India, Pak now squabble over water

MSN News | IANS | 29/08/2010

India-pakistan They have fought three wars and have been involved in bitter disputes over water sharing. But India and Pakistan are now fighting a battle on a different turf – to get rid of excess water. With heavy rainfall in the last few weeks in both the countries leading to flooding of several areas – one-fifth of Pakistan has been badly affected by floods – field authorities in both countries are trying to rid themselves of the excess water. Irrigation department officials in Punjab say nearly half a dozen villages in the border district of Ferozepur, 300 km from Chandigarh, are submerged in three to five feet of water owing to water being diverted from Pakistan side.

The water, which officials say that authorities in neighbouring Pakistan have diverted from their side into India, has flooded villages like Chamriyawala, Sultanwala, Nizamwala and others in Ferozepur district alone. "Pakistan has made a small dam on their side (on river Sutlej) due to which the water flowing from here (India) has started coming back to our side and is causing floods here," Punjab’s Irrigation Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon said.

Three rivers – Sutlej, Beas and Ravi – flow from the Indian Territory (Punjab state) into Pakistan’s Punjab province. With all the rivers being full to the brim this monsoon season, India has allowed the excess water to flow into Pakistan. However, with floods already having caused havoc in that country, authorities in Pakistan are trying to divert the flow of water back into India.

Officials here say that similar incidents of water being blocked by Pakistan and diverted back into India have also been reported from the border districts of Amritsar and Gurdaspur. Punjab shares a 553 km barbed wire fenced border with Pakistan, which is monitored by the Border Security Force (BSF) 24×7. "During flooding, the barbed wire fencing also gets damaged. We have seen that the Pakistani side tries to divert water back into India by creating physical barriers and this leads to flooding and damage in our territory," a senior BSF officer from the Punjab frontier told IANS.

Irrigation department officials say that standing crops in hundreds of acres has been damaged due to diversion of water into India by Pakistan in recent days. The ‘bundhs’ (soil and sandbag barriers) built on the Indian side have been washed away at some places due to water being diverted into India. With authorities in India, like the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), releasing water from the 225-metre high Bhakra Dam, 130 km from Chandigarh, due to heavy inflow into Sutlej River from Himachal Pradesh side, the water flowing into Pakistan through the natural course of the river has increased in recent weeks.

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