Govt urged to press for holistic management of Teesta river

Govt urged to press for holistic management of Teesta river

Speakers at the roundtable on Teesta water held at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday

Speakers at the roundtable on Teesta water held at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday

Water experts and activists at a roundtable in Dhaka city on Saturday underlined the need for greater awareness among the people to compel the government to undertake initiatives for durable and holistic settlement of Teesta water management.
Dwelling on ‘Teesta water issue – Will it be ever resolves?’ – they said the way Teesta water was being diverted at upstream by rendering half of its length at downstream without considering the health and life of the river itself clearly indicated the need for raising the issue at the United Nations through which the issue of sea boundary with Myanmar and India was resolved.
Former VC of Jahangirnagar University Prof Jasimuddin Ahmad, eminent political scientist Prof. Dilara Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Water Partnership Eng Shahidul Hasan, vice president of International Farakka Committee Bangladesh Dr. SI Khan, former DG of Water Resources Planning Organisation (WARPO) Eng Inamul Huq took part in the roundtable.
Mostafa Kamal Majumder, editor GreenWatch Dhaka, presented the keynote paper and presided over the session. Students of a number of leading universities of the country took part in the function organised by the South Asia Youth for Peace and Prosperity society.
In his paper Mostafa Kamal Majumder drew attention to the state of the river which was drying up in its Bangladesh half during critical dry months despite much hype over its sharing in bilateral talks, putting the environment, ecology, life and livelihood dependent on the Teesta under severe pressure.
According to the paper out of the dry season flow of 10,000 cubic feet per second (cusec) the river on its Bangladesh part got only up to 500 cusecs – seepage from the Gazaldoba barrage on the other side of the border – without any transparency on how the upper stages of the river were managed.
Referring to the dozens of mini hydroelectric projects and half a dozen big projects build up in Sikkim plus the Gazaldoba barrage which were operated without considering their impacts on river communities in Bangladesh, the paper drew attention the danger of seeking to share the river’s flow at border. It said any agreement on the river should be based on dealing with it as an entity from the origins to the downfall, the water requirement of the river itself and the river communities of the two countries. Otherwise the river would face death, and the process of the same has already started unfolding in the lower catchment in Bangladesh.
Engr Inamul Huq said that Teesta water was being diverted through link canal to other states of India. Those who can use google map can see this easily. Apart from the hydroelectric projects water reservoirs have been built. The link canal on the other side of the border remained full to the brim on 14 April last year whereas in the Bangladesh part the main river went completely dry, he pointed out.
He said that the upper riparian neighbour would not share data and information on the river flow as it did not now and no solution of the problem would come unless Bangladesh seeks a resolution through the UN. He deplored that Bangladesh was not taking up the issue of losses suffered and the damages caused to the river communities and the environment because of the diversion of Teesta water at upstream.
Dr SI Khan said it was better to have no agreement than having an unequal agreement without guarantee and arbitration clauses as was in the case of the Ganges. He said that the next general election should be fought on the issue of water emphasising that the people cannot accept the fact that none had headache over silent environmental disaster suffered by the country. Like in case of settlement of sea boundaries the government should approach the UN to settle the issue of integrated management of the common rivers. There could be no logic other then putting Bangladesh under severe strain of diverting water of all 54 common rivers, he said urging for strengthening mass awareness to put pressure on the government to take remedial measures.
Engr Shahidul Hasan said that there would be no solution to the issue of integrated management of rivers unless the people in Bangladesh can raise united loud voice against the regulation of the water resources by the big neighbour. He said since bilateral solution of the issue looks not possible the government should pursue it through the sixth committee of the UN. Diversion of a river to another basin was against the principle of justice he said underlining the needs for strengthening the technical details of the database of the rivers. The people should put pressure on the government to deal with India on the issue properly, he added.
Prof. Dilara Chowdhury said that the pressure mounted on Bangladesh is clearly understood when the geopolitical ambitions of the big neighbour are looked into to emerge as the dominant power in the Indian Ocean region when US would significantly reduce its presence. But it should be made clear that India cannot prosper if its neighbours also do not prosper simultaneously. Prof. Chowdhury deplored internal subversion of national interests to the tune of calling critics of injustices from Indian policy planners as anti-liberation forces. She said that a government not properly elected by the people would have not obligation to listen to their voices. The people are suffering from fear psychosis as a result, she added.
Prof. Jasimuddin Ahmed who is also the president of International Farakka Committee, Bangladesh said that the world has now turned into a global village and creation of awareness would be useful in resolving the issue of management of common rivers without which the existence of Bangladesh would be at stake. Making mention of the many steps and activities through which IFC raised the level of awareness on the issue of the common rivers during the last two decades he also drew attention to environmental deterioration like phenomenal increase of salinity in water in the Sunderbans due to blocking of surface water flow, plus acidic precipitations caused by sulphur dioxide emitted from coal based plants in neighbouring countries. Excess salinity and acidic precipitation are causing damage to the world’s largest mangrove forest, he said.
Prof. Jasim said the problem of management of common rivers can be solved only through a UN mediated agreement enlisting participation of all countries of the region including China which share water of the Himalayan Rivers. – Staff Reporter


Comments are closed.