Govt agrees on joint Ganges Barrage Project survey with India

Mustafizur Rahman | Published: 00:46, Nov 08,2016 | Updated: 13:38, Nov 08,2016


Bangladesh has agreed on an Indian proposal to conduct a joint survey on their side of the cross-border river Padma for construction of the Ganges Barrage at Pangsa in Rajbari.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to discuss about the construction of the Ganges Barrage with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during her visit to New Delhi in the second half of December.
Foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque is scheduled to hold a meeting with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar in New Delhi on Wednesday to lay grounds for the meeting of the two PMs.
Possibilities of construction of the Ganges Barrage, signing of Teesta water sharing agreement, security cooperation, trade and
commerce, connectivity and cooperation in power sector are expected to come up in the meetings between the two sides.
A technical committee from India made the proposal to conduct a joint survey after a recent visit to the proposed barrage site to get assured that construction of such a barrage in Bangladesh would not affect the other side in India, said officials of the Bangladesh Water Development Board.
The joint committee would report to their respective governments on completion of the survey that would include a ‘study on backwater effect, river morphology and environmental and social impact assessment,’ a senior official said, referring to the agreed minutes signed at a meeting in Dhaka on October 27.
Bangladesh also agreed to share all study reports regarding the barrage with India, the official added.
‘A joint technical sub-group would be formed incorporating officials from both the countries immediately over the Ganges barrage project,’ state minister for water resources Muhammad Nazrul Islam told New Age on Sunday.
He said the technical group would report to their respective governments in six months after assessing the impacts of the barrage on both sides.
As Bangladesh shares at least 83 kilometers of the river Padma on its border with India, the implementation of the US$ 4-billion Ganges Barrage project would require the Indian cooperation, he added.
The junior minister said India’s main concern was whether the barrage construction on the Bangladesh side of the common river would have any adverse impact on their side.
‘We have assured them that not only Bangladesh but also India will benefit from the Ganges Barrage if implemented,’ he mentioned.
He said the technical team led by India’s Central Water Commission chief engineer Bhupal Singh had expressed their ‘positive interest’ in the Ganges Barrage project during a meeting in Dhaka on October 27.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina would obviously take up the Ganges Barrage issue with her Indian counterpart during her upcoming visit to New Delhi scheduled for December, Nazrul hoped.
The eight-member Indian technical team visited the site of the proposed Ganges Barrage in Rajbari on October 25-26.
An 11-member Bangladesh team of water experts led by BWDB additional director general Abdul Hai Baki held the meeting with the Indian team in Dhaka following the visit.
Bangladesh invited the Indian team in August expecting that their visit would encourage India to give its consent to construct the Ganges Barrage without further delay.
But no such survey was carried to assess the impacts of the Farakka Barrage over the same river upstream in India, said officials.
Construction of the Ganges Barrage was due to start in 2014 for completion in 2020 at a cost of US$ 4 billion. The delay in starting implementation is likely to escalate the cost, project officials said.
Bangladesh has already completed a feasibility study on the Ganges Barrage project and prepared a detailed design with provisions for checking salinity intrusion from the sea, irrigate crop fields and preserve the biodiversity of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.
In her three-point directive, prime minister Sheikh Hasina spelt out in April 2015 that the Ganges Barrage would be a joint project of Bangladesh and India.
In 1975, India commissioned a barrage across the Ganges at Farakka to divert water into the Bhagirathi-Hoogly rivers in West Bengal for the purpose of flushing the silts to improve the navigability of the Kolkata port, official documents show.
Due to the diversion, the flows in the Ganges, known as Padma after it enters Bangladesh, reduced considerably and affected agriculture, fishery, forestry, navigation and industrial development in the Ganges dependent areas in Bangladesh, said officials. 

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