India and Pakistan Water Conflict


The Indus River is the lifeline that has been keeping Pakistan and India alive and thriving for centuries. In 1960, The Indus Water treaty was implemented to make sure that the river was shared equally between the two countries. The treaty was designed to ensure that the freshwater coming downstream is not diminished by industrial use or a dam upstream (Nesbit, 2019).

Pakistan is in a sub-tropical region, and the climate there is hot, arid and dry which makes farming difficult. The Indus River is the main source of freshwater for homes and businesses in Pakistan; it also supports 90 percent of their agriculture. But this is becoming a problem due to increased demand for water by a growing population,the river being exploited, and physical changes over the last centuries. The dry seasons are becoming longer, and the river has shrunk so that it no longer flows into Port of Karachi. Riots have broken out due to water scarcity in the cities. The people affected by the scarcity of water are pointing the blame towards landowners that are taking water from the river (Nesbit, 2019). While water scarcity is becoming a problem for Pakistan, India is also facing a water crisis of its own. India is a growing agricultural country; 80 percent of its water is used for irrigation. The irrigation practice used by farmers are inefficient . More water is being used for farming and less freshwater is making its way towards homes and business. Three-quarters of the population is affected by contaminated water, on average each year about 200,000 Indian lives are lost due to inadequate supplies or contaminated water (Gupta, 2019). Currently, the population of Pakistan is at 197 million people, while India population is at 1.339 billion people (, 2019).

A report done by CNN health claims that 21 major cities in India will run out of groundwater by 2020. (Gupta, 2019).

The future of the Indus River is also a concern due to global warming. The Himalayan glaciers which feed the Indus River are shrinking, and if they continues to shrink less water will feed into the river (Nesbit, 2019). India has built several hydropower dams where the Himalayan glacier feeds into the Indus river. Experts believe that India effort is to dam it up and possibly stop water from entering Pakistan. While this doesn’t violate the Indus Water Treaty, it does cause a future problem for Pakistan and their ability to get water from the Indus River. Pakistan claims that India is diverting a large amount of water from the river Chenab to its Baglihar dam (Nesbit, 2019). In results causing a 34 percent drop in water level for Pakistan. Pakistan also blames India for causing rolling blackouts in India by diverting water from the river. “The shortage of water will have an effect on winter crop yields due to lower irrigation levels and will increase the blackouts due to reducing hydroelectric power generation” (Nesbit, 2019).

With both countries facing a huge water crisis, tensions between India and Pakistan remain high. India continues its plans to build dams across the Indus River, regardless of the effect this is having on Pakistan’s access to water.. This could lead to a water war between countries that have nuclear weapons.


As both countries struggle internally with their water crisis, the river becomes more valuable to each country and even worth fighting over. India already has dams in place around the river, and if India needed too, they could stop water flow completlyand starve Pakistan. That would be considered a use of soft power to gain what they need.. This in return could lead to a total war where Pakistan uses all their resources to take control of the river. With both countries having access to a nuclear weapon, the aftermath of the war would be catastrophic.


  1.  Updating the Indus Water Treaty. The treaty will explain in detail how the river should be divided equally between the two countries. It will also map out where dams can be built and will investigate water flow into both countries.
  2.  Irrigation practices need to be changed so water is being used efficiently and not wasted. By switching to drip irrigation less water is being lossed. Looking into efficient farming styles that work in a hot dry climate can help on water loss. When picking crops to farm look at crops that require less water and are drought tolerant.
  3.  Having both countries supply workers to work at the dams. By doing this could help build trust between the countries and provide jobs for workers from broth countries


  • Gupta, S. (2019). India facing its worst water shortage in history. [online] CNN. Available at: [Accessed 24 Feb. 2019].
  • Nesbit, J. (2019). Pakistan Faces A Water War On The Horizon. [online] Science Friday. Available at: [Accessed 24 Feb. 2019].
  • (2019). Pakistan Population (2019) – Worldometers. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Feb. 2019].