India PM to open Kashmir projects
Saturday, 11 October 2008

The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due in Indian-administered Kashmir to inaugurate a dam opposed by Pakistan and a key rail project, reports BBC

Mr Singh will inaugurate the first phase of the Baglihar hydro-electric project on the Chenab river on Friday.
 
On Saturday, he will flag off the first-ever train from Nowgam station, near the city of Srinagar.
 
Pakistan says the dam will deprive its agricultural land of irrigation. India says it is crucial for its power needs.
 
Controversy
 
Mr Singh is due to arrive in the Jammu region in a few hours to inaugurate the first phase of the Baglihar project.
 
The project, which will generate a total of 900 megawatts of power in two phases of 450 megawatts each, has been mired in controversy since it began in 1999.
Work started on the project in 2000 and it was due to be completed by June 2006.
 
But after Pakistan raised objections, the work was delayed.
 
Islamabad argued that the dam violated the World Bank-brokered 1960 Indus Water treaty which divided the rights of water from six rivers between India and Pakistan.
 
In February 2007, the World Bank overruled most of Pakistan's objections.
 
At the same time, it told India to lower the height of the dam by 1.5m (five feet).
 
Some geologists too have expressed concern over the safety of the Baglihar project.
 
They say it is built in an area prone to earthquakes and is constructed over an active fault.
 
'Simple ceremony'
 
On Saturday, Mr Singh will inaugurate the first rail link in Indian-administered Kashmir to connect Rajwansher town in the north with Anantnag in the south, a distance of 72km (44 miles).
 
It will be extended next year to 117km (73 miles) to connect Baramulla in the north with Qazigund in the south.
The prime minister, accompanied by Railway Minister Laloo Yadav, will flag off the train.
 
"It will be a simple ceremony and it will not be open to public because of security reasons," an official told the BBC.
 
The rail link will not connect Kashmir with the rest of India so its impact on the region's development is expected to be limited.
 
The Rajwansher-Anantnag link was ready to be flagged off in the summer, but several weeks of intense anti-India protests in the Kashmir valley forced the authorities to postpone it.
 
After some years of relative calm in the valley, tensions were sparked by a plan to grant land to a board that oversees the running of an important Hindu shrine.
 
Separatist leaders have announced a strike in the valley on Saturday to coincide with the prime minister's visit.

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