Staff Correspondent: International Farakka Committee yesterday demanded the implementation of the Teesta Master Plan to protect three crore people living in its basin in Bangladesh from heavy flood and river banks erosion.
Atiqur Rahman Salu, chairman of IFC, voiced the demand in an opinion exchange meeting at the Abdus Salam Hall of the National Press Club.
The IFC chairman said this while the promise for signing a treaty on the Teesta is lingering on for 12 years, in the dry season flow of the river is being diverted unilaterally from the GazalDoba Barrage in West Bengal, India for more than two decades.
No change to this unfortunate plight of the Teesta is in sight, he said adding, “We therefore believe that the government of Bangladesh should urgently take sustainable measures to minimize the adverse effects of drought-flood vagaries to the people of Teesta Basin in Bangladesh’.
Dr. S.I. Khan, senior vice-president, IFC Bangladesh, Mostafa Kamal Majumder, coordinator and Ataur Rahman Ata, joint secretary of IFC and Rafiqul Islam Azad, former president of Dhaka Reporters’Unity were present at the opinion exchange and answered questions of journalists.
Atiqur Rahman Salu said no treaty has been signed on the Teesta although the two countries were supposed to do so in 2011. The Irony is that even in this rainy season Nilphamari, Kurigram and Gaibandha districts have experienced several waves of flood and riverbank erosion.
He said devastating floods in the rainy season and dry rivers and drought in the dry season have brought environmental disasters to Bangladesh.
“Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to go on a visit to India soon. It is our belief that she would discuss with the Indian Prime Minister in clear terms the plight of world’s largest delta Bangladesh that has originated from the common rivers,” he said.
He also said this is urgent because being cut off from the common rivers the lush green environment of the country is getting destroyed day by day, damaging agriculture, breeding and feeding grounds of indigenous fish, and industry. People are losing livelihoods and becoming displaced.
The IFC chairman noted that China has come up with an idea to implement a Teesta management and restoration master plan with nearly $1 billion in loan (about 10,000 crore Taka). The Power Construction Corporation or Power China wants to implement the master plan. Work on this project was supposed to begin in 2021, but has not started yet.
He said, “If water was available there was no need of alternative thinking. Given the present uncertain situation it’s not wise to sit idle. When the urge to restore the flow of the river from upstream will come under the dictates of nature the Bangladesh part of the Teesta will get a new lease of life.”
IFC recommended that the Teesta Master plan can be expanded to cover Karatoa, Punarbhaba, and Atrai in the old Teesta basin. This will ensure overall development of the Northwestern part of Bangladesh.
This master plan is no substitute for basin-based integrated management of the river to keep it alive, he said adding that it can help improve the lot of the people of the Teesta basin by protecting them from the annual floods and bank erosions.
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