Dhaka – Water activists of Bangladesh and Northeast India at a consultation meeting in Dhaka on Wednesday called for collaborative people’s movement against a move for large structural interventions on the Brahmaputra without caring about its environmental, economic and ecological impacts on the life of people of the region.
The consultation on ‘Crises of the Brahmaputra Basin Area and Tasks to Resolve those’ held at the Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (Bapa) office focussed on the proposed 1000 kilometre long and 800 metres wide channel on the river primarily to facilitate navigation up to 700 kilometres inside Assam.
Mr. Partha Jyoti Das,eminent academic, researchers & activists on rivers from Guwahati, Assam, India, spoke at length on the progress of the project formulation in Assam with support from the World Bank and said the scientific community was against it for its perceived adverse impacts on fishery, groundwater, the flora, the wetland ecosystem.
He said that Assam government was now busy to find suitable dredgers to start work on the project without caring about its economic and environmental impacts. The project planners say the channel 300 kilometres of which will be in Bangladesh from Kurigram to Sirajganj will fix the braided river into the channel and build express highways on its two sides with the dredged silt. Bangladesh would do the dredging in the Bangladesh part.
WB has offered Rs 1500 crore to the Inland Water Transport of Assam. The central government of India and the state govt of Assam discussed bringing 76pc of the main flow to the channel changing the braided river to a straight one and make express highways on two sides which will also act as embankment preventing floods. This they argue will develop tourism.
He said that with no knowledge and experience on dredging management the Govt of Assam is taking this populist step. Opinion is being created in Assam on its adverse impacts. The Brahmaputra is very rich in fishery and home to Gangetic dolphins which may be threatened with extinction while groundwater level on both sides of the river may fall.
Guwahati scientists have reacted to the initiative saying that flood and erosion problem will not be solved by the mega project which may only give limited benefits to navigation. What impact it would have is not known. Assam govt now studying dredging activities in Narayanganj, Bangladesh. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Assam and committed Rs 100 crore for study. Assam scientists jumped on it that and emphasised that dredging activities should be taken up only after study shows a positive result. But though no study is being done while the Guwahati government is going ahead with the proposed dredging plan.
Partha Jyoti Das said that Bangladesh’s water activists should start mobilising public opinion against unsustainable interventions on the river. The proposed 800-metre wide channel with a dre4dging draft of about two metres would render the Brahmaputra distributaries dry in the lean season creating serious environmental problems.
Presided over by Dr Abdul Matin, secretary, Bapa, the consultation meeting was also addressed by Sheikh Rokon and Sharif Jamil among others. – GreenWatch News Desk