May 22, 2013 | 12:10 PM (BD Time)
22 May, 2013 Wednesday
BAPA’s appeal to the honourable Prime Ministers of Bangladesh, India
Resolve common issues of concern
We learned from the press that honorable Prime Minister of India is due to visit Bangladesh in September, 2011. It is expected that during his visit the heads of the governments of the two countries will meet and discuss many bilateral, regional, and international issues and hopefully will reach some understandings and agreements for betterment of life and living of the people.
Bangladesh and India have common anthropological ancestry and socio-political heritage. The ties between the countries became stronger through the cooperation during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. Apart from inter-governmental relations; there is a wide range of people-to-people interactions between the two nations. For the sake of national development of both the countries, closer bilateral cooperation between them is an utmost necessity.
There are many transboundary rivers and ecological issues that the two countries need to resolve. Most of these issues originated from steps taken by India with respect to rivers that the two countries share. These unfortunate steps have aggravated the crises that Bangladesh in general faces as a low lying, densely populated delta particularly in the context of climate change. There is no doubt that, India, being the neighboring country, will also be affected if the ecology and economy of Bangladesh collapses under the weight of climate and environmental crises. It is therefore in the interest of both India and Bangladesh to work together in directions that will enable Bangladesh to withstand the climate and economic challenges that it faces.
In what follows, we the undersigned, on behalf of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), put forward a list of issues to which honorable Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India should take into consideration during your discussions and reach ecology-friendly, win-win solutions.
Common Ecological Issues:
01. Transboundary Rivers:
Out of 57 transboundary rivers of Bangladesh, 54 originate in India. These receive hydration feeding from the Himalayan glaciers and upstream rainfalls falling on both the hilly and plain lands. The major problem of Bangladesh rivers is reduction of water flows due to upstream diversions through barrages, dams, and other structural interventions. Farakka barrage on the Ganges and Gajoldoba barrage on the Teesta are the two prominent examples of such diversionary structures. However, there are numerous other such diversionary structures, such as on the rivers Dud Kumari, Khoai, Sumeswary, Monu, Gomti, Mohori, and Dharla. In addition, upstream deforestation, mining, etc, have resulted in profusion of boulders, soil, sands, coal extracts, etc. disrupting and spoiling river flows. Finally, industrial pollution and dumping of domestic and cattle wastes have led to extreme pollution of river water. In the backdrop of the general problems above, we want to draw your attention to the following particular issues. (a). Farakka Barrage on the Ganges: Farakka barrage had a devastating impact on rivers, canals and wetlands of south-western Bangladesh. Out of 25 dying rivers of the country, the majority are in this part of the country. Plans to revitalize these rivers are not succeeding because of the Padma's diminished flow caused by Farakka. Ironically, the Indian rationale for Farakka, namely revival of the Kolkata sea port, has not proved to be valid. Instead, Farakka has become now a source of flooding in parts of West Bengal and Bihar, where affected people have been reported to be protesting against Farakka with hammers in hands, demanding immediate decommissioning and demolition of the Farakka barrage. The 1996 Indo-Bangla agreement on the Ganges water sharing has not been able to solve the basic problem that Farakka has caused to Bangladesh. The lean season water flow of the Padma river remains inadequate for the resuscitation of the rivers and ecology of Bangladesh's south and west. For the sake of the ecology of both south west Bangladesh and neighboring states of India, restoration of full flow in the Padma through decommissioning of the Farakka Barrage deserves due consideration.
(b). Indian barrages on the Teesta river: India has constructed several barrages on the Teesta river in order to divert the river's water away from Bangladesh. These barrages have diminished the lean season flow of the Teesta river to such an extent that very little water is left for Bangladesh, particularly during the lean season. According to press reports, a Teesta water sharing agreement is to be reached during the visit by the Indian Prime Minister. However, as the experience of the Indo-Bangladesh treaty on the Ganges water sharing shows, the deleterious effects on the rivers and ecology of northwest Bangladesh will not be ameliorated as long as the full flow of the Teesta is not restored through decommissioning and removal of the barrages that India has constructed. ©. Tipaimukh Dam on the river Barak: According to press reports, India is proceeding with the Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak river, meant to generate electricity. However, according to many, the dam is also meant to be part of the diversionary structure that would include a future barrage to be constructed downstream at Fulertal. Tipaimukh is therefore a source of great concern for Bangladeshis, because it is going to disrupt the flows of the two most important eastern rivers of Bangladesh, namely Shurma and Kushiyara, which combine to form the river Meghna, the third most important river of the country. Tipaimukh is likely to affect the ecology and economy of the entire northeastern part of Bangladesh, including ecologically sensitive haors (large inland water bodies) of the country. No wonder, therefore, Tipaimukh has been referred by many as the "Farakka on the east" for Bangladesh, and public sentiment runs high on this issue. So the Tipaimukh Dam projec
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