Not much water yet under the Hardinge Bridge

Published: 00:00, Jul 03,2019


INDIA has continued depriving Bangladesh of its guaranteed share of the Ganges water for 65 per cent of the time in critical dry periods in breach of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty that Dhaka and New Delhi signed in New Delhi in December 1996. The signing of the treaty, valid for 30 years and, therefore, scheduled to expire in 2026, was then largely seen as a major irritant in the Bangladesh-India relations having been removed. But after 23 years of the signing, it still remains prickly especially when it comes to the fair share of the Ganges water. A statistical analysis of the post-treaty data, from 1997 to 2016 — as noted in a study, ‘A critical review of the Ganges water sharing arrangement’, conducted by a team of four from the Bangladesh water resources ministry, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Wageningen University and Research of the Netherlands and Alberta Environment and Parks of Canada and put in the public domain early this year — as New Age reported on Monday, shows that Bangladesh frequently did not receive its fair share during the most critical periods of dry season when the demand for water was relatively high in both Bangladesh and India.

Bangladesh also received a substantially low quantity of water than the indicative share keeping to the treaty during six critical periods of March 11–May 10. Most of the times, flows at the Hardinge Bridge in Bangladesh was recorded unusually lower than the stipulated release from Farakka in India. The study further shows that Bangladesh did not receive its guaranteed 991 cubic metres per second flow for 10 out of the 12 alternate events in 2008–2011 and the overall 31 per cent of times, in 94 out of 300 events, Bangladesh received less water at the Hardinge Bridge compared with what was presumably released from the Farakka point. This is a single case where water sharing of a transboundary river is subject to a bilateral agreement. There are at least 53 more rivers in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system where water sharing is yet to come under any framework. While a Bangladesh official of the Joint Rivers Commission is quoted to have explained the issue by saying that low-flow events might take place for the shortage of water during dry seasons, which apparently may not make the case at hand, experts suggest a guarantee clause to safeguard the fair share for Bangladesh in extreme low-flow events.

This all seems to have happened and to be happening because of the capitualistic policy of successive Bangladesh governments and their inability at holding effective negotiations with the other party, New Delhi, to the agreement. But the ‘friendly’ India is no less to blame as it has showed high-handedness of a sort in not just issues of common river water sharing but in most other issues that have remained prickly for Bangladesh and its relations with India. It is time New Delhi realised that a display of such high-handedness might only add to the sentiment prevalent in Bangladesh against India. It is also time Dhaka effectively held negotiations with New Delhi to iron out the issues. A growing sentiment against India because of Delhi’s high-handedness is no good for either India or Bangladesh, especially the Awami League which effected the treaty on the Ganges water sharing in 1996.

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