Saturday, March 3, 2012

Environmentalists’ outcry about Indian river linking project

Environmentalists of Bangladesh on Saturday expressed deep concern over the Indian Supreme Court order that gave the go-ahead to the country's controversial National River Linking Project. 

"If an Indian river faces any harm due to any type of water diversion by China, we condemn it. We, at the same time, also condemn any project which will cause grave harm to Bangladesh environment," said noted columnist Syed Abul Maksud.

He was speaking at a citizens’ rally organised by the Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, an environment organisation, at Fine Arts Faculty of Dhaka University. 

On February 27, the Indian Supreme Court cleared the way for the implementation of the mega project, National River Linking Project. The project that aims to link 30 major rivers and divert the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers was also opposed by other neighbouring countries and environmentalists.

The court in its order said the central Indian government and the states concerned should participate for its "effective" implementation "in a time-bound manner".

Addressing the citizens’ rally on Saturday, Maksud said, "Bangladesh and India are friendly neighbours, and it will be unfortunate if the friendly relationship breaks up due to the unilateral decision of the Indian side." 

He also asked for a friendly negotiation to settle the issue without plunging into any conflict.

Environmentalists of Bangladesh organised the rally to voice their six-point demand including scrapping of India’s National River Linking Project and Tipaimukh Dam Project. 

The river-linking project was commissioned in 1982. Bangladesh has been opposing the plan since 2002 when the then Indian premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed a taskforce to get the project going.

Prior to the assurance of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year, an Indian delegation in 2010 assured Bangladesh of not making any unilateral decisions on the Tipaimukh Dam and river-linking project during the Joint River Commission talks on the Teesta water-sharing deal.

Also in 2006 and 2005 India assured Bangladesh that it would not implement the river-linking project without discussion with Bangladesh.

India plans to divert a large portion of water from the Brahmaputra and the Ganges rivers through 30 canals, depriving and ignoring outcries of Bangladesh and some of its own states.

The dams and barrages India has built are causing problems in Bangladesh as its agriculture and environment is largely dependent on those rivers especially the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, experts said earlier. The two rivers are threatened by India's controversial project, they said.

“If they divert water from the Brahmaputra, even Dhaka would be affected by salinity,” Ainun Nishat, a water expert and vice-chancellor of Brac University, said earlier. 

The diversion of the Brahmaputra will have a serious impact on Bangladesh, which gets about two-thirds of its dry season water from the river, he said.