In January 1961, the Government of India announced it’s decsision to go ahead with a plan to build a barrage across the river Ganges at Farakka. This decision reflected India’s concerns to solve the problems being experienced at the port of Calcutta with the build up of silt on the river Hooghly. But the decision initiated a conflict with Pakistan (and later Bangladesh) over the much bigger issue of water utilization in the whole of the Ganges basin. When Bangladesh came into existence in 1971, it was felt that the Farakka issue would be solved affably. In May 1974 , when Sheikh Mujibur Rehman came to India ,Indira Gandhi gave a assurance not to commission the Farakka project before an agreement on the sharing of the Ganga water was reached. Therefore an interim agreement was signed in April 1975 ,covering the flow of the Ganga during the lean period ,21 April to 31 May , by whichmain portion of the water was given to Bangladesh. The two countries also agreed to operate the feeder canal with India taking her share in the following manner :-
Month Ten-day Period (Dates) Withdrawl (cusecs)
11. It was also agreed that teams consisting of experts from both countries would survey at the suitable places in both the countries the effects of the Farakka withdrawal in Bangladesh and on the Hoogly river. A joint team was also to be placed at the barrage to record the discharge into the feeder canal and residual flow into Bangladesh. However after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman in August 1975 , the military government started to malign India at every possible opportunity accusing her of taking all the water of the river . Bangladesh lodged an official protest with India on 15 January 1976 against the operation of the barrage. It also raised the issue globally , in the Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference in Islamabad in May 1976, at the Colombo Summit of the NAM in August 1976. The UN Secretary General was also apprised of the situation in April 1976.
If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!Essay Writing Service
12. After the Janata Government came to power in March 1977, negotiations were resumed. Talks were held covering various aspects of both long term and short term agreements on water sharing. In consequence the two governments signed an agreement on 5th November 1977 as a short term solution , while a feasibility study of a long term solution was left to the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission which was to submit its recommendation within three years. The data collected over time indicated that flow during the lean season was as low as 55,000 cusecs at Farakka. The expert opinion was that the minimum requirement to keep the Calcutta port navigable in the lean season of April-May was 40,000 cusecs. The remaining 15,000 cusecs was more than what Bangladesh needed during the lean season. Prime Minister Moraji Desai , however agreed to a much smaller share and give the larger quantity to Bangladesh. This noble gesture was considered a small sacrifice for a weaker and smaller neighbour for improving understanding and goodwill. The period of implementation was five years. However it came with criticism. Some called it a “sell-out” while several believed India had “masked much with little in return”. The protest of the West Bengal Government were ignored and it was not even consulted before the agreement .
13 . The Congress Government which came to power in 1980 was critical of the agreement and considered it negative to the interests of the Calcutta port. Both governments decided to terminate the the 1977 accord and commence fresh attempts to achieve a permanent solution. This was to be completed within eighteen months by the Joint Rivers Commission. The new sharing agreements agreed upon were to be imposed for the next two dry seasons i.e. 1983 and 1984. The discharges agreed upon for the first 10 days of January were 40,000 cusecs for India and 50,000 cusecs for Bangladesh. This would be reduced progressively until the ten days of April , when the individual shares for the two countries would be 20,000 and 34,500 cusecs respectively. By setting time limit both counties intended to express their serious intentions to consider each others proposal and reach a final solution .
14. With Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Bangladesh hopes rose again ,when on the conclusion of his visit on 2nd June 1985 , he expressed a keen desire and readiness to settle all bilateral disputes including the Ganga issue. The Indo-Bangladesh Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 22nd November 1985 on the sharing of Ganges dry season flow for the next three years (1986-88). Bangladesh would get 35,000 cusecs of water and India somewhat less than 40,000 cusecs during the dry season. It was also agreed that the Joint Committee of experts would look for a long term scheme , a study to be done within one year. The Joint Committee of experts and the JRC met at regular intervals throughout 1986 . Nepal was also incorporated for a possible co-operation and contribution in the Ganges water development. However the one year time limit passed and the Joint Committee study was inconclusive. The only achievement of the Rajiv-Ershad talks was the setting up of a task force co-chaired by the concerned secretaries of water resources in the two countries to deliberate upon short and long term measures. The 1985 MoU expired in November 1988 with the Indian government deciding against extension of the agreement on sharing of waters during the lean period .
15. In 1991 some informal discussions took place between Bangladesh and India. In May 1992, 1993 and 1995 it was discussed at summit level. For various reasons, mainly since the situation had become more complicated with the passage of time, the negotiations failed to achieve any impetus, unfortunately to Bangladesh’s detriment. This situation dragged on further, until 1995 with increasingly adverse consequences for Bangladesh. During the SAARC summit at New Delhi in May 1995, the then Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India, directed their respective foreign secretaries to commence talks immediately and break the impasse in the resolution of this long festering problem. During the Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit to Bangladesh in June 1995, it was agreed that a permanent sharing deal on the basis of existing dry season flow in the Ganges without involving it to the augmentation factor, may be worked out. It was further decided upon that sharing of other common rivers may also be deliberated upon on long term basis. However, no progress was made thereafter due to political uncertainties in both countries and a period of deadlock ensured virtually no high-level contacts between the two countries. The political swing in both the countries in mid-1996 seemed to have paved the way for a permanent solution.
16. In May 1996 the United Front-led coalition government came to power in India with Mr HD Deve Gowda as Prime Minister. In Bangladesh a month later the Awami League was voted back to power with Sheikh Hasina becoming the Prime Minister. These two developments, happening almost simultaneously, was the turning point for both the countries. Serious discussions for arriving at a solution began only after this change of governments. Both the sides realised the exigency of the matter and conveyed to each other their political obligation to address and resolve the issue. Both governments also shared the perception that it was necessary to come to an agreement within the year before the commencement of the next dry season. During the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary’s visit to India in August 1996, the Indian Prime Minister said that his government was very keen to see the problem resolved within the shortest possible time. In September 1996 when the Indian External Affairs Minister visited Bangladesh, the two sides had detailed talks on sharing of the Ganges water. This was followed soon by the visit of the Bangladesh Minister for Water Resources from October 28 to 1st November 1996. Later, from 9th to 13th November 1996 the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh visited India for working out the final modalities. The joint efforts of the governments of Bangladesh and India to reach at an agreeable resolution of the difficult issue of Ganges water sharing received a boost during the visit of Mr Jyoti Basu ,Chief Minister of West Bengal to Bangladesh. This round of talks was of vital importance as they narrowed the differences to bridgeable extent .
THE GANGES RIVER WATER TREATY
17. After a great deal of political negotiations and numerous rounds of high level talks Bangladesh and India signed a historic 30-year accord on sharing the Ganges water on 12 December 1996 opening a new era in relations between the two neighbours. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Indian Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda at New Delhi signed the landmark treaty. The treaty was based on the values of equality and fairplay, taking into account the interests of both nations.
Major features of the treaty are :-
(a) It will be open to both parties to seek the first review after two years to asses the impact and working of the sharing arrangement as contained in the treaty.
(b) The quantum of water to be released by India to Bangladesh will be at Farakka.
(c) The sharing will be in ten-day periods from January 1 to May 31 every year.
(d) The sharing of the waters will be on 50-50 basis when availability at Farakka is 70,000 cusecs or less.
(e) Bangladesh will get 35,000 cusecs and India the balance of flow if the availability at Farakka is between 70,000 and 75,000 cusecs.
(f) In case of availability of 75,000 cusecs or more, India will receive 40,000 cusecs and Bangladesh the rest.
(g) During the most critical month of April, Bangladesh to get a guaranteed flow of 35,000 cusecs in the first and last ten days of April and 27,633 cusecs during the period 11-20 April.
(h) If water flow at Farakka falls below 50,000 cusecs in any 10-day period, the two governments will enter into immediate consultations to make necessary adjustments on an emergency basis.
(j) India shall release downstream of Farakka Barrage water at a rate not less than 90 percent of Bangladesh’s share till such time the mutually agreed flows are decided upon.
(k) The water released to Bangladesh at Farakka shall not be reduced below Farakka except for reasonable uses of water, not exceeding 200 cusecs, by India between Farakka and the point on the Ganges where both its banks are in Bangladesh.
(l) A Joint Committee consisting of equal number of representatives of the two countries shall set up suitable teams at Farakka and Hardinge Bridge to observe and record at Farakka Barrage, the Feeder Canal, the Navigation Lock, and at the Hardinge Bridge.
(m) The Joint Committee shall submit to the two governments all data collected by it and shall also submit a yearly report to both the governments. Following the submission of the reports the two governments will meet at the appropriate levels to decide upon such further actions as may be needed.
(n) The sharing agreement under this treaty shall be reviewed by the two governments at five years interval or earlier, as required by either party.
18. Under the treaty India’s total share during the lean season (1st Jan to 31st May) amounts to about 48% of the total availability, as against 52% for Bangladesh. The schedule also specifies the three ten-day periods during which 35,000 cusecs shall be provided, alternately, to each of the two countries. For Bangladesh it was March 11-20, April1-10 and 21 to 30, and for India the dates were March 21 to 30, April 11 to 20 and May 1 to 10. The period from March 11 to May 10 is considered the critical period of the lean season as the flow of the Ganges is usually the lowest of the lean season. The agreement was arrived on the basis of the average availability of water between 1949 and 1988. India has guaranteed in the treaty that every effort would be made to protect flow availability. The major aspects of the treaty are:-
Availability at Farakka Share of India Share of Bangladesh
70,000 cusecs or less 50 % 50 %
70,000 – 75,000 cusecs Balance of flow 35,000 cusecs
75,000 cusecs or more 40,000 cusecs Balance of flow
19. The discrepancy over ‘augmentation’, which had led to an impasse in the past, has been side stepped as the treaty is in essence regarding the sharing of lean-season flows. Though the present treaty does not include a ‘minimum guarantee’ but has several scattered provisions which provide a measure of security to Bangladesh. The water treaty has already improved the bilateral relations radically. However the effects of construction of the barrage and diversion of water was felt by both countries. Some of the major effects in Bangladesh were :-
(a) Reduction in surface and ground water levels. The reduction of dry season (January-May) natural flows in the Ganges in Bangladesh reduced the hydraulic efficiency of the channel to such a degree that even during high flows in monsoons the progressive degradation of the channel and its hydraulic characteristics remains unchecked. An inevitable consequence of water reduction in the river channels is decrease in the amount of soil moisture and ground water resources.
(b) Channel morphology of the river. The channel morphology of the Ganges and its distributaries has also been affected since the commissioning of the Farakka Barrage. The Farakka Barrage included several high velocity sluices, known as silt excluders, which were intended to allow silt to flow down the Ganges. The barrage was designed so that silt-free water would be diverted down the Bhagirothi-Hooghly and the sediment load would be carried by the remaining flow on that river into Bangladesh and the sea. This deposition of silt has changed the flow of the river in Bangladesh.
(c) Navigation aspects. Since the commissioning of the Farakka Barrage, in 1975, several waterways, which are dependent on the Ganges, flows have been severely affected. A total of 685 km of waterways that were negotiable during the pre-diversion period have been affected. In little more than a decade, several important routes open to mechanized vessels had to be abandoned. Farakka did have a damaging effect and that serious interruption of the inland navigation was caused by withdrawal of Ganges water by India.
(d) Incr in levels of salinity of ground and surface water. The most devastating effect of the diversion of Ganges water has been the marked increase in salinity, in both surface water and ground water, resulting in higher soil salinity in the southwest region of Bangladesh. The increased salinity was totally explainable in the light of the increased withdrawal of the Ganges water. This has had a disastrous effect on the agricultural output as well as the eco-system.
(e) Agriculture. For Bangladesh, the reduced flow of the Ganges has had both immediate and long-term effects including lower agricultural and industrial productions, depletion of ground water reserves, depletion of soil moisture and changes in the soil structure. Agriculture being the foundation of economy in Bangladesh, expansion of irrigation facilities in the area served by the Ganges has suffered grave setbacks that retarded growth in agricultural sector.
(f) Fisheries. In Bangladesh, fishery ranks next to agriculture in economic importance. With the altered flow pattern in the rivers, the ecological characteristics positive for fish breeding grounds have also changed. Fishery has suffered, especially in the southwest Bangladesh, from reduced flow due to a combination of the following factors:
(i) Decline of perennial wetland area.
(ii) Conversion of perennial wetlands into seasonal water bodies.
(iii) Drying up of seasonal water bodies.
(iv) Prevention of spawning migration.
(g) Forest cover and environmental issues. Another devastating effect of increased salinity has been witnessed in the forestry sector. The main species of tree in this forest is Sundri (accounts for 60% of the marketable timber), does not have adaptive tolerance to high salinity. Thus the northward incursion of salinity front has begun to show a declining trend in the Sundri yield.
(h) Public health. Last, but not the least, is the concern about adverse effect in the health sector. The changed ecological situation has augmented the potential for the breeding of numerous disease vectors, and thus, health and sanitary conditions have become more perilous. Not only have safe drinking water supplies diminished on account of a fall in ground water levels, increased salinity and the worsening of the quality of ground water itself have caused a rise in the occurrence of various enteric diseases in the area.
20. The construction of the Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak river in Manipur is another matter of concern which has emerged lately. The Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project is planned to be constructed near the confluence of Barak and Tuivai Rivers in Manipur . It will have generation capacity of 401.25 MW. The main objective is to generate 1500 MW hydropower and flood control of an area of 2039 sq km. The North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) was slated to undertake the project with Manipur Govt till replaced by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC). The concerns were that the project might eat up Bangladesh’s share of the international River Meghna which supplies water to hundreds of water bodies in the region. There were also concerns some of the major rivers in Bangladesh would dry up especially during the lean season.
21. The Tipaimukh Dam is not a recent happening as the first international conference on it was held way back in December 2005 had decided against the project. The concerns in Bangladesh are based on their sour experience of severe
water shortage and many-sided impacts after Farakka Barrage was commissioned. Concerns raised include confounding environmental degradation, monetary predicament and hydrological drought. The dam would seriously restrict flow into Surma and Kushyara rivers disrupting agriculture, irrigation, drinking water supply, navigation etc and reduce ground water recharge during lean season, affecting all dug and shallow tube wells. Bangladesh gets 7-8% of its water from the Barak River. The Surma and Kushyara rivers with its various tributaries and distributaries support, irrigation, agriculture, fisheries , drinking water supply, navigation, wildlife in the complete Sylhet and the peripheral areas of Dhaka. The dam would also leave millions unemployed with the drying up of the rivers. Millions of people are dependent on the water bodies which are fed by the Barak in Sylhet region for fishing, agriculture and other associated activities. The Barak-Surma-Kushyara is an international river and Bangladesh as a lower riparian country has rights over any verdict over the river .
22. In Manipur, where the dam is to be constructed, the concerns are varied and based on three aspects. The first is the direct effect of displacement, loss of biodiversity, social and environmental impacts. The second aspect is the procedural lapses, lack of a holistic impact evaluation and limitations of developmental and ecological rules, frail enforcement mechanisms and lack of accountability norms . Lastly, the ambiguous benefits to the people of Manipur and nuances based on painful experiences from related projects such as NHPC’s 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project (NHPC) . This project is responsible for ruining the Loktak wetlands flora and fauna, submerging vast area of agricultural land, loss of species and iability to rehabilitate thousands of affected people even after almost
three decades of project commissioning in 1984. The Zeliangrong and Hmar tribes will face permanent displacement and deprivation of livelihood. Official figures state that 1,461 Hmar families will face direct displacement due to the project. The area selected for the project has recorded at least two major earthquakes of 8+ in the Richter scale during the past 50 years. The dam is proposed to be built in one of the most geologically unstable area and falls on a potential epicentre for major earthquake.
Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.View our services
23. The Indian Govt’s reply to Bangladesh concerns has long been a state of denial. The Indian High Commissioner’s statement of absence of an international law that would prevent India from constructing the dam and that Bangladesh’s concerns are based on ignorance provoked a strong resentment in Bangladesh. Experts counter reacted to his speech as totally flawed in view of the standing of the 1996 Indo-Bangladesh Ganges Water Treaty and the applicability of the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. Bangladesh experts have concurred that it is not yet binding as an “international treaty” law. However there is every reason to dispute as the Convention was adopted by a vote of 103 – 3 in the UN General Assembly and is valid as “international customary law” to Tipaimukh dam or any other project on shared rivers .
24. Diplomatic rendezvous between India and Bangladesh over the dam have been going on, latest being the meeting of the Prime Ministers at NAM summit in Egypt . The past understanding of efforts to resolve water disputes between the two countries, such as the Ganges Water sharing treaty, 1996 and setting up of Teesta
River Commission, 1997 etc, indicates likelihood of the two countries heading for establishing dialogue to resolve the differences. The resolution of this issue seriously needs a joint, comprehensive and human rights based approach to growth and understanding the concerns & recognized rights of all affected peoples. Bangladesh Govt’s statement of sending an all-party parliamentary committee to visit the dam site in end July 2009 and review the dam’s impact will be a precise step if it forms the basis for an complete process to carry out thorough impact appraisal of the dam based on recommendations of World Commission on Dams, 2000 and other appropriate Int’l law on transboundary waters. The visit can be a good foundation for a multilateral approach in addressing Tipaimukh Dam issues.
25. India should desist from constructing the dam to avoid multidimensional conflicts and snags as the project itself is potentially rife for causing conflicts amid states, between state and native people. Manipur is already rife with movements for right to self determination and any forced construction of Tipaimukh dam will only legitimize their movement to protect their land and assets. The the Govt of Manipur and NEEPCO must annul the MoU on Tipaimukh dam project signed in 2003 and commence an all-inclusive process for a just decision making process .
26. Teesta is the fourth major trans-boundary river in Bangladesh. Upstream inflow in this river provides the primary support to agricultural production in the Teesta River floodplain (TRF) in the northwest region of the country. Bangladesh constructed a barrage in 1990 to provide irrigation water for crop production in the Teesta Barrage Project (TBP) area. India also constructed a barrage on this river upstream. TBP commenced operation with partial conveyance infrastructure in 1993. The project was designed to be implemented in two phases. The phase 1 has been finished in 1998. A case study in the TBP area indicates that irrigation water supply significantly increases farm incomes. This has augmented irrigation water demands. However, one-sided withdrawal of water in India upstream, restricts irrigation water availability in the TBP area. Consequently, water sharing with India is critical in achieving food safety measures and sustainable living in Bangladesh.
27. The River Teesta or Tista is thought to be the lifeline of the state of Sikkim . It flows for more or less the complete span of the state and carves out the lush Himalayan moderate and tropical river valleys. The river then forms the boundary between Sikkim and West Bengal before it joins the Brahmaputra as a tributary in Bangladesh. Total length of the river is 315 km. The river traverses 97 km in Indian plains before entering the extreme northwest region of Bangladesh. It flows around 124 km in Bangladesh and joins Brahmaputra River. The Teesta River enters Bangladesh near Nilphamari region and flows for 45 km through the rice producingt districts of Rangpur, Lalmonirhat and Gaibandha and thereafter the Brahmaputra River in Kurigram. The Teesta River Floodplain (TRF), which encompasses the farthest northwest region of the country, accounts for 14% of the total agricultural
area in 2001. In addition, it supports approximately 8.5% of the total population. About 63% of the total crop area in the region is irrigated, signifying a direct relationship between irrigation water availability and farming land use. At present, the TRF and the area left of the Ganges River is considered to be a ‘arid zone’ .
28. The TRF is predominantly reliant on transboundary inflow for supply and managing the water resources and agricultural production. The Teesta barrage at Gazoldoba in India controls the water flow into Bangladesh. In order to augment the irrigation potential of the northwest region, Bangladesh constructed a barrage called the the Dalia barrage in Lalmonirhat district to provide irrigation water from the river by means of a canal system. During the dry season, control of the river water at Gazoldoba renders the Dalia Barrage literally ineffective for diversion of water due to low flows. Furthermore, abrupt release of excessive water during rainy season causes floods, bank erosion and damages colossal amounts of crops downstream. Steps need to be taken to study the water flow at both Gazoldoba and Dalia in order to handle high and low water flows and lessen losses .
29. Bangladesh wants to divide the water at 50:50 ratio at the Indian barrage in order to have an assured supply of half of the water all through the dry season. The proposition also considers keeping 20% of the water for ecological flow. In other words – the draft planned that Bangladesh and India would each get 40% water and 20% would go to Bay of Bengal (via Brahmaputra) for maintaining the waterway. India however proposes keeping only 10% for the river. Moreover, India wants other
factors to be considered before distributing water of this river. In case of Teesta, 85% of the agricultural land served by the river is in India and the balance 15% in Bangladesh. India wants water to be split in that proportion. The ratio of catchment area is an additional point mentioned in the disagreement.
30. The International Convention and India-Bangladesh treaty of 1996 suggests the fact that river water allocation should be impartial. An important thing to bear in mind is that impartiality does not mean equal sharing. For example, the Indus water treaty allows India to make use of approximately 20% of the water as the area under irrigation and population dependent on it are approximately in that ratio. It is a case of unbiased sharing of water resource. However if the water of Brahmaputra is divided at 50:50, it won’t be an equitable sharing as Bangladesh is tremendously reliant on it. The factors of equity are:-
Population in Catchment
2071 sq km
Catchment Irrigable Area
2071 sq km
2970 sq km
Population in Irrigable area
Plains and hilly
Area currently under irrigation
31. As future water demand is expected to rise drastically in both countries, water sharing will play a decisive role in managing water resources. Any unilateral basin shift of the river water in future will impinge on Bangladesh in terms of lesser availability of water downstream. This is likely to affect not just food security but also hinder any future planning of agriculture in Bangladesh. In future, water-related disputes are expected to surface recurrently unless necessary steps are taken. Any form of variance over water property will dissipate time and resources. A bilateral collaboration on water sharing alone is unlikely to provide solutions to the live water problems. India and Bangladesh must commence joint initiatives to construct reservoirs in India and within Bangladesh to store excess water in the rainy season for use during the dry season. An integrated flood management program has to be designed and executed during the rainy season when there is a higher incidence of normal and flash floods. An encouraging step in this direction has been taken with India assenting to share flood projection data on a constant basis thus extending the lead time for flood warning to more than 57 hours. This needs to incorporate the Teesta River exclusively to avert economic damage to crops and livelihoods .
32. Two mega projects on the Dihang (also known as the Siang river) the main tributary of Brahmaputra and on the Subansiri river in Arunachal Pradesh. These have further alleviated qualms of reduced water flow to Bangladesh.
33. . The Siang Upper HE Project is a colossal 11000 MW project to be built on the Siang River in East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The Middle and Lower Siang Hydel projects with 750 mw and 1700 mw power generating capacity are the other dams intended over the same river. The 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric project is an additional mega dam over River Subansiri, a key tributary of Brahmaputra River. Other dams over the tributaries of Brahmaputra includes the Ranganadi I and II (450 and 150 mw respectively), Kameng (600 mw), 3000 MW Dibang HE project . The construction of a series of dams over Siang River and its tributaries will further aggravate the water predicament and linked problems in Assam and Bangladesh.
Cite This Work
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:
Related ServicesView all
DMCA / Removal Request
If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: