Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday said her government had postponed the construction of the Padma River barrage because of design flaws and that India will become a party to the project after some improvements are made.
Terming the current proposal as suicidal, the premier said the barrage will now be set up jointly with India after corrections are made to the design.
“If we try to implement the project with the current design, the country will fall into trouble rather than getting any benefit,” the premier said at a media briefing at Ganabhaban on her recent tour to India.
Bangladesh started work on the proposed Padma Barrage Project during the tenure of the previous Awami League government in the late 1990s.
One of its major objectives is to reduce the pressure of salinity which is gradually moving upstream because of the weak water flow in the Ganges River, which flows through Bangladesh as the Padma.
Experts believe most of the salinity problem in Bangladesh is linked to the construction of the Farakka barrage in the Indian state of West Bengal. After the barrage opened in 1975, there was a drop in water flow in the Padma, which has eventually led to increased water and soil salinity in the southwestern part of Bangladesh, adversely affecting around 6,200 hectares of farmland.
The proposed dam would span 2.1 kilometres between Habashpur of Rajbari district and Lalkhan of Shujanagar upazila under Pabna district, around 98 kilometres downstream from the Farakka Barrage.
Experts have long said, however, that it would be difficult to push forward with the project in the absence of support from New Delhi.
The Indian government said in 2015 that its technical experts were concerned the dam could cause flooding in India, since the Ganges flows through flat terrain in West Bengal and even a slight increase in the river’s water level could cause huge submergence.
The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that a joint team of Bangladeshi and Indian experts were conducting a feasibility study on the barrage to devise the perfect design.
According to the Ministry of Water Resources, the southwestern region of Bangladesh will benefit greatly from the barrage, which is planned to generate about 100MW of electricity.