Bangladesh High Commission officials say they are in touch with the Indian government to find out how these misleading news made it to the media.
The confusion arose on August 23, when reports by several Indian news outlets claimed that Delhi had ordered opening of all flood gates of Farakka to tackle flood in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Indian Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar was quoted as saying that they hoped the move would improve Bihar’s flooding.
The news was picked up by Bangladeshi news outlets. Several international news media reports claimed that opening all Farakka gates may cause floods in Bangladesh.
A highly-placed source at the Bangladesh High Commission told the Bangla Tribune that the reports raised suspicion. “The reason is simple – all of Farakka’s gates are normally kept open in the rainy season. We were surprised to read reports that Delhi has ordered to open all the gates.”
There are discrepancies in reports about the number of flood gates kept open in the monsoon.
The BBC, quoting India Water Resource Ministry PRO Sameer Sinha, reported that out of Farakka’s 104 gates, 70-80 are kept open in the rainy season. According to the report, India decided to open about 100 gates to tackle Bihar flood after consulting Bangladesh and giving it an advance notice.
A High Commission official contradicted. “We can say this with responsibility that all 104 gates of Farakka are kept open during the peak rainy season,” the official said, adding that it was a “routine matter that did not require talks or serving notices.”
“Still, we contacted Dhaka after these reports emerged. Our officials in Dhaka said they did not have talks with Delhi regarding this matter.”
But the damage had been done by then. Bangladesh media was quick to pick the news and reported that India had opened Farakka Barrage to save Bihar, inundating Bangladesh.
Another High Commission official shot back: “For the sake of argument, let’s assume that all gates of Farakka were laid bare on August 23 or 24. Have we received any reports of flooding in Rajshahi or any other parts with the rise of Padma River water level?”
A Bangla Tribune investigation also revealed that all of Farakka’s gates are normally kept open in the rainy season and so, there is no point for Delhi to order opening them.
But Delhi had to assure Bihar that it was doing everything to mitigate the flood situation in the state. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar berated Farakka Barrage during a visit to the flood-hit area on August 21.
A day later, Bihar Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh called Water Resources Secretary Shashi who told the former not to worry. Shashi reportedly said that Delhi had ordered opening of all Farakka gates which would help water recede from Bihar.
Such talks at bureaucratic-level may be quite common but the officials may have forgotten that this would convey different messages in Bangladesh. The comments were published in media and has resulted in backlash from the people in Bangladesh.
The Farakka-gate affair has rather peeved the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi. High Commission officials are requesting Indian officials to think before making comments on issues related to Bangladesh’s interest and be responsible.