Pakistani Estimates of the Eastern River Water Flows
Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF

It may be recalled that the Indus Water Treaty, 1960 (IWT) between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World bank, allocated three rivers each, known as the Eastern Rivers (Ravi, Beas, Sutlej) to India, and the Western Rivers (Indus, Chenab, Jhelum) to Pakistan. India has the complete right over the waters of the Eastern Rivers and can also use the waters of the Western Rivers for consumptive uses like drinking, agriculture as mentioned in the Treaty.

Indus river basin includes these six rivers plus Kabul add Konar Rivers flowing from Afghanistan. The combined annual flow of these rivers is estimated to be 168 million acre feet (MAF). Kabul River accounts for about 27 MAF. This leaves about 141 MAF annual discharge through the Western and Eastern Rivers. Of these, 80 percent flows to the Western Rivers and about 20 percent through the Eastern Rivers. These estimates form the basis of the IWT between India and Pakistan. The World Bank brokered the Treaty, which has been highly beneficial to Pakistan.

The irony is that India has not been able to either use its share of allocated Western Rivers water allocated to it, nor has it been able to use the waters of the Eastern Rivers under which it has complete rights under the Treaty.

Recently, the Pakistan minister of water resources, Mr. Muhammad Faisal Vawda presented some figures in the Pakistan National Assembly. These give an estimate of how much water Pakistan has been getting from India from Eastern Rivers as a gift for several decades. Replying to a question on the water flows in Indus basin, the Pakistani minister said, “It is to be noted that Eastern Rivers have already been allocated to India as per provisions of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) 1960, but uncontrolled/unavoidable flow escapages by India do occur which are efficiently utilized in integrated operation of the river system by IRSA”. Thus, he openly admitted that Pakistan was getting water of the Eastern Rivers because of India’s inability to stop these flows.

In the context of the Accord on water sharing reached among Provinces within Pakistan in 1991, the Minister gave detailed figures on the flows of the Western and the Eastern Rivers of the Indus Basin.1 According to him, during the Pre-Accord period 1976-77 to 1990-91, the average Western Rivers flow per year was 140.40 MAF. It reduced to 136.69 MAF during the Post-Accord period 1991-92 to 2017-18. Thus, there was a net reduction of 3.76 MAF. He attributed the reduction in the flows to climate change. He further informed, “If Eastern Rivers component is added to the Western Rivers (Western + Eastern Rivers) during the same period, i.e., 1976-77 to 1990-91, the average inflows were 149.52 MAF while during the period 1991-92 to 2017-18, the average inflows declined to 141.59 MAF.”

It is easy to calculate from these figures how much water Pakistan has been getting through the Eastern Rivers because India could not utilize them. Although the flow in Eastern Rivers has also gone down, Pakistan continues to get substantial amount of water. To quote the Pakistani minister “For the Pre-Accord period i.e., 1976-77 to 1990 - 91 the average Eastern River flows were 9.08 MAF and for the Post-Accord period, i.e., 1991-92 to 2017-18, the average Eastern Rivers flows/declined to 4.90 MAF.”

The following table, based on the figures given by Mr. Vawda, clarifies the situation.

Average Annual Flows in Million Acre Feet (MAF)

1976-77 to 1991-92 1991-92 to 2017-18 Reduction in Flows
Western and Eastern Rivers2 149.52 141.59 7.03
Western Rivers 140.45 136.69 3.76
Eastern rivers 9.08 4.90 5.08
ER/ER+WR (%) 6.06 3.4

Source: Pakistan Ministry of Water Resources

In India, it is commonly believed that about 2 MAF per year of water of the Eastern Rivers goes unutilized to Pakistan, but the Pakistan’s figure of unused flows of Eastern Rivers is much higher, i.e. 4.90 MAF. This should come as a surprise to the Indians. Pakistan has been getting much more water from India thus was thought to be the case. The last row of the table shows that nearly 3.4 percent of the water Pakistan gets from Indus River basin is from the Eastern Rivers. This percentage used to be 6.06 percent during the 1976-77 to 1991-92 period.

After the Pulwama terror attacks, India has vowed to stop the flows of the Eastern Rivers to Pakistan altogether. India will need to build necessary infrastructure for that. That will take time. In the meanwhile, it is hoped that the Government of India would give figures indicating how much water is actually flowing to Pakistan from the Eastern Rivers.


  1., accessed on April 01, 2019.
  2. The “Eastern River” flows mentioned in the Minister’s reply would imply the water that flows into Pakistan.

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