WORLD BANK FUNDING INDIAN DAMS
It is worrying news that the World Bank may fund the Indian government’s project for construction of 16 dams on the Ganges. The scheme is not only a unilateral one but is also a violation of the international laws which clearly stipulate that such plans cannot be implemented without the lower riparian’s consent.
The Indian move must be viewed in the light of the Ganges water-sharing that the two countries signed in December 1996. The situation has changed drastically in nearly two decades. The Indian irrigation projects expanded rapidly and so did the population and the demand for water.
On the other hand, the Ganges has a reduced flow of water due to a number of factors– ranging from less melting of glaciers to human intervention of various kinds.
So, the pressing need of the hour is to keep the Ganges alive and well, but there is no doubt that the latest Indian plan of constructing 16 dams will severely obstruct and reduce the natural flow of the river at those 16 points and Bangladesh will be its worst victim. In fact, our experts have already said that the Indian project will destroy the country’s entire river system .
The World Bank, which is known as a financial institution having due sensitivity to the environmental issues, has to consider the disastrous impact of the project on a neighbouring county. In the past, the WB showed interest only in comprehensive and inclusive projects that paid due attention to the environment and other related issues. Now it should not be oblivious of Bangladesh’s stake in management of international rivers.
India, for its part, cannot violate the international laws that fully guarantee the rights of the lower riparian. New Delhi must be aware of the impact of the Farakka Dam on our rivers. Many of the rivers have already dried up and some are gasping for water to survive. Against this backdrop, the new project, designed to promote tourism, will be the last nail in the coffin of our river system.
The Indian government cannot backpedal on the Farakka agreement which clearly states that India cannot construct any dam or barrage in the upstream which would adversely affect the lower riparian Bangladesh. So, it is also a question of going by a bilateral agreement.
Obviously, the question should become an obligation when India is dealing with a friendly neighbor ready to give a patient hearing to all its concerns and address them with a sense of urgency. Bangladesh can indeed expect that the spirit of reciprocity will be upheld under all circumstances. Finally, the dams and barrages are an environmental liability that must not be constructed for making short-term gains only
DECEMBER 04, 2014