Concern arising over India’s river-linking plan

The recent announcement in New Delhi to go ahead with a scheme to link 30 rivers across the country, including the Brahmaputra and the Ganga in the Himalayas, set off new concerns from Bangladesh.

New Delhi’s renewed thrust on the project has left not merely environmentalists, but also the Bangladeshi government, its opposition and the Indian opposition worried.

bd-indiaThe announcement seems to have overlooked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s very recent reiterated commitment and a joint communique signed by the two prime ministers of Bangladesh and India in 2010, Xinhua reports.

Frustrated at the announcement, Bangladesh reportedly expressed concern saying any diversion of the waters of the Himalayan rivers would go against India’s commitments to Bangladesh.

Dhaka also requested New Delhi not to implement any project to interlink rivers as it would harm Bangladesh.

New Delhi on July 13 announced its plan to go ahead to interlink four trans-boundary rivers.

Sanwar Lal Jat, Indian minister of water resources, said his ministry would soon be taking up the planning of a very important link, Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga (Brahmaputra in Bangladesh), in consultation with the governments of Assam, West Bengal and Bihar.

“This link project will not only provide large irrigation and water supply benefits to Assam, West Bengal and Bihar, but will also make available large quantities of water for subsequent transfer to southern states,” he was quoted in an official statement as saying.

In Bangladesh, the government and also the opposition parties including former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s BNP have expressed concerns over the proposed India project.

“Though it is a personal issue for India, Bangladesh’s rivers will be affected by the project,” said BNP spokesperson Asaduzzaman Ripon said.

The BNP’s international affairs secretary Ripon also said that if it is not stopped, the river-linking project will diminish the water flow of some rivers in Bangladesh.

Many leading experts echoed the same sentiments.

They have already warned the plan could result in an ecological disaster by causing water-logs, hampering transportation of silt, affecting fisheries, submerging forests and reducing water flow in transboundary rivers in downstream Bangladesh.