Pak to approach court over hydro project

Islamabad: Pakistan will challenge in the international court of arbitration a decision by a UN climate agency to grant carbon credits to India on a hydropower project without clearance of its trans-boundary environmental impact, a media report said today.

An inquiry by the Water and Power Ministry concluded that India secured carbon credits for the 45 MW Nimoo-Bazgo hydropower project from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change without mandatory clearance from Pakistan, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying. Pakistani officials have alleged that India secured the carbon credits even though Pakistani authorities had not seen or cleared the cross-boundary environmental impact assessment report for the project on river Indus.

Islamabad has now decided to challenge the UNFCC`s decision in the international court of arbitration "because legal requirements were allegedly not fulfilled by the UN agency", the report said. Officials alleged the Indian government "misled the UN agency through fake and fictitious documents that might have shown Pakistan`s consent to the project because there was no such record available in Pakistan".

"It is still not established how India was able to get carbon credit benefits for the Nimoo-Bazgo project, which is located on trans-boundary water, and for which ratification of the parties concerned should have been procured before hand by it under clause 37(b) of UNFCC," an unnamed official was quoted as saying.

"Although it is too difficult to get carbon credits on a trans-boundary project such as Nimoo-Bazgo, due to lack of contest by the Permanent Commissioner for Indus Waters (PCIW), India was able to get carbon credits on this project," the official said. The inquiry report suggested that the former PCIW, Jamaat Ali Shah, had insisted that the matter relating to carbon credits or environmental impact "was not covered under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960" and that the issue could be taken up with India by the Ministry of Environment. The inquiry contended that Shah had knowledge about the Nimoo-Bazgo project during 2002-09 and could have asked authorities to approach the court of arbitration or a neutral expert but that "initiative was not availed".

In December 2010, the Foreign Ministry said there was credible ground to refer the project to a neutral expert or court of arbitration but it would be difficult to get a favourable outcome from arbitration. In a related development, the Water and Power Ministry has sought an opinion from the Establishment Division on whether action could be taken against Shah after his retirement for not "vigorously pursuing cases" to stop India from building the Nimoo-Bazgo project and getting carbon credits from the UN.

The Law Ministry had earlier informed the Establishment Division and the ministry that action could be taken against a retired official only if his actions were found to be of a criminal nature. The government has stopped the payment of retirement benefits to Shah pending an inquiry. Shah has left Pakistan to spend time with his family in Canada.