Thursday, May 19, 2016

India's Plan to Divert Ganges & Brahmaputra Rivers Alarms Bangladesh

New Delhi is starting massive series of new projects to divert water from major rivers in the north and the east of the country to India's drought-stricken western and southern regions. This news has sounded alarm bells in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, according to the UK's Guardian newspaper.

The $400 billion project involves rerouting water from major rivers including the Ganga and Brahmaputra and creating canals to link the Ken and Batwa rivers in central India and Damanganga-Pinjal in the west. Its target is to help drought-hit India farmers who are killing themselves at a rate on one every 30 minutes for at least two decades.

The Indo-Gangetic Plain, also known as Indus-Ganga and the North Indian River Plain, is a 255 million hectare (630 million acre) fertile plain encompassing most of northern and eastern India, the eastern parts of Pakistan, and virtually all of Bangladesh, according to a Wikipedia entry.

India and Pakistan have a formal internationally-brokered and monitored treaty called Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) signed in 1960 between Indian Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan President Ayub Khan in Karachi.

The IWT allocated water from three eastern rivers of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej for exclusive use by India before they enter Pakistan, while the water from three western rivers of Jhelum, Chenab and Indus was allocated for exclusive use of Pakistan. The treaty essentially partitioned the rivers rather than sharing of their waters. The treaty also permits India to build run-of-the-river hydroelectric projects on the western rivers but it can not divert any water from them for its own use.

In the east, River Ganga upon reaching the Indian state of West Bengal splits into two main branches, the Hooghly which continues its course south into West Bengal and the Padma that flows into Bangladesh. Similarly, the Brahmaputra upon reaching Bangladesh splits into two main distributaries, the Jamuna and the Meghna. Both enter Bangladesh at different points.

At least 100 million Bangladeshis living downstream in Jamuna (Brahmaputra) and Padma (Ganga) river basins will be hit hard if India carries out the project as planned.

Alarmed by this development, Bangladesh’s minister of water, Nazrul Islam, has pleaded with the Indian government to take Bangladesh’s water needs into consideration, noting that 54 of 56 Indian rivers flowed through his country.

Bangladesh is already suffering from India's increasing withdrawal of Ganges water in recent years. India has built at least 26 water diversion projects upstream the Ganges which has led to crop failure and even desertification of certain areas in the lower riparian Bangladesh, according to Dhaka Tribune.

Unlike the internationally-brokered and monitored Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between Pakistan and India, there is no similar water-sharing treaty between Bangladesh and India. The 1996 Farakka treaty has done little to help Bangladesh.  It is dependent entirely on the good-will of the rulers in Delhi for its water life-line.

Will Modi respond positively to the pleas of his strong ally in Bangladesh's Shaikh Hasina to take its eastern neighbor's water needs into consideration? Will Modi assure Bangladesh by signing a binding water-sharing treaty along the lines of the Indus Waters Treaty? Unfortunately, the history suggests otherwise.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Water-Scarce Pakistan

Indian Farmer Suicide One Every 30 Minutes

Recurring Floods and Droughts in Pakistan

Indian Media Coverage of Regional Issues

Shaikh Hasina's Witch Hunt


Anonymous said...

Does The Dalali AL Government Have Enough Spine to Take It Up With India????? I Doubt It

Javed R. said...

The water is only one issue, The greatest threat to B Desh sovereignty lies in India, this government is particularly aggressive to neighbors . There was for a long time an understanding between SARC countries that cooperated to have a counter weight to India and its aggression. Bangladesh PM to cling to power, unlawfully I might add, has chosen to be super friendly with Modi and Co. this is a serious error

Syed S.S. said...

Hasina has sold her soul to Modi/India and they can take advantage of her and the situation to their hearts desire. Pakistan should vocally support BD if they elect to go to any world body to complain about the situation.

Anonymous said...

These matters will be center point of wars
btw future
and this prediction will come true around
world that...future wars will be on Water
and natural resources..Countries will
kill others peoples to feed theirs own

Singh said...

Are Bhai, that project is to link all the Rivers of the India, so that in those areas, which have floods, the extra water could be diverted to those areas, where the extra water is needed, and will help in the inter river transportion. And in reality will help Bangladesh, and protect them from the floods, which disroyed the fields in the flood zone. It is not stopping the water which Bangladesh have the right.

Riaz Haq said...

From Wall Street Journal May 9, 2016:

A river that flows through India, China, Bangladesh and Bhutan is churning up the issue of water security in a fast-developing region.

The river–which is called Brahmaputra in India–is a source of tension between India and China and how those two countries are managing it affects Bangladesh downstream, a new report by Washington-based nonprofit, CNA Analysis and Solutions says.

The report, titled “Water Resource Competition in the Brahmaputra River Basin: China, India, and Bangladesh,” recommends ways the countries can stop the issues from drifting out of control.

Here’s a brief rundown of the report.

Where does the river flow?
The river originates in China, where it is known as the Yarlung Tsangpo. It then flows through India and Bangladesh, before entering the Bay of Bengal. Part of the river’s basin is also in Bhutan. In India, it runs through six states in the country’s east and northeast covering a distance of about 570 miles. In parts of India, it is also known as the Siang and in Bangladesh, as the Jamuna.

The river’s basin covers 580,000 square kilometers (224,000 square miles) through the four countries. The World Bank estimates that India and China occupy 50% and 34% of that area.

Why is the river important to China?
The river is strategically important for China, mainly for its hydropower potential. The report said China has already built one hydropower dam on the river and plans to raise four more. China is worried about India’splans to build hydroelectric dams in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, whose border is disputed by both countries.

China worries that plans to build on the river could “strengthen India’s ‘actual control’ over the disputed region and complicate border negotiations,” the report said. This could amplify tensions between India and China.

And, to India?
For India the waterway is one of its seven major rivers and is of immense political significance, the report said. Upholding rights on the river isn’t only key to India to consolidate its existing control over land that is contested with China, but also to cater to its need to manage flooding and soil erosion in the country’s northeast.

What do the recommendations say?
The report recommends an increase in sharing of hydrological data by India and China. China does so during the flood season and itshould consider offering “real-time, year-round river flow data to India,” the report says. India should do the same.

India should disclose how many dams it plans to build, the report said.

It also recommends an annual three-nation dialogue with participation from university and think-tank scholars from India, China and Bangladesh to discuss not just diplomatic, but scientific aspects of water-sharing, like potential ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Anonymous said...

When Mujib was killed in 1975, not a single person in BD cried for him. Haseena hasn't forgotten that, she is taking revenge from everyone she can think of.

Sardarji, the problem is that India has a bad reputation, no one in the neighborhood trusts them and for very good reason.

G. Ali

Unknown said...

not into Bangladesh and it's about Bengalis about as much as they care about Pakistanis.......none nada niet and I sugest other Pakistani's should get over it too

Riaz Haq said...

#India should resist being too ambitious about gdp growth: #RBI gov Raghuram Rajan - The Economic Times. #Modi #BJP

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has said India should restrain itself from being "too ambitious" at a time when the world is full of uncertainties and instead focus on sensible policies to ensure a sustainable economic growth.

"Given great uncertainty about outlook and policies of others in these times, a country like India should try to take sensible measures without getting too ambitious, as we have done so far," Rajan said, delivering the Mahtab Memorial Lecture in Bhubanesw ..

"This will serve as a sound basis for strong and sustainable Indian growth as the world economy picks up," Rajan, whose remarks comparing the Indian economy with an one-eyed king in a blind world led to a controversy, added.

The Indian government has been working hard to fasten the GDP growth and aspiring to take it to the double-digit mark from the current 7.5 per cent in the medium term.

Riaz Haq said...

SQA: "not into Bangladesh and it's about Bengalis about as much as they care about Pakistanis.......none nada niet and I sugest other Pakistani's should get over it too"

We need to differentiate between Indian puppet Shaikh Hasina and the ordinary Bangladeshis. They should not be made to suffer for her sins.

Majumdar said...

Prof sb,

Two points.

1. The plan is a non starter, the amount of land that has to be acquired is humungous and given our travails with land acquisition, it is unlikely ever to be implemented. Plus, the cost is so large that it will bankrupt the govt.

2. The plan is a hare brained one. There are much better ways, short-term result oriented and low cost ways of drought proofing India - rainwater harvesting, watershed management, no till agriculture, cropping patterns (switching from paddy-sugarcane monocultures to more coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds).


Anonymous said...

"Sardarji, the problem is that India has a bad reputation, no one in the neighborhood trusts them and for very good reason."

This coming from a Pakistani is bit rich, since even neighboring islamic countries have better relations with India than Pak.

Check the comments:

Anonymous said...

This coming from a Pakistani is bit rich, since even neighboring islamic countries have better relations with India than Pak."

Same can be said about India. The smaller brotherly "Hindu" country has better relations with China than with India, they are always fearful of becoming the next Sikkim.

G. Ali

Riaz Haq said...

Why #Bangladesh is a bigger threat to #India than #Pakistan today. #ISIS #AlQaeda #Taliban … via @oneindia

The worry is of course the radicals' reaching the eastern border and the opportunity is to bring Dhaka closer to New Delhi than it is to Beijing for China has shown a determination in challenging India by encircling it through the smaller countries in South Asia. New Delhi needs to engage with Bangladesh for it poses a bigger security threat than Pakistan today. At the same time, it offers a huge economic opportunity to integrate South Asia like never before. IS has a better chance of reaching India via the eastern front The IS has a better chance to flourish in Bangladesh and enter India from the east for two reasons: first, the IS has a bigger challenge to reach India from the west owing to the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bangladesh, on the other other hand, is a more fertile territory for the IS to grow, thanks to the country's shrunk space for media and other freedom and the inability of the government to deal with the problem. Secondly, India has a more clumsy border to the east which is also given lesser strategic significance compared to that with Pakistan or China. We have seen in the recent past how extremist elements have been entering easily in the border state of West Bengal and conducting sinister activities. If New Delhi doesn't act to tighten things up in the east, the potential of India-Bangladesh relations could not just be ruined but even India's internal security would be jeopardised.

Read more at:

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpts from a right-wing Hindu publication on the history of water issues between India and Pakistan:

Following the partition of the sub-continent, India and Pakistan signed a "standstill agreement" on 18 December 1947 which guaranteed to maintain water supplies at the level of allocation in the pre-partition days. However, on 1 April 1948, India without any warning cut off supplies to Pakistan from both Ferozepur and Gurdaspur. The action was contrary to the letter and the spirit of the international law covering interstate river waters. The Barcelona Convention of 1921 on interstate river waters to which India was a signatory disallowed every State to stop or alter the course of a river which flowing through its own territories went into a neighbouring country and also forbade to use its waters in such a way as to imperil the lands in the neighbouring State or to impede their adequate use by the lower riparians. But India as the upper riparian of the Indus rivers was in a position of strength. India could deflect the Beas into the Sutlej above Bhakra or divert the Ravi into the Beas at Madhopur. It could construct a dam on Wular lake in the Kashmir valley and dry up the river Jhelum. A headwork on the Chenab at Dhiangarh, north of Jammu, could deflect the Chenab from its natural course into Pakistan. The major projects of the Bhakra, Pong and Thein dams then in the offing, if completed, could drain off the rivers of Sutlej, Beas and Ravi.


The Indus water Treaty was signed at Karachi on 19 September, 1960 by Prime Minister Nehru and President Ayub Khan. Under the agreement India promised to supply waters to Pakistan for the payment of expenses for operating the Madhopur and Ferozepur head works and their carrier channels, and also to contribute Rupees 100 crore for construction of replacement headworks to Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

I know that Indian hawks have persuaded Shaikh Hasina that Pakistan is the source of all evil and JI and BNP are ISI agents.
Such thinking is being seen by the rest of the world as myopic. Suppressing all political dissent might help Hasina consolidate her power in Bangladesh in the short term but it poses a serious long-term threat to the security and stability of Bangladesh.
Hasina needs to recognize that squeezing moderate Islamists like JI will drive further radicalization in the country and create even larger space for international terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Who terrorized Dhaka & Istanbul? Why were these cities targeted by terrorists? Is terror spreading farther and wider after recent foreign military interventions to check ISIS in Syria? Can military force alone end terror? If not, what else needs to be done?

Riaz Haq said...

From Indian diplomat-politician Sashi Tharoor:

The possibility of India revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty signed with Pakistan in 1960 has also aroused some strategists, and even MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup, who said pointedly that “any cooperative arrangement requires goodwill and mutual trust on both sides”.
Under the treaty, India has control over three eastern rivers — Beas, Ravi and Sutlej —and Pakistan the western rivers of the Chenab and Jhelum. Swarup darkly hinted that it was in jeopardy: “For any such treaty to work, it is important there must be mutual trust and cooperation. It cannot be a one-sided affair.”
But the treaty under which the waters of the Indus and its five tributaries are distributed between the two countries is not purely a bilateral affair; it was brokered by the World Bank, whose involvement will be automatically triggered if India unilaterally abrogates it.

Nor can it be done like turning off a tap; various measures would be required to ensure that Indian cities do not get flooded with the water that is no longer flowing to Pakistan.

And then, we would set a precedent and we would be loath to see China follow on the Brahmaputra, where it is we who are downstream. We have long been a model state in our respect for international law, and our adherence to morality in foreign policy, even offering humanitarian assistance to Pakistan after earthquakes and floods.
Starving people by cutting off their water would be profoundly unworthy of us. This is why the treaty has, as Omar Abdullah recently pointed out, survived four wars and a unanimous resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly calling for its scrapping.
Under the existing Treaty provisions, however, India is entitled to make use of the waters of the western rivers for irrigation, storage, and even for producing electricity, in a “non-consumptive” manner, through “run-of-the-river” projects that do not reduce the ultimate flow to Pakistan.
Oddly enough, we have never taken advantage of these provisions, which are exactly what the Chinese say they are doing with their frenetic dam building on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra, upstream from India. If we were simply to do what we are allowed to under the Treaty — we are entitled to store up to 3.6 million acre feet on the western rivers — it would be a more effective signal to Pakistan than arch statements from the MEA.

Riaz Haq said...

As #India threatens #IWT with #Pakistan, #China blocks tributary of #Brahmaputra in #Tibet for dam via @timesofindia

BEIJING: China has blocked a tributary of the Brahmaputra river in Tibet as part of the construction of its "most expensive" hydro project+ , which could cause concern in India as it may impact water flows into the lower riparian countries.
The Lalho project on the Xiabuqu river+ , a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo (the Tibetan name for Brahmaputra), in Xigaze in Tibet involves an investment of 4.95 billion yuan ($740 million), Zhang Yunbao, head of the project's administration bureau was quoted as saying by Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency on Saturday.
Xigaze also known as Shigatse is closely located to Sikkim. From Xigaze, the Brahmaputra flows into Arunachal Pradesh.
Terming it as the "most expensive project", the report said the project, whose construction began in June 2014, was scheduled to be completed in 2019.
It is not clear yet what impact the blockade of the river+ will have on the flow of water from the Brahmaputra into the lower riparian countries like India and Bangladesh as a result, it said.
Last year, China had operationalised the $1.5 billion Zam Hydropower Station, the largest in Tibet, built on the Brahmaputra river, which has raised concerns in India.

Riaz Haq said...

#India’s $168 billion river-linking project is a disaster-in-waiting. #Ganga #Brahmaputra #Bangladesh via @qzindia

India’s incredibly ambitious—and some say, incredibly reckless—Rs11 lakh crore ($168 billion) project to interlink its rivers is finally underway.
On Sept. 16, the Godavari and Krishna rivers—the second and the fourth longest rivers in the country—were linked through a canal in Andhra Pradesh. The project was completed at a cost of Rs1,300 crore ($196 million). A second scheme, the Ken-Betwa river project—estimated to cost Rs11,676 crore ($1.7 billion)—is currently under development, with completion likely by December this year.
This is a part of the Narendra Modi government’s plan to revive the river-linking project, which was first envisioned in 1982, and actively taken up by the Bharatiya Janata Party government under prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002.

Here is how the river-linking project works: The big idea is to connect 37 Himalayan and peninsular rivers. So, water-surplus rivers will be dammed, and the flow will be diverted to rivers that could do with more water. In all, some 30 canals and 3,000 small and large reservoirs will be constructed with potential to generate 34 gigawatt of hydroelectric power. The canals, planned between 50 and 100 meters in width, will stretch some 15,000 kilometres.
“If we can build storage reservoirs on these rivers and connect them to other parts of the country, regional imbalances could be reduced significantly and lot of benefits by way of additional irrigation, domestic and industrial water supply, hydropower generation, navigational facilities etc. would accrue,” India’s National Water Development Authority describes the project on its website.
The project is expected to create some 87 million acres of irrigated land, and transfer 174 trillion litres of water a year. Also, half a million people are likely to be displaced in the process, according to a report (pdf) by Upali Amarasinghe, a senior researcher at the International Water Management Institute.

Ecologists and environmentalists warn that the project is imprudent and dangerous, especially since there is little clarity on the ultimate impact on such a massive undertaking.

Riaz Haq said...

India's river-linking project will be disastrous: Water man Rajendra Singh

For the ‘Water man of India’ Rajendra Singh, who turned around life in the arid regions of Rajasthan with his inventive water conservation techniques involving the local communities, the steps taken by the Modi government in this sector have been disheartening. Prime among his concerns is the strong push by the government towards interlinking India’s rivers.

“This will be disastrous for my country. It will displace a lot of people and cause undesirable effects, with floods on one side and drought on the other. Rivers are not like roads. They have own gene pool and own life. What we need is the linking of our heart and brain with the river. This involves conservation projects involving the local communities. Linking of rivers will lead to privatisation of water resources,” he says. He was talking to The Hindu during his visit to the city to participate in a seminar on the revival of the Bharathapuzha on Tuesday.

Back in 2002, when the previous BJP government mooted the idea, he was the first one to study its after-effects, by travelling across the country to all rivers proposed to be linked. When the UPA government came, he presented his impact studies and the project was shelved, only to be revived under the Modi government.

“I have been a member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority from 2009. When the new government came, I was removed from it. They do not listen to the concerns we raise. No dissent is allowed under the Modi government,” says Mr. Singh.

Growing up in a Zamindari family in Uttar Pradesh, discussions with his teachers and farmers contributed to his understanding of life around him.

“But my father never gave me any liberty. When I completed my education, I joined government service and my father got me married. Three years went by and in 1984, when my wife went home to give birth to my son, I quit my job, caught a bus from Jaipur and took a ticket to the last stop.”

He landed in Kishori village, near Gopalpura, where he set up a small clinic. But, 72-year-old Mangu Meena, an elder of that village, told him that the village needs water, more than education and medicine.

“He showed me underground aquifers inside wells and taught me the methods to recharge such aquifers.”

He built water banks on the earth and check-dams to hold back water in the wet season, to recharge groundwater and thus retaining the water even in summer. He involved the communities living along these rivers, making them owners of the resources. Three decades later, the model has spread across Rajasthan and elsewhere, creating villages with surplus water even in summer. In 2001, he won the Magsaysay Award for community leadership. Earlier this year, he won the ‘Stockholm Water Prize’, known as the Nobel Prize for Water.

Riaz Haq said...

Chinese engineers plan 1,000km tunnel to make Xinjiang desert bloom

Chinese engineers are testing techniques that could be used to build a 1,000km tunnel – the world’s longest – to carry water from Tibet to Xinjiang, experts involved in the project say.

The proposed tunnel, which would drop down from the world’s highest plateau in multiple sections connected by waterfalls, would “turn Xinjiang into California”, one geotechnical engineer said.

China’s longest tunnel is the eight-year-old 85km Dahuofang water project in Liaoning province, while the world’s longest tunnel is the 137km main water supply pipe beneath the city of New York.

However, the Chinese government started building a tunnel in the centre of Yunnan province in August that will be more than 600km long, local media reported. Comprising more than 60 sections, each wide enough to accommodate two high-speed trains, it will pass through mountains several thousand metres above sea level in an area plagued by unstable geological conditions.

Researchers said building the Yunnan tunnel would be a “rehearsal” of the new technology, engineering methods and equipment needed for the Tibet-Xinjiang tunnel, which would divert the Yarlung Tsangpo River in southern Tibet to the Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang. Downstream, in India, the river becomes the Brahmaputra, which joins the Ganges in Bangladesh.

The Tibetan Plateau stops the rain-laden Indian Ocean monsoon from reaching Xinjiang, with the Gobi Desert in the north and the Taklimakan Desert in the south leaving more than 90 per cent of the region unsuitable for human settlement.

However, the Taklimakan sits right at the foot of the Tibetan Plateau, which is known as the water tower of Asia. The more than 400 billion tonnes of water it releases each year – almost enough to fill Lake Erie in the United States – also feeds the source of other major rivers, including the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong (known in China as the Lancang) and the Ganges.

The earliest proposals to divert water from Tibet to Xinjiang were made by Qing dynasty officials Lin Zexu and Zuo Zongtang in the 19th century. In recent decades, Chinese government branches, including the Ministry of Water Resources, have come up with engineering blueprints involving huge dams, pumps and tunnels.

The project’s enormous cost, engineering challenges, possible environmental impact and the likelihood of protests by neighbouring countries have meant it has never left the drawing board, but Zhang Chuanqing, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics in Wuhan, Hubei province, said China was now taking a quiet, step-by-step approach to bring it to life.

“The water diversion project in central Yunnan is a demonstration project,” said Zhang, who has played a key role in many major Chinese water tunnel projects, including the one in Yunnan. “It is to show we have the brains, muscle and tools to build super-long tunnels in hazardous terrains, and the cost does not break the bank.”

The construction of the tunnel on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, the country’s second-highest, would make political leaders more confident about the Tibet-Xinjiang project and more likely to approve it, he said.

The Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau in southwest China is, like the Tibetan Plateau, an earthquake-prone zone with many active faults.

Riaz Haq said...

India and Bangladesh in talks for major river agreement ahead of PM Hasina’s visit

India and Bangladesh are likely to ink at least one major river agreement later this month, The Hindu has learned. The planning for the agreement is being tightly guarded by officials on both sides as water sharing between the two countries is considered to be a sensitive subject given the fact that it often takes political meaning.
Apart from the major agreement(s) under discussion, sharing of data of river waters and better flood control planning are expected to feature in the upcoming meeting of the Joint River Commission (JRC) that will meet in the last week of August ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's September 6-7 India visit.Also Read | Good neighbours: On India-Bangladesh tiesIn response to a query, The Hindu learned that there is a "strong possibility" that an agreement on the Kushiyara that flows from Assam into Bangladesh is part of one such agreement that may get "done" during the JRC. A diplomatic source also hinted at a "major agreement" involving the Ganga may also be taken up as there is a "strong urge" to achieve a big river agreement ahead of Prime Minister Hasina's visit, which may be her last trip to Delhi before Dhaka goes into election mode next year.Teesta waters agreementThe Awami League government has been insistent on sealing the Teesta waters agreement, which has eluded settlement so far. Ms. Hasina visited India during October 2019 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Dhaka in March 2021 and during all high-level interactions, Bangladesh conveyed its urgency over the Teesta issue.In that context, Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami had earlier referred to  “domestic challenges” hinting at the role of the West Bengal government, while explaining the delay in the Teesta waters agreement. However, it is understood that India has agreed to offer Bangladesh a package on river waters-related deals that will be considered a significant advancement in terms of sharing of river resources with Dhaka.Also Read | India, Bangladesh should work on river management: JaishankarWhile political ties between Delhi and Kolkata have been a reason that apparently stalled Teesta waters, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was in Delhi last week and met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on issues that are relevant to her state. Ms. Banerjee's visit, which came in the backdrop of the tightly-guarded India-Bangladesh negotiation, has contributed to the speculation on river water sharing between India and Bangladesh.Other rivers in focusConvening the JRC has been a long-pending demand of Bangladesh as the ministerial-level meeting was last held in 2010. While several rivers-related developments have unfolded between the two sides in the meantime that need to be given a coherent policy-related shape, the JRC is the suitable platform for such initiatives.It is understood that the next JRC will focus on the "positive side" and take the negotiation beyond the Teesta and to "other big rivers" and intensify collaboration on the rivers like Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gomti, Dharla and Dudhkumar, where India and Bangladesh have greater scope of collaboration. Trans-boundary rivers constitute an important component behind the recent economic success of Bangladesh as it generates livelihood for millions in the country.Bangladesh and India share 54 rivers and Dhaka has been keen on accessing more data from the Indian side to plan better fisheries and flood control strategies. 

Riaz Haq said...

India’s growing control over Bangladesh worries experts
Kushiyara agreement termed unfair, diesel import through pipeline to strengthen India’s control

India’s control over Bangladesh is growing thanks to the latter’s decision to unnecessarily increase dependence on its neighbour, speakers at a press conference organised by Sarbojonkotha, a Bangla quarterly journal, observed on Saturday.

The latest agreement over sharing of the Kushiyara river water is not fair, they said, expressing surprise at the necessity of seeking India’s permission when Bangladesh has its own rights to lift the river water that is inside Bangladesh.

India has already built 12 irrigation projects and power plants in the upstream along the river even without bothering to ask for permission from Bangladesh in the downstream, they noted.

‘Bangladesh’s dependence on India is being unnecessarily increased. The dependency may be useful for the government but does not appear to benefit ordinary people,’ said Sarbojonkotha editor Anu Muhammad.

He said that Bangladesh planned to increase electricity import from India despite having excessive installed generation capacity.

‘India’s control over Bangladesh is strategically beneficial to a vested quarter in India and Bangladesh,’ said Anu Muhammad.

He demanded that border killings by the India’s Border Security Force be probed independently through the UN mediation.

Dhaka University teacher Moshahida Sultana presented a keynote paper at the virtual press conference held in the morning.

The keynote paper said that electricity import from India would soon contribute 16 per cent of the overall installed power generation capacity of Bangladesh.

‘Once the trans-border under-construction pipeline is established, Bangladesh will become dependent on India for meeting more than 20 per cent of its energy demand,’ she said.

The dependency is destined to strengthen India’s control over Bangladesh, she said, potentially opening a window for India’s interfering with Bangladesh’s internal affairs.

Bangladesh can save about $11 by refining imported crude oil in its own refineries but prefers instead to rely on India for refining oil through the construction of tarns-border pipeline which is said to save $2, said Moshahida.

The agreement for withdrawing water from the Kushiyara river in downstream was described as unfair by Md Khalequzzaman, who teaches geology at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania in the United States.

India filled up canals and other infrastructures along the Barak River in the upstream, he said, reminding its adverse impacts on downstream.

Bangladesh recently reached an agreement with India for lifting 153 cusec of water from a Barak tributary, Rahimpur canal, which flows inside Bangladesh.

‘The agreement sets a bad precedent,’ he said, asking, ‘Why is there a necessity to seek permission from India for lifting water from a canal inside Bangladesh?’

Benefits of the Kushiyara agreement have been exaggerated, he said, adding that the water Bangladesh has permission for lifting from the river can irrigate maximum 3,750 hectares of land.

Riaz Haq said...

India’s growing control over Bangladesh worries experts
Kushiyara agreement termed unfair, diesel import through pipeline to strengthen India’s control

India has been lifting Kushiyara water apparently even without asking Bangladesh for a long time, Khalequzzaman said while presenting his keynote paper.

Dhaka University teacher Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan in his keynote paper highlighted border killing by the India’s Border Security Force citing an issue of the US-based Foreign Policy magazine listing Bangladesh-India border among the 13 most dangerous places in the world.

In the years between 2015 and 2022, 161 Bangladeshis were killed by India’s Border Security Force. Another 45 people have been murdered along the border in other incidents in 2020 alone, the highest number of such murder in a decade.

‘Reality does not reflect friendship that the two governments enjoy bragging about,’ said Tanzim.

Experts also called for basin-wise river management, advising Bangladesh to rectify the UN watercourses convention and get a right share of water from trans-boundary rivers in exchange of giving transit to India.

Bangladesh should regularly publish data on stream flows on trans-boundary rivers, they said, reminding that India did not release agreed amount of water through the Farakka Barrage at 65 per cent of the time despite having a treaty.

Riaz Haq said...

India and Bangladesh on Tuesday signed a deal on withdrawing water from the Kushiara river in Assam and six other treaties as their leaders spoke of "shared cultural traditions" and solving issues through "clear discussions".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh leader Sheikh Hasina, who is on a 4-day visit to India, signed the agreements in Delhi. The agreements include a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on training Bangladeshi personnel in Indian Railways institutes and collaboration in Information Technology (IT) systems for freight operations. The countries signed MoUs on training programmes for Bangladeshi judicial officers in India, scientific and technological cooperation, technology and the public television sector.

The two nations inaugurated the first unit of the Maitri Super Thermal Power project, which Bangladesh constructed with development assistance from India. Prime Minister Hasina signed seven agreements in diverse areas in her last visit to New Delhi in 2019.

"Bangladesh has significantly progressed under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and our bilateral cooperation has also seen fast growth. In the past few years, Bangladesh has become India's largest development partner. Our close cultural and people to people relations have also continuously grown," Modi said, adding that he and the visiting leader agreed on extending connectivity and trade infrastructure.

Hasina thanked India for assisting Bangladesh in its economic development. "Our main focus is to help create a progressive future for citizens of both nations. All our foreign policy engagements with India are based on this one objective," she said.
India’s infra push

In response to China announcing infrastructure financing and construction projects in Bangladesh, India is stepping up assistance for its eastern neighbour

"The rising price of energy is proving to be a challenge everywhere in the world. Today, the inauguration of the first unit of the Maitri Thermal Plant in Bangladesh will raise the availability of affordable electricity in Bangladesh," Modi said. Constructed under India's concessional financing scheme, the project will add 1320 MW of electricity generation capacity in Bangladesh.

Modi praised the new Rupsha rail bridge, which is being constructed to connect the upcoming Mongla port in southwestern Bangladesh to its third-largest city of Khulna. India is providing concessional credit for the bridge and the port and the total project is set to cost $389 million.

Bangladesh wants Indian companies to use the port and transnational rail lines connecting the country to West Bengal and Tripura as an alternative direct access channel into underserved areas of Eastern and North Eastern India.

Trade ties

"Our bilateral trade is expanding fast. Today, India is the largest market in Asia for Bangladeshi exports. To push this growth even further, we will soon begin talks on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)," Modi said.

A quick deal on CEPA is a key policy objective for Dhaka after Hasina approved it in August. Preliminary joint studies suggest the deal is expected to raise Bangladeshi exports to India two-fold and expand the country's GDP by 2 per cent. While the talks are still in early stages, Modi's mention of the CEPA in the joint press statement likely indicates enough that New Delhi has accepted Bangladesh's request to accord the CEPA priority.

Riaz Haq said...

India and Bangladesh on Tuesday signed a deal on withdrawing water from the Kushiara river in Assam and six other treaties as their leaders spoke of "shared cultural traditions" and solving issues through "clear discussions".

Trade ties

"Our bilateral trade is expanding fast. Today, India is the largest market in Asia for Bangladeshi exports. To push this growth even further, we will soon begin talks on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)," Modi said.

A quick deal on CEPA is a key policy objective for Dhaka after Hasina approved it in August. Preliminary joint studies suggest the deal is expected to raise Bangladeshi exports to India two-fold and expand the country's GDP by 2 per cent. While the talks are still in early stages, Modi's mention of the CEPA in the joint press statement likely indicates enough that New Delhi has accepted Bangladesh's request to accord the CEPA priority.

Bangladesh exports only $1.9 billion worth of goods to India from where it imports $16.15 billion. It imported $4 billion worth of cotton, $1.2 billion worth of wheat and a similar amount of petroleum. Hasina has pushed for the deal to allow this trade imbalance to rectify at least partially. A quick resolution on this front would allow her to answer her domestic critics who point to the country even importing $600 million of rice, mostly parboiled, as emblematic of India's overwhelming shadow on the country's economy, officials said.

Water sharing

Water sharing is a diplomatic issue as the Ganges and the Brahmaputra enter Bangladesh from West Bengal and Assam. Called Padma and Jamuna in Bangladesh, these rivers accumulate water from the hundreds of rivers that snake through the riverine nation. Access to water from the Teesta river, which is important for irrigation in northwest Bangladesh, is a contested issue as well.

Solutions seem to be flowing. "There are 54 rivers that traverse the India-Bangladesh border and have historically been a part of the livelihood of people in both nations. The songs and tales about these rivers are also a symbol of our unique, shared cultural traditions. The water sharing agreement on the Kushiara river will benefit South Assam and the Sylhet region in Bangladesh," Modi said.

India will continue to share real-time data on water flow and flood with Bangladesh, he added.

"We are two neighboring nations, and there may often be certain issues between two nations, but we have set an example by solving many issues through clear discussions," said Hasina, referring to sharing of river water.

Riaz Haq said...

The ground under Sheikh Hasina’s feet is shifting

By Avinash Paliwal

Bangladesh's foreign minister
AK Abdul Momen arrived in
India last month to fight polit-
ical fires. But he found himself
dealing with massive floods
that hit Sylhet and Assam.
Nature has its ways to convey
that not all is well in India's
near-east. Far from the glitz
about Bangladesh's economic
success, on display during the
recent inauguration of the
Padma Bridge, clampdown on
Islamists, and shrewd man-
agement of big power rivalries,
is a parallel potent reality of
Prime Minister Sheikh Has-
ina's authoritarianism,
heightened polarisation, and
economic distress. As an
Indian official mentioned to
me, and a Bangladeshi official
echoed. Hasina "has built a
house of cards"
The economic, social, and
political ground under Has-
ina's feet is shifting in real
time. It is slow enough to be
dismissed as non-urgent, but
sure enough to become press-
ing, if not dealt with urgently.
With general elections due in
2023, and external debt repay-
ment schedules kicking in
from 2024, it is a matter of
time for the veneer of (forced)
stability to lose its sheen. The
risk of dislocation, if not col-
lapse, of this so-called house
of cards has increased in
recent years, and it could
undermine whatever is left of
India's connectivity aspira-
tions in its near east.
Domestically, the Hasina gov-
ernment has exacerbated two
contradictions in a tradition-
ally polarised polity. One, she
is in power, but with little to
no electoral legitimacy. The
Awami League's (AL) manipu-
lation of the 2014 and 20118
elections (a practice not just
reserved for national elections
and against opponents),
unceasing harassment of its
key opponent, the Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP), gag-
ging of media, social media
monitoring using advanced
digital surveillance, and a
forced tilt towards the conser-
vative Islamic Right as a bal-
ancing move after targeting
these formations using force,
has created wide pockets of
intense frustration.
Unlike her father, Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman, who created
a one-party State, but failed to
contain a famine in 1974, Has-
ina has placed her bets on eco-
nomic development. The argu-
ment runs that good economic
performance coupled with lib
eral use of force will make a
one-party State under Has-
ina's leadership sustainable.
But this is where the second
contradiction kicks in.
Bangladesh's external debt to
Gross Domestic Product ratio
has increased to 21.8%, import
spending has shot up by nearly
44%, forex reserves of $42
billion are falling and can
cover about five months'
worth of imports, and the rev-
enue from readymade gar-
ments export and remittances
is not keeping pace with the
fast rising costs to the

Couple this with the global
inflation created by the Rus-
sia-ukraine war and United
Statesled sanctions, and it
becomes clear why Momen is
asking India to remove anti-
dumping duties on Banglade-
shi jute exports. Further com-
plicating this situation is
Dhaka's propensity to accept
external loans for infrastruc-
tural projects at highly inflated
costs, making repayment dif-
ficult. One of the cases in point
is the 2015 Rooppur Nuclear
Power Plant deal with Russia
for which Dhaka is to repay
$13.5 billion. India paid $3 bil-
lion for a similar plant in
Why does Dhaka accept such
deals? Because external fin-
ance fuels (limited) infra-
structural growth, chronic
corruption, and keeps the
political illusion of economic
development alive. To be clear
and fair, Bangladesh's eco-
nomic journey has been more
than commendable. But to
expect an economic miracle,
which is bound to dwindle due
to internal or external shocks,
to sustain a corrupt system
pretending to be a democracy
is a tall ask. Herein, Hasina has
ensured that neither the
Islamists nor the BNP
which enjovs public sympathy,
even if it may not get a fair
election - pose a serious
challenge to her.

Riaz Haq said...

The ground under Sheikh Hasina’s feet is shifting

By Avinash Paliwal

But her real challenge doesn't
come from known opponents.
It comes from opaque factions
within a securitised State (and
the party) that has made so
much illicit profit that being
out of power is not an option
for them. This leaves Hasina
with an unenviable dilemma.
Either she allows free elections
and risks being ousted or
manipulates them and invites
international opprobrium that
could unleash mass protests
and violence. Bereft of a clear
succession plan, both these
scenarios could tempt oppor-
tunistic adversaries to force a
regime change, of which there
is an unfortunately rich his-
tory in Bangladesh.
Hasina's internal problems are
linked to external dependen-
cies. Politically reliant on New
Delhi, she is finding it increas-
ingly difficult to manage the
ramifications of India's turn
towards Hindu nationalism
that misuses migration from
Bangladesh and the Rohingya
crisis for domestic electoral
gain. Similarly, accepting of
Chinese finance that may not
translate into political sup-
port, Dhaka is struggling to
keep targeted US sanctions
against the Rapid Action Bat-
talion, an anticrime and anti-
terrorism unit of the
Bangladesh Police, for serious
human rights violations, at
bay. Dhaka's replacement of
its ambassador in Washington
DC after a visit by a team of AL
parliamentarians from the
standing committee on foreign
affairs will make little differ-
ence in how the US deals with
Add to this, an uptick in
demand for repatriating
Rohingya migrants - some of
whom have been silently
resettled in the Chittagong Hill
Tracts to the locals' displeas-
ure - to Myanmar, including
within Bangladesh's military
establishment, and the situ-
ation becomes even more
volatile. Hasina requires a
political off-ramp to prevent a
foreseeable crisis that can turn
violent. The last thing the sub-
continent needs is turmoil in

Riaz Haq said...

Hague court rejects #India objections over #water row with #Pakistan. “In a unanimous decision, which is binding on the Parties & without appeal, the Court rejected each of the objections raised by India and determined that the Court is competent to consider and determine the disputes set forth in Pakistan’s Request for Arbitration” via @AJEnglish

Permanent Court of Arbitration rejects India’s objections to a Pakistan-initiated procedure over water use in the Indus River basin.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague has rejected India’s objections to a Pakistan-initiated procedure over water use in the Indus River basin, reopening a procedure that had been blocked for many years.

India called the arbitration proceeding illegal as a neutral expert was also looking at the issue and the World Bank-brokered treaty prohibits parallel proceedings, the Reuters news agency reported on Thursday.

The South Asian neighbours have been arguing over hydroelectric projects on the shared Indus River and its tributaries for decades, with Pakistan complaining that India’s planned hydropower dams in upstream areas will cut flows on the river which feeds 80 percent of its irrigated agriculture.

To resolve the dispute, Pakistan sought resolution through PCA arbitration proceedings in 2016, prompting India to request that the World Bank appoint a neutral expert under the terms of the treaty. India has boycotted The Hague court proceedings and questioned the competence of the court.

“In a unanimous decision, which is binding on the Parties and without appeal, the Court rejected each of the objections raised by India and determined that the Court is competent to consider and determine the disputes set forth in Pakistan’s Request for Arbitration,” the court said in a statement on Thursday.

It gave no details on when and how the case will continue, but added that it will address the interpretation and application of the bilateral Indus Water Treaty, notably the provisions on hydroelectric projects, as well as the legal effect of past decisions of dispute resolution bodies under the treaty.

A spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, Arindam Bagchi, said India’s “consistent and principled position has been that the constitution of this so-called court of arbitration is in contravention of the clear letter and spirit of the Indus Water Treaty”.

He said India was participating in the proceedings of the neutral expert, which he called “the only treaty-consistent proceedings at this juncture”.

“Legal sophistry” will not compel India to participate in the proceedings of the PCA, Bagchi said.

India says the construction of its Kishanganga and Ratle Hydro Electric projects is allowed by the treaty.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said it remained fully committed to the implementation of the Indus Water Treaty and its settlement mechanism, which it termed a “foundational agreement” between the two countries.

“We hope that India would also implement the Treaty in good faith,” Foreign Office spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in a statement on Thursday night.