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Unite people to save common rivers: IFC

Farakka Long March Day Thursday

Staff Correspondent: Tomorrow (May 16) is the historic Farakka Long March Day. On this day in 1976, Bangladesh’s oppressed mass leader, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, organized the Long March from Rajshahi’s Madrasa Maidan to Nawabganj’s Kansat towards Farakka Barrage to demand a fair share of Ganges water. This Long March facilitated the signing of the 1977 Ganga Water Treaty.

The Indian government erected the dam to divert the flow of water of the River Ganges into its territory.

Thousands of people participated in the march and staged demonstrations protesting the construction of embankments raised across the Ganges in the Indian state of West Bengal, approximately 16.5 kilometers off the Chapainawabganj border.

The barrage has been affecting Bangladesh’s ecology since its commissioning.

Different political parties and social organizations have undertaken various programs to observe the day.

Meanwhile, the International Farakka Committee (IFC), in a statement yesterday, urged the government of Bangladesh and all others concerned to join efforts to protect 54 common rivers and thus save the country’s environment by drawing lessons from the historic Farakka Long March organized and led by Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, leader of the toiling masses on May 16, 1976.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, May 15, to mark the Farakka Long March Day, IFC leaders from New York and Bangladesh paid glowing tributes to Maulana Bhashani, whose movement paved the way for the signing of the 1977 Ganges water treaty, ending the unilateral withdrawal of water from the river by the big neighbor, India.

Now the situation has worsened. With water being diverted from all 54 common rivers, the people of Bangladesh are suffering from a lack of water in the dry season and either excessive floods in the Teesta or a lack of normal rainy season inundation in others like the Meghna and the Ganges basins. Bangladesh shares 57 transboundary rivers, 54 of which come through India, and three others from Myanmar.

The 30-year Ganges water treaty of 1996, which will end in two years, does not guarantee the flow of the agreed quantum of water to Bangladesh in the dry season as it is silent on water diversion above the Farakka point.

In the case of the Teesta, the entire dry season flow is diverted at Gazal Doba Barrage in West Bengal. In the rainy season, on the other hand, all the sluice gates of the barrage on the flashy hilly river are opened, subjecting the Bangladesh part of the basin to devastating floods and bank erosion. This damages not only crops but also renders thousands of families homeless every year.

Maulana Bhasani’s historic Farakka Long March, done just six months before his death, thus remains relevant even today. The great leader united the people in favor of the demand for a due share of water from the Ganges. The people now should receive due shares of all 54 common rivers to protect the riverine country from environmental decline, loss of life, and livelihoods.

The IFC leaders urged the government to pursue the path of basin-wide sustainable and integrated management of the common rivers to keep those alive up to the sea and protect Bangladesh, created by them over the millennia.

The signatories to the statement are: Sayed Tipu Sultan, Secretary-General; Mohammad Hossain Khan, Joint Secretary-General; Ataur Rahman Ata, Organizing Secretary of IFC New York; Prof. Jasim Uddin Ahmad, President; Syed Irfanul Bari, General Secretary of IFC Bangladesh; and Mostafa Kamal Majumder, Coordinator, IFC.

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