River water sharing needs regional approach: Bangladeshi experts

March 22nd, 2009 - 1:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, March 22 (IANS) A regional approach to river water sharing, rather than a bilateral one, would help solve the sticky issue with neighbour India as well as Nepal and Bhutan, Bangladeshi experts have said.
Speaking on the eve of World Water Day 2009, they said the water issue should be clubbed with multilateral trade while engaging with the South Asian neighbours.

New Age newspaper spoke to a number of experts on the issue of ‘Trans-boundary waters: sharing water, sharing opportunities’.

Bangladesh, which has a negative balance of trade with every country in the region, hopes that better river water flow would guarantee a more equitable trade.

Dhaka says that it has been deprived of its due share of water of trans-boundary rivers in the absence of effective water-sharing formulas and agreements with upper riparian countries, especially India.

Bangladesh shares 57 common rivers with neighbours India, Nepal and Myanmar.

It also witnesses annual flooding of rivers that erode the banks and cause destruction of human habitation, cattle and crops.

Dhaka has only one agreement with India for sharing of the Ganga [Padma] waters, but complains that India does not give due share as per the agreed formula during the lean season.

The experts also stressed that Bangladesh has failed to manage the waters available internally “because of inconsistencies between its policies and programmes”.

Speaking on the Awami League government’s plan to involve India, Nepal and Bhutan to resolve the water crisis, environmentalist Atiq Rahman said that the move would be successful only if it focused on both water and trade.

“The countries of South Asia come forward only to know when their co-benefit water and energy will be ensured. Nepal and Bhutan come when they find that an integrated project of water and energy is set to be commissioned,” Rahman, a UN environment award winner for 2008, emphasised.

Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad, said that the government’s plan to include the three neighbours would be fruitful if it focused on basin management.

“If we can design the plan integrating related issues to meet the need of both water and energy, it will definitely attract India, Nepal and Bhutan,” he added.

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