Sunday, July 19, 2009

Water wars - India V Bangladesh round 1

This is the sort of headline I expect to see a lot more of in years to come.

The question is what Bangladesh can really do about it. Wait until this sort of event occurs in the middle east.

Bangladesh Ex-PM Asks India to Scrap River Dam Plan [PlanetArk]

DHAKA - The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) asked India on Saturday to scrap a controversial dam project on a common river which experts say could make two rivers in Bangladesh dry up, affecting millions.

India has approved plans for a 1,500 megawatt project at Tipaimukh on the Barak River, which flows from northeast India into Bangladesh before emptying into the Bay of Bengal.

"We urge upon our neighbor to cancel the dam plan for the sake of millions in both countries who will be adversely affected," BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia told a meeting of politicians, experts and activists.

Experts warn that the dam could cause two Bangladeshi rivers -- the Surma and Kushiara in northeastern Sylhet -- to dry up.

Khaleda, a former prime minister, urged the Awami League government to change its "kneel-down policy toward India."

"Take a bold step against the dam, we will assist you. Don't think that you are alone," she said, adding that the planned dam was likely to become "another Farakka-like death-trap for Bangladesh."

Speakers at another seminar on Saturday called on Bangladeshis to forge a national consensus and seek international assistance to stop India from building the dam.

India commissioned the Farakka Barrage in 1974 on the river Ganges along Bangladesh's northern border to divert water to the river Hoogly to keep Kolkata port navigable.

As a result, Bangladesh faced severe water shortages during winter until a 30-year agreement was signed in 1996 to share the flow.

Critics of the new project cite environmental experts as predicting similar results this time.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina last week that he would make sure the dam did not harm her country.

They met at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on the sidelines of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement on Wednesday to discuss bilateral issues, including the dam.

Former water resources minister Abdur Razzak will head a Bangladesh parliamentary team due to visit the site of the planned dam at India's invitation from July 29.

"We will oppose the construction of the dam through diplomatic and political channels, if the dam poses a threat to our environment and ecology," Razzak, also a senior leader of the ruling Awami League, told reporters.


1 comment:

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