The Tk8,000 crore comprehensive project demonstration will mitigate the annual flood and erosion damages, the statement says
The International Farakka Committee (IFC), which campaigns for parity in water-sharing of transboundary rivers between India and Bangladesh, has welcomed the government’s move to implement a Chinese-funded project for the Teesta River, that if completed promises to remove the dependence on upstream India for its fair share of the waters.
In a statement on Saturday, it said the Tk8,000 crore comprehensive project demonstration will not only mitigate the annual flood and erosion damages, but also ensure the overall socio-economic development of the people of Bangladesh’s Northwestern region.
“The project stands for sustainable development along the 102 kilometre length of the river from the Teesta Barrage at Dalia of Nilphamari district to its outfall in the Brahmaputra via Mohipur and Kaunia,” it said, referring to the route taken by the Teesta upon entry into Bangladesh.
IFC leaders urged the government, through their statement, to approve and implement the present Teesta Project and at the same time include the original Teesta Basin under its coverage to ensure overall development of the Northwestern region of the country.
They said the Teesta in Bangladesh has practically turned into a dead river because of excessive siltation after being deprived of its natural flow for decades.
The absence of flow causes damage to the environment and sufferings to the life of the people.
Drought in the drought-prone Teesta Basin takes a devastating turn. People can cross the river on foot during the dry season.
In the wet season the entire flow of the river is released through the sluice gates of the Gajal Doba Barrage in India.
The river cannot carry this excess load of water due to lack of depth. As a result it causes devastating floods and river erosion almost the entire year.
Four waves of flood this year have pauperised the people living on its two banks.
Despite continuous assurances the Bangladesh part of the river continues to be deprived of water in the dry season.
At upstream the flow has been diverted and channeled to the Ganges. As time passes the possibility of India sharing the river’s flow looks more and more remote.
Positive outcomes of the project
Against this backdrop, the government has taken up the Teesta River project which stands for increasing the navigability of the river and recovery of 170 square kilometres of land through dredging and the establishment of satellite towns on its two banks after stabilisation of the main channel.
It would provide for setting up high value added industries and agricultural development. Solar Park, schools, health complexes, mosques, and common facilities for use of the people will feature as part of the development works.
The statement said the IFC leaders believe it’s not wise continuing to remain idle waiting for release of water as the process of desertification is getting from bad to worse in the northwestern region of Bangladesh.
This project is no substitute for ensuring the natural flow of the river to keep it alive, yet the move to mitigate the annual flood and bank erosion damages and ensure improvement of the quality of life of the people of the region through integrated development activities are expected to meet with success.
When the compulsion of restoring the natural flow of the river will arise at upstream due to the law of nature, the Bangladesh part of the Teesta will have a new lease of life.
IFC leaders say, the overall development of the Northwestern region of Bangladesh will be complete if the present project is expanded to include the old and original Teesta Basin covering The Atrai, The Korotoa and The Punarbhaba rivers.
If this is done the command area of the project will cover 28,000 square kilometres as against the present 4,000 square kilometres.
The huge Chalan Beel can be used to retain water and facilitate fish and duck farming in the wet season and irrigation in the dry season.
If the rivers get back their navigability, cheap water communication will promote the development of industries including agro-based industries.
Attractive river-based tourist facilities will develop. The groundwater level in the region will go up and help keep all tube-wells operational throughout the year.
The statement has been signed by IFC New York Chairman Atiqur Rahman Salu, Secretary General Sayed Tipu Sultan, IFC Bangladesh President Prof Jasim Uddin Ahmad, Senior Vice-President Dr SI Khan, and IFC Coordinator Mostafa Kamal Majumder.