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Bangladesh - 4 weeks ago

Leverage national consensus to sign basin-based water treaties

Staff Correspondent: Speakers at a discussion meeting on Saturday recalled the Farakka Long March organised by Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, a leader of toiling masses of Bangladesh, and expressed their deep respect for him.

On May 16, 1976, Moulana Bhasani organised this long march, 6 months before his death at the age of 96 in failing health, to demand an end to the unilateral withdrawal of Ganges water. International Farakka Committee (IFC) organized this discussion at the Maulana Akram Khan Hall of National Press Club to commemorate the Farakka Long March.

In 1976, neighboring India was withdrawing water from the Ganges without an agreement after opening the Farakka Barrage for a trial period of 41 days the year before. As a result, the flow of water in the Bangladesh part of the Ganges came down, adversely affecting agriculture, fish production and water transport.

The speakers said that the movement of Maulana Bhasani created national unity in Bangladesh. As a result, the world public opinion swung towards Bangladesh’s demand and the first Ganga Water Treaty was concluded in 1977.

Jatiya Party Chairman Mustafa Jamal Haider was the chief guest in the meeting. Writer and researcher Siraj Uddin Sathi, president of Bhasani Anusari Parishad Sheikh Rafiqul Islam Bablu, chairman of Bangladesh Labour Party Mostafizur Rahman Iran, former Chief Editor of BSS Gaziul Hasan Khan and JAGPA senior vice-president Rashed Prodhan among others took part in the discussion held under the chairmanship of International Farakka Committee Coordinator Mostafa Kamal Majumder.

The speakers said the importance of the Farakka Long March is now greater than at any other time because water is being diverted upstream of all 54 of the 57 joint rivers that flow through Bangladesh. As a result, floodplains in Bangladesh, the land of rivers, are no longer go under water during monsoons. Lack of water during the dry season leads to ecological disasters, and during the monsoons, abnormal floods hit the basins of various rivers, including the Teesta. The crops on vast lands and homes of thousands of people are swept away.

In his speech as the chief guest, Mostafa Jamal Haider said that due to India’s diplomacy, Bangladesh’s rivers and water are facing destruction and a process of desertification has started in the country. He called on everyone to unite to face this problem. He said that since the formation and existence of Bangladesh depended on rivers and water, now the rights of water and sovereignty are one and the same.

Sheikh Rafiqul Islam Bablu said Bangladesh would not have been created if Maulana Bhasani was not born. Along with the long march for Ganga water, Bhasani had written to the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, and the Prime Minister of India also replied to that letter.

Dr. Mostafizur Rahman mentioned the plight of Bangladesh due to the withdrawal of water from 54 rivers by India and said that if the country has a war with India in the future, it will be over water. He called upon taking steps to make the new generation of Bangladesh aware of the Farakka Long March. He says we have given everything to India but we don’t tell what we got from it in return.

Siraj Uddin Sathi said that until a national unity is established in the country, the demand for water will not be achieved. He lamented that the voice against Farakka Dam is being raised from within India itself but there is no strong voice from Bangladesh.

They said the Ganga agreement has to be renewed in 2026. On the other hand, signing of an Agreement on the Teesta has become urgent. In this situation, the government is called upon to take steps to sign sustainable basin-based agreements on all rivers with India by taking strength from the national consensus created in the country on river water.

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