India’s controversial Farakka Barrage has not only been a headache for Bangladesh, but is now also proving to be a pain for its creators as well.
Although many local and international experts have previously argued against the barrage, India’s Bihar state’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar recently became the most high-profile critic to slam the construction of the barrage built on the trans-boundary Ganges.
According to the Indian Express newspaper, Nitish demanded the removal of Farakka in West Bengal that was causing the increase of silt in the Ganges.
He said the benefits from Farakka Barrage were far less than the damage being caused by it. “It is due to the barrage that the level in various rivers of Bihar have gone above previous records despite rainfall having been 14% below normal,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
The Bihar chief minister made this demand during a meeting with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Tuesday.
Nitish is the first heavy-weight Indian politician taking a stand against the barrage, which is solely responsible for making huge sufferings for the lower riparian Bangladesh during lean period.
In late 2014, nine Indian citizens – including fishermen and environmentalists – filed a writ petition with the National Green Tribunal of India against different government agencies, claiming annual compensation for the economic and geological damage caused inside India, including those caused by Farakka.
The petition claimed that the Farakka Barrage was liable for environmental losses of Rs3,226 crore annually.
Expressing his hope to get the desired compensation, one of the petitioners told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday that the writ was still in hearing stage at the National Green Tribunal.
Difficulties in Bangladesh
Hydrology experts say the Farakka barrage, which was built to revive the Kolkata port by diverting water through Hoogly river in West Bengal, dries up the lower riparian Bangladesh during dry seasons.
Causing the rise of salinity levels in southern Bangladesh was one of the most devastating outcomes caused by the 104 mighty gates of the barrage.
Prof Ataur Rahman, chairman of water resources management department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said: “Between the 1974 and 1996 period, water ruling of India through the Farakka Barrage has made vast areas of Southern Bangladesh an extreme saline-prone zone, which hampers the region’s agriculture and water sector extensively.”
Environmental lawyer and activist Syeda Rizwana Hasan said: “If India, an upper riparian of the Ganges, was facing difficulties, then the fate of Bangladesh as the lower riparian of Farakka, is easily understandable.”
Drying up tributaries like Mohananda, Gorai and Bhairob and the barrage’s unilateral withdrawal of water were other consequences suffered by Bangladesh until the 1996 signing of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty was by both countries.
Following the treaty, the situation improved to some extent as Bangladesh has been receiving a guaranteed volume 35,000 cusec of water for every ten consecutive days between March 11 to May 10 each year.