treaty to substantial wear and tear.  With the treaty having little  embedded capability of  handling variability arising from environmental degradation, uncertain weather patterns and changing climatic conditions, there is a case for reviewing and upgrading it into a more co-operative water management framework that will increase the viability of irrigation as well as help restore  the river into a healthier functional system.

Vital Statistics of the River: A Grim Picture

The Indus drains over a million sq kms covering the 4 countries of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and India.  With 40% of its watershed being located at elevations of over 2000 metres above sea-level in the relatively young Himalayan mountains, the river is one of the highest carriers of sediment load in the world.  It carries an average of around 510 tonnes/km2/year in comparison with hardly 146 tonnes/km2/year by Brazil’s Amazon river and 38 tonnes/km2/year by the Nile, two  of the world’s longest rivers.  However much of the nutrient rich sediment that used to annually nourish the delta lies trapped behind dams and barrages, adversely affecting storage capabilities of reservoirs, considered as irrigation lifelines in highly seasonally variable river flows, and damaging delta ecosystems.

About 70% of Indus water flow comes from glacial and snow melt with rainfall accounting for the remaining 30%.  Around 85% of water flows into Indus catchment occurs within a period of 3-4 months in summer with flows increasing by over 20 times at peak time due to glacial & snow melt as compared to the drier winter season.  Therefore water flow in Indus is highly seasonally variable which requires sufficient storage capacity so that excess stored water can be made available during lean times.  However the per capita storage per year in Pakistan is hardly 150 cubic metres (cm) amounting to just about 30 days of the river’s annual discharge , while dams in India can store around 120-200  days of annual flow, both of which compare poorly with China’s per capita annual storage of 2200 cm and US’s 5000 cm.

The river irrigates an average of 2,28,694 sq kms i.e. around 21% of the basin area of which around 60% lies in Pakistan and 38% in India.  An agriculture life-line for Pakistan and for Punjab & Haryana in India, the Indus basin contains the world’s largest contiguous irrigation system with several storage reservoirs, barrages, inter-river-links and over a 59,000 km long irrigation canal system with over 1.07000 km long watercourses.  But the viability of irrigated agriculture in the basin is threatened by multiple factors painting a grim picture for food security in a scenario where 40% more food would be  required to feed  the increasing population by 2025. While agricultural yields have increased after the Green Revolution, a water-intensive cropping pattern coupled with poor irrigation efficiency and bad on-farm management practices have continuously decreased the water productivity.

A river with a dynamic geomorphological regime in the past, today Indus  is one of the most engineered rivers with nearly all of its surface water being weir-controlled for irrigation.  Over the last 60 years since the signing of the IWT, the quantity of water flows into the delta has been reduced to a peak of around 35-40 bcm, hardly a tenth of its historical flows.  More importantly out of the 400 million tonnes of nutrient rich sediment that used to flow to the delta, hardly 100 million tonnes today awash the coasts. This water and soil squeeze has led to dying fisheries, coastal erosion, mangroove destruction and salt-water ingress into coastal regions with adverse impacts on livelihoods and ecosystems. In the plains, with primarily embankment-based flood control strategies, the river finds itself cut off from its flood plains, while silt accumulated due to dams and barrages have aggraded the river resulting  in  a super-elevated river in certain areas making it particularly vulnerable to avulsion and floods. Moreover its flood containing capacity has been weakened through rapid draining of wetlands and marshes, underlining the need for moving from aggressive  river-controlling strategies to river management strategies to restore their healthy functionality.

Basin Management: A Diagnostic Analysis

Traditional approach for river management is  essentially hydro-centric wherein the river basin was viewed as a complex physical system based on inter-relationships between the hydrological and geomorphological characteristics of the river.  It looked at water as a resource to be exploited for economic development and therefore emphasized maximum possible yield through techno-scientific applications and the development of mechanisms for most effective water allocation among users.  Applying this approach, the traditional water management and distribution system in the Indus basin was gradually replaced with dams and canal irrigation systems based on modern technical and engineering knowledge, bypassing local water management knowledge and practices.  Starting with ‘colonial canal colonies’ during British time, the techno-engineering approach was aggressively continued by nationalist water engineers of both India and Pakistan after signing of the IWT in 1960.  No doubt the the hydro-centred approach successfully turned the arid Indus plains into thriving agricultural farms, but the transformation has been achieved at the cost of massive environmental degradation, elimination of pastoral economy and marginalisation of small farmers, replacing a diversified cropping pattern with a commercialized monoculture and bypassing traditional water management knowledge and practices.  The once free and volatile Indus which had withstood a mixture of histories, cultures and environments found itself trained and disciplined into straight cemented irrigation channels driven by quantitative hydraulic data and rational models of river control.

IWT:  Paragon of Techno-Engineering Approach

The IWT with its focus on engineering technicalities and legality of water-use by signatories  India and Pakistan is a reflection of the single-sector oriented  hydro-centred techno-engineering approach of river control of the times. Signed in an atmosphere of suspicion amidst Pakistan’s lower riparian anxiety, aggravated by the antagonist political relationship between the two countries, the nationalist engineers and statist negotiators did not concern themselves with more contemporary principles of equitable water sharing or holistic management of the river system.  Instead they divided the river system apportioning 3 whole western rivers to Pakistan and 3 eastern rivers to India with  non-consumptive access to India to the western rivers with maximum permissible  storage of 3.6 million acre feet for irrigation, hydropower generation  and transport.  The treaty is thus more of a conflict-avoidance techno-legal protocol devoid of any ecological or social perspective on the river system.

Water management treated on a techno-engineering-centred approach as opposed to socio-ecological-centred approach tends to ignore the organic nature of water and its relationships with people and livelihoods.  It also tends to reduce the entire river system into mere volumes of flowing waters.  Neglecting the organic nature of water and its relationships with people leads to inability for equitable sharing and preserving the precious resource.  The engineering-dominated supply -side approach focused on water resource development giving scant attention to the manner in which water was used.  The result is that the largest irrigation system in the world is plagued with large scale resource degradation including water-logging & salinity, over-exploited groundwater, poor irrigation efficiency, low water consumption values, lowest water productivity and significant livelihood impacts and biodiversity damage in the delta ecosystems.

Acute Resource Degradation: Water-logging, Salinity and Declining Water-tables

Agriculture experts say that due to diversion of water for irrigation, about 16 million tons of salt which would have drained into the sea along with the water gets accumulated on the irrigated land annually.  Out of 16 million tons only about 2.2 million tonnes gets deposited in a series of evaporation ponds, which means that about 1 tonne of salt per hectare is added to the soil every year.  Absence of natural drainage due to flatness of the plain and insufficiency of the over 15000 km constructed surface drainage has resulted in poor drainage resulting in accumulation of salinity in the basin.  Salinity levels get worsened through the practice of concurrent use of surface and ground water by farmers in an attempt to reduce salinity in the irrigation water and thus avoid  soil  salinization.  Groundwater ensures a reliable, timely, demand-dependent and self-controlled water supply as against the gravity-based low-intensity continuous irrigation supplied by the canal authorities.  In the absence of sufficient knowledge about proper mixing ratios of surface and ground water, farmers at canal-head areas who actually get around 30% more surface water freely use groundwater resulting in water-logging, while farmers at tail-end areas supplement the depleting surface water that reaches them with poor quality groundwater thereby aggravating salinity.  While seepage through unlined canals remain another potent source of water-logging, declining water-tables increase groundwater salinity due to redistribution of salts in the underground acquifer.  An estimated 4.5 million hectares out of total around 16 million hectares of irrigated cropland is currently affected by salinity with the problem being acute in the delta region of Sindh where over 54% of irrigated cropland  is salinity-affected. Agriculture  economists say that land degradation due to water-logging and salinity is decreasing crop production potential in the basin by an estimated 25% valued at a loss of around 250 million dollars per year.

In both India and Pakistan dependence on groundwater is almost equal or exceeds dependence on surface water.  An  analysis of net irrigated area across the basin shows that only 28% of total area is irrigated by surface water canals while 72% is irrigated  by both surface and groundwater.  In 1960 groundwater accounted for only 8% of agricultural water, but today groundwater accounts for around 60-65% of agricultural water across the basin. India has around 1.9 million tube wells while Pakistan has around 1.2 million of which 80% are electricity operated and around 20% diesel-operated.  The multi-fold increase in electricity-operated tube wells in both India and Pakistan during the last 3 decades has been due to subsidized electricity.  Groundwater exploitation which is over 150% across the basin with average water-tables decline of 1.5m/y has affected groundwater quality in irrigated areas as well as crop production in rain-fed areas due to decreased drought resilience.  In Indian Punjab, agriculture experts say 110 blocks out of 138 have been over-exploited i.e. groundwater drawls of over 100%, 3 blocks are in critical stage with groundwater drawls between 90-100% and 2 blocks in semi-critical stage with drawls ranging from 70-90% . Only 23 blocks located in the foot-hills region or areas of poor water quality are safe.  More dependence on predictable and self-controlled groundwater has given India and Pakistan higher yields but groundwater dependence comes with grave environmental externalities.

Low Water Productivity:  Symbol of Poor Water Management

Though the basin commands over 59,000 km long canal network with over 107000 km long watercourses, irrigation efficiency is only around 35-40% from canal head-waters to crop-root zone.  Around 50% of total surface water inputs are lost to canal and water course seepage, filed application losses and evapo-transpiration. Besides seepage through unlined canals, poor on-farm practices like water-inefficient traditional land-leveling methods, tillage, inefficient irrigation systems including overland channels and flush irrigation has resulted in water consumption values of hardly 15-20%, one of the lowest in the world.  Water productivity in Pakistan for wheat is hardly 0.5kg/cubic mts of water as against 1.0kg/cubic mts of water in India, both of which compare poorly with California’s 1.5kg/cubic mts of water.  However it must be mentioned that agricultural yields have increased substantially in the basin since the Green revolution with wheat yields increasing 125% and rice yields by around 175%.

Sustainable Water Management: Only Way Ahead

There is an absolute and urgent need for more prudent water management both from the demand and supply sides to improve irrigation viability and long-term sustainability of irrigated agriculture in the basin.  But since 90% of the annual river discharge is already being withdrawn, supply side augmentation can only be done through increased water efficiency.  Demand management remains the key to better water management in the basin. Changing cropping patterns to reduce acreage under water-intensive crops like rice, wheat, sugarcane, and cotton in favour of less water-intensive but high-value crops like oilseeds, maize, pulses, vegetables & fruits is necessary.    There is need to limit rice cultivation, specially in water-scare and salinity-affected delta areas in the Sindh region, to domestic consumption needs so that virtual water export through rice exports is reduced. Improved water-saving farming practices like precision land-leveling, mulching & bed-planting in case of wheat crop which saves about 18-25% of water, alternate wet and dry irrigation in rice crop or direct seed rice plantation both of which methods save about 25% water should be encouraged and incentivized   Similarly prevention of water losses by replacing unlined open water courses with underground pipes coupled with increased use efficient irrigation systems like drip and sprinkler can vastly increase irrigation efficiency.  The good news is that farmers are increasingly adopting resource conservation technologies like zero tillage drills and laser land leveling with appreciable increases in yields.  Approximately 54% of farmers in Punjab use zero tillage drills, while around 90% use laser land leveling.   However drip irrigation use in both Punjab and Haryana is just about 0.5% against a potential of around 6%.  The percentage of sprinkler irrigation in Punjab is around 0.5 % compared to a high of 30% in Haryana.

In view of over 150% average groundwater exploitation across the basin there is an imperative need for acquifer management through a balance between discharge and recharge. Artificial recharge of groundwater through means like construction of rain-water conserving re-charge ponds in farms, recharge shafts along highways, roof-top rainwater harvesting by urban and rural households and digging and maintenance of village ponds could go a long way in sustainable management of groundwater overdraft in the basin.  To tackle water-logging problems in canal-head areas and salinity in canal-tail areas, upstream farmers should be encouraged to use more groundwater which is fresh and tail-end farmers to use less ground-water which is saline.  But to change the current water-use practice of excessive surface and groundwater by head-end farmers and excessive ground-water by tail-end farmers, canal authorities have to regulate canal water flows to ensure that tail-end farmers get timely and sufficient water. It  may be difficult to quickly change long-standing water-use practices, but logical motivation programmes could lead farmers towards the needed change.  Similarly logical motivation is required to combat salinity through methods like  promotion of use of gypsum or organic matter or acids or planting bio-drainage trees like poplars, eucalyptus or growing salinity-resilient grasses or fodders also useful for livestock.

New Compact for Sustainable River System Management:

Sustainable management of the river system requires a renewed Indus Compact which will effectively de-centre the technical engineering approach based on expertise of water engineers, and harness instead the expertise and experiences of a whole lot of social constituencies across the basin.  This will involve a co-operative dialogue between different river-based communities on either side of the border such as fishermen, irrigation-dependent farmers, river ecologists, water historians, sociologists, water experts, agriculture economists, etc.  These plural narratives can impart the new Indus Compact with the much needed social and ecological perspective, and has the potential to transform the  hydro-politics of the basin into  mutually beneficial co-operation aimed at  more prudent management of the basin’s fast depleting water resources, besides addressing environmental degradation issues as well as climate change challenges..