Farakka Barrage, built across the Ganges River in India, is the key cause of the water crisis inside Bangladesh, said Prof Imtiaz Ahmed from the department of International Relations at Dhaka University.
“Farakka barrage is not solely a problem for Bangladesh,” said Prof Imtiaz. “It poses a problem for the people who live in the vicinity in India, too. Such an initiative proves that development projects have been undertaken without thinking about the lives of people living near the river.”
He made the comments on the concluding day of a two-day long conference titled “Water Roots Innovation”, organized by ActionAid Bangladesh in the coastal town of Kuakata in Patuakhali.
“The rivers of Bangladesh are dying. The sweet water content inside the rivers has diminished, and there has been a steady rise of salinity,” said Imtiaz.
Located in West Bengal, India, the Farakka barrage is roughly 16.5km distant from the Bangladeshi border. Built to revive the Kolkata port, it has been blamed for reducing water flow, increasing salinity and drying up the waters around the Sundarbans delta.
Bangladesh, heavily reliant on agriculture, bears the brunt of the barrage’s destructive effect.
On the concluding day of the conference on Saturday, speakers discussed various solutions aimed at reducing river water pollution and the water crisis in Bangladesh.
Water specialist and General Secretary of “Ganga Bhangon Protirodh Samity” (Ganges River Erosion Prevention Committee) of India, Toriqul Islam spoke: “When it comes to the negative effects of the Farakka barrage, we are not against Bangladesh. People of Malda and Murshidabad inside India are similarly affected.”
“People are losing their livelihoods on a daily basis because of Farakka,” continued Toriqul. “We wanted the barrage, but now it has become toxic for us.”
On the concluding day of the conference, activists from China, India and Nepal shared their stories on topics related to river conservation.
According to Prof Dr Liyan Zhang from Tianjin University in China, while industrial activities are done in the name of development, rivers get polluted, destroying people’s livelihoods. Farmers and the youth of the country can help to solve the problem, and the central leadership will have to take the initiative, he said.
Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh Farah Kabir said: “Historically, culturally and economically, our country has always been rich in the use of water and river multiplicity. Now, through regional initiatives such as unplanned development and urbanization, we are destroying the rivers.”
The Chief Whip of Bangladesh Parliament, A S M Feroz, said: “We want to save rivers. We want to remove structures near water bodies that are negatively impacting them.”
“But due to obstacles like the Farakka barrage, the rivers in Bangladesh are going to die soon,” he said. “People use the rivers without taking the water and the river’s own water flow into account. They need to start using the rivers responsibly.”