Engineering and soil experts on Saturday said the recent deal between Bangladesh and India that allows the latter to withdraw 1.82 cusec sweet water from river Feni will seriously affect soil and agriculture of its surrounding areas.
They made the observation at a seminar on ‘Deal of withdrawing Feni river water: Bangladesh’s probable damages’ organised by the Association of Engineers, Bangladesh, at a Dhaka hotel.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at the seminar alleged the government had become a ‘a puppet’ and it had lost its ability to bargain with India for which it could not uphold the interests of Bangladesh.
Presenting the keynote paper, Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology’s civil engineering professor M Akhtar Hossain said the 140-kilometre river, originated from the hilly bordering area of Matiranga in Khagrachari and Sabroom of India’s Tripura state, flowed 94 kilometres along Bangladesh-India border and then entered Bangladesh, and 46 kilometres up to the Bay of Bengal.
He said the river was never a common river of Bangladesh and India as it was originated, flows through and ends in the Bay in Bangladesh, and never flowed in India. ‘It is absolutely a river of Bangladesh. The flow of water in the river is only 47 cusec during dry season in the months between February and April when the riven can be crossed on foot.’
The deal, signed on October 5 during prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s India visit, will allow India to withdraw 45 lakh litters of water a day legally.
Besides, he said, India had been withdrawing 35 to 40 cusec water a day by setting up 36 highly powered pumps at different points of the river illegally for years.
GK Mustafizur Rahman, professor of soil science at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University said the legal and illegal sweet water withdrawal from the river will affect the Muhuri Irrigation Project having nine lakh acres of agricultural land of Bangladesh.
‘When the farmers would not get water from the river for irrigation, they would have to extract ground water. It will increase the risk of arsenic contamination in ground water,’ he said.
Agricultural engineer Golam Mawla feared high risk of saline intrusion and arsenic contamination in arable lands by the river due to over extraction of ground water as the saline water from the bay would intrude if the river loses water.
Ashraf Uddin Bakul of the association said the withdrawal of water from Feni would take heavy toll on agriculture and nature of the area.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alleged the government cannot discuss with India on problems Bangladesh was facing.
He said the government that grabbed power forcibly had signed the deal as they do not need to consider the interest of the country as they had neither people’s mandate nor responsibility and accountability to the people.
‘Since assuming power in 2008, they are ignoring people’s interest, endangering the country’s independence and sovereignty, and destroying democracy. They have become a puppet government,’ he said.
He said the government should be ousted to solve the problem and iterated the call to hold a fresh election under a neutral government to establish people’s government.
Presided over by the association’s acting president Riyazul Islam, the seminar was also addressed by BNP vice-chairman AZM Zahid Hossain, forest and environment affairs secretary Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul and journalist Abdul Quader Gani Chowdhury, among others.
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