Friday, March 2, 2012

WATER ISSUES : Delhi doesn’t care a fig for Dhaka

The Indian Supreme Court has asked the central government to quickly execute its ‘River Link Project’ which plans to divert waters from the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers to its vast hinterland depriving Bangladesh in the downstream from its legitimate shares from these common rivers.
The Indian government plans to set up inter-basin linkages by building 30 new river linking canals in the upstream of Bangladesh borders although these steps will emerge as he biggest threat to the country’s sustenance.

Experts said if the project is implemented, which the Indian supreme court said should be carried out in ‘time bound manner’, it will turn half of Bangladesh into salinity-affected region as sea water will advance upwards in the mainland in absence of sweet water flow from the upstream rivers.
On the other hand the rest half of the country, that is the northwest Bangladesh, will slowly turn into sandy desert from drying soil as is already visible in desertification of the Rajshahi region.  
Thus the friendship which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is earnestly trying to build with India is turning into a one-way traffic bringing a strange feeling to the nation as to why India is slighting her efforts. Why is Delhi bringing all such embarrassments to her government?
She is giving transit and corridor facilities to India and making all such strategic concessions to Delhi hoping that India will reciprocate it with yet bigger gestures to Bangladesh’s socio-political and economic development. She is even ignoring the domestic opposition to her India-appeasement policies. 
But the kind of return which Delhi is putting back to Bangladesh Prime Minister’s end is not only making her rapidly unpopular but also bringing risk to her government and her own future political stake. 
Analysts wonder why Sheikh Hasina is not learning from the Indian replies to her unilateral moves to win India’s heart and mind, while Delhi is working on long-term strategies aiming at punishing Bangladesh in many ways, including withdrawing water from the major rivers turning the country into a water-starved territory facing grave environmental hazards. 
India is not only backtracking from signing the Teesta Water sharing treaty now, or land swap at the border but also new questions have been raised recently on the Ganges water sharing treaty which, Bangladesh complaints, Delhi has imposed on it without giving the due share of water to Dhaka.  
Initially Indian proposal was made in Dhaka in April 18, 1975, that the feeder canal at Farakka should be run “on a trial basis” during the current period of low flow while continuing discussion on the ways of ensuring equitable share of the Ganges water between the two countries.
Afterwards the trial run assumed a permanent status and yet India appears not happy. In this background, the Indian government’s new river linking project is giving the impression that Delhi may want a kind of friendship with Bangladesh—-largely covered with sand and salinity—- depriving her from share of its legitimate water in the common rivers. 
The water blockade is emerging on all fronts. Even in the northeast, India is building the Tipaimukh Dam to regulate the natural water flow to downstream Bangladesh in the Sylhet region to use the reserves both for irrigation and electricity generation. 
Moreover, it appears that one of the major objectives of the river linking project is to divert water from the northeast where annual rainfall stands at 3,500 mm in the monsoon, to western zones. 
It means the Tipaimukh dam may also work as a reservoir to pass water to the Western front bypassing Bangladesh and drying the Meghna and its tributaries. Observers said wondering whether India is virtually working on a war on water in a subtle way while holding a extremely friendly and faithful government in Dhaka which feels shy even to protest Delhi’s wrong doings. 
But critics wonder why Sheikh Hasina is not taking the cautious moves to protect the country’s interest not only by taking diplomatic moves but also taking the issue to domestic politics at the people’s level. What is her stake in making Delhi unhappy while the Indian government is taking all measures, one after another, much to the disadvantage of the nation and even undermining her own political foundation at the grassroots level.  
New reports said India is currently building a dam at Bihar along with building a river link between the Fulhar and the Mechi rivers. It will obstruct flow to the Teesta, the Mahananda, the Dharla and the Dudkumar even during the monsoon season drying Rangpur region putting its biodiversity and agriculture at serious risks. 
Moreover the diversion of water from the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, which is known as the Jamuna in Bangladesh, will largely affect two major Bangladesh rivers such as the Padma and the Meghna.
Salinity will affect even Managing, Kustia, Goalanda, Bhairab and even Dhaka will be severely affected with water level dipping at river Buriganga and Sitalakhya, said water expert Dr.Ainun Nishat and Imamul Haque.
In fact biodiversity of one-half of Bangladesh including the natural mangroves of the Sundarbans will be ruined. Agriculture, fisheries, livestock and people’s livelihood at all levels will be severely affected if India withdraws water without allowing the flows of the common rivers to the downstream. 
India always assures Bangladesh that nothing will be done without holding talks with Dhaka but the reality is that they are unilaterally doing things ignoring what concerns Bangladesh. 
Even Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Sing during his visit to Dhaka in September last year assured Sheikh Hasina that they will not take any action on Tipaimukh which may hurt Bangladesh. 
Yet Delhi has signed the contract to build the dam keeping Dhaka in the dark. So also with regard to river linking project, Delhi has always assured Dhaka on strong protest and yet they are moving with their scheme without informing Dhaka. 
Dhaka is keeping trust in Delhi but Delhi’s actions are otherwise. People wonder what Sheikh Hasina will tell the nation how she is planning to protect the country’s vital interest. 
 Elections are not far away and opposition leader and BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia made a pointed warning recently saying water issue will dominate the future course of Indo-Bangla relations. No Teesta waters, no transit, she said pointing to new controversies that await the future relations of the two nations.
BY : Faruque Ahmed.