Dhaka ready to look for alternatives if talks fail
If the trans-boundary water sharing issue is not resolved through negotiations, the government would look at other options similar to what it did to resolve the maritime boundary dispute with India, said Water Resources Minister Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud.
The minister made the comment at a discussion titled "The free flow of rivers: People's perspectives" in Bangladesh Shishu Academy of the capital yesterday, which he attended as chief guest.
“Bangladesh did not hesitate to take India to the international court to resolve the dispute. The government will do whatever is needed,” said the minister while discussing the intention of India to construct 16 barrages upon the trans-boundary river Ganges.
"It is high time we constructed the Ganges barrage in the country as livelihoods of the people living in the Southwestern region are at stake," said the minister, adding that the barrage would reduce the impact of Farakka barrage as well as the adverse effects of climate change in the region.
The government is reviewing the United Nations Watercourse Convention to see whether the treaty will be beneficial to the country, he added.
Dr Abdul Matin, general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, said, “It seems that India only wants to do what is good for its economy and people. They even do not care about sufferings of the people of other regional countries.”
The government does not have a proper policy about rivers and it hardly incorporates rivers in its development plans, Matin added.
ActionAid, Bangladesh organised the programme to disseminate findings of its research project on how the lives and livelihoods of people living by the side of the Ganges and Tista have shaped with changes in the river system over the decades.
Those stories will be published in a forthcoming book titled "People of Many Rivers-Tales from the Riverbank".
Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, editor of the book, said the rivers of Bangladesh have a strong connection with the country's land, ecology, people and culture and so the country would not sustain if the rivers are not saved.
The trans-boundary rivers should be considered as a common asset of the entire region, instead of only seeking own interests, said Imtiaz, suggesting a common regional approach for the management of the rivers.
M Inamul Haq, chairman of Water and Environment, Prof Shajahan Mandal, faculty of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dr Sayeed Ali Azhar of German Development Corporation, and Sheikh Rokan of Riverine People, also spoke at the event moderated by Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid.