Ganges barrage work from 2012
The government plans to begin construction of the long-awaited Ganges Barrage in Rajbari district in December 2012 to preserve the river water during monsoon and release it during lean period.
The barrage will facilitate irrigation of about 19 lakh hectares of arable land in greater Kushtia, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna, Barisal, Pabna and Rajshahi districts, Water Resource Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen told journalists yesterday.
Revived four decades after the original initiative, the ambitious project will also allow construction of a 118 to 160 megawatt hydro power plant at the site.
"People from 19 districts will be directly benefited once the project is implemented," Ramesh said.
It will take 2-3 years to construct the main barrage, and 10-12 years to complete the project at an estimated cost of Tk 12,000 crore.
“This barrage will retain surface water. This will help replenish the sub-soil water which we are extracting in a way that is sure to cause desertification,” the minister said.
He was upbeat about the project as its feasibility study that began last year is progressing ahead of the schedule. The consultant assigned to do the job has completed 37 percent of the task till now instead of 33 percent as per schedule.
Briefing the press after the second meeting of the Feasibility Study and Detailed Engineering for Ganges Barrage Project Steering Committee, Ramesh said when the barrage is constructed, water will flow through the now dead Gorai river.
The Gorai ran dry following India's construction of Farakka barrage in the upstream in the sixties. This barrage greatly affected Bangladesh's agriculture, fisheries, forest resources and river transportation, and the rivers also started losing navigability.
Against this backdrop, the government in 1972 took the initiative to construct Ganges Barrage. But the project was shelved following the killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.
The present government revived the initiative last year by awarding a contract to an international consultant-- DDC and Associates Ltd-- to conduct a feasibility study of the project at a cost of Tk 34 crore.
Ramesh said the government will invite tender for construction of the barrage in April 2012 and the prime minister is expected to inaugurate construction work in December the same year.
Experts say implementation of this project will greatly help ensure environmental balance and preserve forest and biodiversity of the salinity-affected Sundarbans.
And it will also help restore navigability of the southern rivers fed by the Ganges system, and preserve sweet water fish resources.
In this connection, Ramesh said the government will organise workshops with experts and people concerned with environmental issues.
In reply to a question, he said the government is hopeful of signing Teesta water-sharing treaty with India by June next year.
State Minister for Water Resources Mahbubur Rahman Khokon and high officials were present at the briefing.