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Friday, August 7, 2015, Shraban 23, 1422 BS, Shawal 21, 1436 Hijr

India’s river linking plan worries Bangladesh
Experts say it will spell disaster for the country
Published :Friday, 7 August, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 172
Banani Mallick
India is pushing ahead with a plan to link several rivers to divert water from its north to south arguably to facilitate farming in arid zones - that experts and analysts say will happen at the cost of "choking" lives and agriculture in neighbouring Bangladesh.
If implemented, the plan will be disastrous for Bangladesh, leading to desertification and environmental degradation, green activists say.
The project will connect Teesta-Ganges-Manas- Sankosh rivers across three Indian states and divert water to southern Indian states.
As media published series of reports on the Indian project, environment experts and activists in both countries expressed deep concern, saying that New Delhi is going ahead with its river-linking plan which is deemed to be potentially catastrophic for Bangladesh.
Professor Ainun Nishat, expert of Water Resource Management and Climate Change, said that India is saying that this river interlink project will not be harmful for Bangladesh is not true.
"For Bangladesh this project will bring more damages than by the Farakka Barrage. This is for sure. So this issue should be solved politically with the presence of both countries" he said.
India argues in favour of connecting rivers flowing through its territory saying that in South India they have plenty of cultivatable lands but no availability of water, so they want to take extra reserve water from north -eastern side of India.
Highlighting this point, Dr Ainun Nishat said that there is a strong political lobby in India actively engaged behind this plans of diverting water from north- eastern part of India.
"They will make reservoirs and canals in the west to take water to Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and even to Gujarat," he said.
"We wonder when bilateral relations between the two neighbours have been flourishing why such a unilateral move would be taken by India," he said.
Asked about Bangladesh government's response to India's river linking project, Dr Zafar Ahmed Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, said that his ministry had already sent a letter to Indian government expressing its concern about possible impacts of the project.
"We have requested the Indian government to consider about the consequence of the proposed river liking project. We are trying to talk (with them) face to face," he said.
Dr Abdul Matin, General Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), said that already the Farakka Barrage, located in the Indian state of West Bengal, has caused serious damages to Bangladesh, and if India implements the river linking project , it will cause three-four times more damages to Bangladesh's environment.
"Bangladesh government already has sent a letter to Indian government expressing its great concern. But writing a letter is not enough, they should talk face to face, explain each other's problem and resolve it," he suggested.
Dr. Matin also said that both India and Bangladesh should ratify the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses of 1997.
According to this Convention, the distribution of water should be considered on the basis of each country's necessity and legitimate rights.
The water diversion project will severely diminish the water flow into Bangladesh's major rivers like the Teesta, Jamuna and the Padma.
Other experts said that it will cause serious downstream impacts on Bangladesh where these rivers work as lifelines. The rivers are already "inactive" due to lack of adequate water flow caused by various projects like Teesta barrage and Farakka barrage in upstream of these rivers.
River and Water Expert Engineer M Inamul Haque said that India cannot deprive Bangladesh of its water share and with the project India will destroy the water resources of both countries.
When asked what kinds of steps government should take, he said that Bangladesh government should raise its strong voice rejecting this project as early as possible.
Dr Shahidul Islam, Water Resources Expert, said that this project will bring bad impact on environment, agriculture and economy not only in to Bangladesh but at least ten Indian States as well.
Already Bangladesh is facing the great impact of climate change and now this project will make it more vulnerable, especially in coastal and Sundarban areas.
According to international norms as well as understanding between India and Bangladesh, India is not supposed to take such a major decision on common rivers without addressing Bangladesh's concerns.
As per the joint communiqué signed by the prime ministers of Bangladesh and India in 2010, the common rivers would be managed through a basin-wide approach. Water and environment experts of both the countries also endorse this approach.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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