Dhaka may build barrage on Ganga

February 25th, 2009 - 12:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 25 (IANS) Bangladesh may build a barrage on the Ganga to augment water supply for agriculture and fisheries, nearly three decades after the foundation stone was laid for the project.
“We are seriously thinking of constructing the barrage as it is becoming increasingly vital for the region’s irrigation, fisheries and the environment,” Water Resources Minister Romesh Chandra Sen told The Daily Star newspaper Tuesday.

“Had the barrage been constructed, the problems would not have deepened to the present extent,” said Mir Sazzad Hossain, a member of Bangladesh-India Joint Rivers Commission (JRC).

“We would be able to resolve the crises by effectively using harnessed water if the barrage had been built,” he added.

Sen said an expert body will visit the region to finalise a site for the proposed barrage.

“We are considering the Pangsha-Sujanagar point of Rajbari and Pabna districts for the barrage, instead of the previous one near the Hardinge Bridge,” he said.

Hossain said a site for the project will be finalised after carrying out yet another model study.

The JRC exercise has been on for over 35 years now as a bilateral arrangement to work out sharing of waters of Ganga, called Padma in Bangladesh.

The two countries signed a water sharing deal which has, by and large, worked fairly well to mutual satisfaction. But problems on the ground persist.

Although the foundation stone of the project was laid in 1980, successive governments could not even finalise a site for the barrage, leading to continuing deterioration of the ecology and agriculture of southern Bangladesh.

Experts say the deteriorating situation of the rivers will also increase salinity and siltation, affecting the livelihoods of the people in the entire region, while threatening the existence of the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.

The genesis of the project dates back to 1957, when the erstwhile Pakistani regime took an initiative to build a barrage on the Padma, three km downstream of the Hardinge Bridge.

The work was started after India had started constructing the Farakka Barrage across the Ganga, about 17 km upstream from the border, according to Bangladesh Water Development Board in Kushtia.

The people of the southern region have been demanding the barrage for a long time, especially farmers and fishermen who are directly affected by less water in the rivers in dry seasons, the newspaper said.

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