Banner Advertiser

Friday, February 26, 2010

[ALOCHONA] Upstream Controller's Dual Benefits at the Cost of Downstream Drainer's Double Trouble

Upstream Controller's Dual Benefits at the Cost of Downstream Drainer's Double Trouble

Introduction. Out of 214 international rivers, 57 flows in Africa, 48 in Europe, 40 in Asia, 36 in South America, and 33 in North and Central America. About 148 rivers flow through two countries, 31 through the countries, and the rest through four or more countries. The Laplata and the Elba rivers flow through five countries, the Chad, the Volta, and the Mekong rivers through 6 countries, the Jambeshi, the Amazon, and the Rhine, through seven countries, the Nyjer, the Nile, the Jayar through nine countries, and the Danium through twelve countries.

Instances of cooperative agreements on river flow sharing and river basin development exist among nations across the world. Mexico and the United States signed the treaty on sharing the Riogrande and the Colorado river flows in 1944. France has fulfilled Spain's demands. In 1970, the settlement of the dispute over Vardar/Axois river between Macedonia ( a republic of former Yugoslavia) and Greece was done under the auspices and technical and financial assistance from the United Nations.

The settlement gave prime importance to the preparation of a plan of water resources development projects that would be optimum for the entire river basin instead of considering individual countries. After the formulation of such a plan, individual interests of Macedonia and Greece were considered. The Solution package included recommendations for individual projects on priority basis and cost-sharing schemes for projects involving multiple purposes and/or multiple countries. It may be mentioned that the river basin area is 23,747 sq km of which 91% lies in Macedonia and 9% in Greek Macedonia (Goodman, 1997)

In North America, the Columbia River originates in Canada and flows through the USA to discharge into the Pacific. To control flooding, USA proposed to build a dam on the Kootenai River, a tributary of the Columbia river. However, the United States had to give up the plan when Canada raised objection because the proposed dam was going to flood some of the Canadian Rockies. The two parties waited until they came to an agreement on the preset merits like flood control, irrigation, and hydroelectricity generation. In 1961, Canada built the Mica Dam, the Revelstok Dam, and the Arrow Lake Reservoir upstream to stop flooding in the USA. In return, USA pays 50% of the potential flood damage cost to Canada. Besides, both countries equally share the hydroelectricity generated. The USA, however, built the abandoned project 20 years later for the purpose of irrigation alone (Haque, 1997).

In Asia, India, however has been playing a double standard role. Whereas on the western sector India and Pakistan signed the Indus River Treaty to share six tributaries of the Indus in which India releases water to Pakistan before she can redirect it through her, on the eastern sector, sharing water of thirty rivers including the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Teesta, and the Meghna, depends on India's mercy (Haque, 1997). For sharing the water of the Ganges, up until 1996, the number of meetings between India and Bangladesh totaled 120, the largest number of meetings ever held in the history of a settlement over a dispute. Still no permanent settlement has been reached. In the face of reporting continued sufferings and losses of Bangladesh, India signed two treaties with Bangladesh for water diversion. In between the treaties, she diverted water unilaterally. The current treaty does not help Bangladesh the same way as the first treaty. Bangladesh passes through a critical period during March through May under the current treaty.

The article is meant to give an account of the current water diversion devices on some thirty international rivers and a grand plan of further water diversion violation in an even greater extent that amounts to using weapons of ecosystem destruction.

Existing Water Diversion Devices. Bangladesh has become prone fold-prone than it was in the pre-Farakka Dam era. Unprecedented floods hit the southwest, northwest, northern, eastern, and central parts of the country in the post-dam era. Out of the 59 transboundary rivers with India, at least 30 have upstream water diversion constructions. The unique boon of water diversion constructions is to hold water from flowing downstream during the dry season and to work as flood outlets for water release during the flood season. The Farakka Dam is the largest among the water diversion constructions. Hillary, a traveler on the Ganges, reported of the post-dam period during the dry season that almost all the water of the Ganges is withdrawn by India. This is an eyewitness account. India diverts the Ganges water with 300 hundred large and small water diversion constructions located in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The damaging effects of floods result from siltation of riverbeds following weak flows in flow-interrupted rivers. Little or no flows following interruptions let more suspended materials settle down on riverbeds than flows without interruptions. Prakash reported of sediment deposition of more than 20 meters at the Farakka Barrage point in a period of 22 years (1975-1997). This amounts to almost 2 meters of 6 feet every year! It is not unthinkable that similar deposition of materials suspended in water has taken place in other flow-interrupted riverbeds. The decrease in river depths is too much to accommodate the floodwater, which has not dropped at all from its magnitude in the pre-diversion era. Bangladesh is never given a warning of potential floods by the dearest neighbor, forcing her to face the devastating floods without preparation.

An NFB account says that Bangladesh rifles had to guard against the upstream country's border security forces' action of water release through Bangladesh (NFB, 2000). If Moudud Elahi's post-Farakka flood account Bangladesh Taka figures are converted to US dollar figures, it is found that the loss figures of crops alone were about US$0.075, 0.175, 0.195, 0.185, 1.0 , 1.3, and 7.0 billions in the devastating floods in 1970, 1974, 1980, 1984, 1987, 1988, and 2004, respectively. Fatalities of peoples and animals, and other losses have not been included. How many more times can Bangladesh tolerate these astronomical losses?

Following the setup of the Domodor Valley Corporation (DVC) in India, a number of dams were constructed on the tributaries of the Bhagirathi. These rivers lost their capacity to flush Bhagirathi. India then constructed the Farakka Barrage on the Ganges to divert the water flowing through Bangladesh to maintain navigability of the Calcutta Port 260 km away, whereas Crow et al. support that stagnation of the Port of Calcutta was due to the decline of the industrial activity and overall economic activity, and that a minimum research efforts or unfinished investigations for possible alternative to the construction of Farakka Barrage was performed. The growth of the Calcutta Port was one-fortieth of the growth of other Indian ports. It was at the acme of development during the British rule in India (1870-1947) when the port carried 40-50% of India's exports and imports. The port growth had declination of 23%, 11%, and 10% in the mid-sixties, late seventies, and in the late eighties of the last century, respectively. Dredging of the port was the best solution since the port failed to demonstrate convincingly the importance of the Farakka Barriage.

There are water diversion constructions on other transboundary rivers, besides those on the Ganges.

The Teesta Barrage. The Teesta is a tributary of the Brahmaputra-Jamuna. It originates in the northern hilly region of Sikkim. The principal tributaries of the Teesta in the hilly region are the Rangnichu, Dickchu, Talangchu, and Chakungchu. In the plain land, its tributaries are the Lish, the Sish, the Chel, and the Nengra. Another tributary of the Teesta is Karla.

The Teesta flows for 112 km before falling into the Jamuna at Chilmari. Its average width is 160 m. India built the Teesta Barrage at Gazaldoba in the district of Jalpaiguri. The barrage is 921.53 m. It has 45 gates each of which is 18.25 m long. It can let flow 20,100 cusecs of water at a time. India diverts 1,500 cusecs of water from the Teesta into the Mahananda in the dry season. It has created problems in agriculture and navigation.

The Mahananda Dams. The Mahanda River flows from the Himalayas. It originates from Mahaldream Hill near Darjeeling in India. This is the only tributary of the Ganges in Bangladesh. It flows through Shiliguri in India and enters Bangladesh near Tentulia in the district of Panchgarh. It flows for 3 km after Tentulia and enters the district of Purnia in the province of Bihar in India. Later, it flows through the district of Maldah in West Bengal, India, and enters Bangladesh. It is about 35 km long in Bangladesh. It has an average width of 150 m. India constructed two dams upon the Mahananda River – one at two miles and the other at 20 miles upstream (at Khodaimaree) of Tentulia. There are twenty-five gates in the L-shaped dam. A 42-km long canal from the dam site links the Teesta and the Mahananda rivers. Water is diverted from the Mahananda during the dry season resulting weakened downstream flow. India controls water flows in fifteen rivers which are the Mahananda, the Korotoa, the Teesta, the Bhaluka, the Ranchandi, the Talma, the Ghoramara, the Buriteesta, the Bhersa, the Chilok, the Balam, the Pisla, the Dahuk, the Chawai, and the Kurum. These rivers flow through the greater districts of Dinajpur and Rangpur. It has affected agriculture, industry, and natural balance. Besides, thousands of cubic meters of pebbles would reach Bangladesh through this river. Unemployed people would collect these pebbles to earn their living. These pebbles were used in the construction work.

Further, India is planning to divert 200 to 250 of BCM water from the Brahmaputra, the Teesta and the Meghna basins through link canals. There are fourteen links of the Himalayan components and another 14 links of the peninsular components. The Himalayan components are the Brahmaputra-Ganga (MSTG), Kosi-Ghagra, Gandak-Ganga, Ghagra-Yamuna, Sarda-Yamuna, Yamuna-Rajasthan, Rajasthan-Sabarmati, Chunar-Sone Barrage, Sone Dam-Southern Tributaries of the Ganges, Ganga-Damodar-Subarnarekha, Subarnarekha-Mahanadi, Kosi-Mechi, Farakka-Sundarbans, and Brahmaputra-Ganga (JTF)(ALT). The peninsular components are Mahanadi-Godavari, Godavari (Inchampali Low Dam)-Krishna (Nagarjunasagar Tail Pond), Godavari (Inchampali)-Krishna (Nagarjunasagar), Godavari (Polavaram)-Krishna (Vajayawada), Krishna (Almatti)-Pennar, Krishna (Srisailam)-Pennar, Krishna (Nagarjunasagar)-Pennar, Pennar-Chauvery, Chauvery-Vaigai-Gundar, Ken-Betwa, Prasbati-Kalisindh-Chambal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Damanganga-Pinjal, Bedti-Varda, Netravati-Hemavati, and Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar. These links are illustrated in Fig. 5 (Courtesy of Hossain et al, 2003).

India failed to stop siltation at the Farakka point, siltation at the tributaries of the Bhagirathi, siltation in other river beds. Will she be able to maintain the navigability in the network of canals and planned dams after their constructions. Her track record is not trustworthy.

List of Mini-Farakkas

River Locations of the Construction and Impacts
1. Bangu - One regulator at Kashiabari, Mekliganj Subdivision of Jalpaiguri district

2. Khukshi-One barrage at Jhenaipose at Balurghat. The river Soto Jamuna in the

Dhamoirhat Police Station in the Naogaon district suffers from water shortage

3. Talma One barrage at the spot opposite to the Bhitorgahr border post of Panchgahr Police Station in the district of Panchgahr

4. Bhairab- One cross dam near the origin at 8 km downstream from Gangarajpur at Karimpur Police Station of the Nadia district; also, one regulator upon the Jalangi river upstream of the dam. The Bhairab is the source of water for the rivers in the districts of Jhinaidah and Jessore

5. Kodla-One dam by the border post in the district of Twenty-four Parganas. Bangladesh part of the same river suffers from water shortage

6. Maghumati - One dam at Kakalmari

7. Karotoa - One barrage built in the nineteen sixties at Ambari-Falakataya, and currently brought under the Teesta Barrage. Karatoa Barrage gets 425 cusecs water through a feeder canal from the Teesta-Mahananda Link Canal. The part of Karotoa in the districts of Nilfamari, Naogaon, ibandha, and Bogra in Bangladesh is dry.

8. Jinjiram -It originates from the mountainous region of the Meghalya Province of India. It splits into two parts after entering the Qurigram district of Bangladesh. One part falls into the Jamuna at Boalmaree. The other part falls into the old Brahmaputra near Kolabari. India built a dam upstream of where it meets the Jamuna. A canal links the river flow to with the old course of the Jinjiram. Agriculture over a few hundred sq km of land by the river bank has been affected. Both irrigation and flood problems haunt this river basin.

9. Gomti -It originates from Subroom interior of the Tripura mountain. Sonai Sari Irrigation Project in Comilla, Bangladesh needs 150-200 cusec of
water. India's construction of a dam at Mathrani upstream of the Gomti has affected the irrigation project. It is 130 km long in Bangladseh. The Dakatia is its tributary, and the Buri is the distributary.

10. Khoai- India built two dams over the Khoi – one at Chakma Ghat and the other at Kalyanpur in the province of Tripura. It flows 300 cusecs of
water in the dry season. About 25,000 acres of land are irrigated with the Khoai's water to cultivate Irri and Boro rice varieties. No settlement has been reached between Bangladesh and India to share the river flow.

11. Manu - India built a barrage over the Manu at Kanchanbari near the Kela city in the Province of Tripura, India. It is 83 km long in Bangladesh. It flows 500-600 cusecs during the winter. During the flood season, the flow is 25,000 – 30,000 cusecs. India will divert unilaterally by the barrage. Bangladesh built 86-m wide barrage to save life and crops, and other properties during flooding. However, India's barrage will control the flow.

12. Dhali -It originates from the south side of the Indian Tripura province. After flowing 67 km, it enters Bangladesh through the district of Moulvi Bazar. India is builing a dam on the Dhalai at Kulai in the Tripura Province. When the dam is completed, Bangladesh will not get any

13. Pyan/Doukee-It originates from the Umgat river of Assam in India. The Umgat branches into the Pyan and the Jaflong or the Doukee. India built a groyen measuring 43 m long, 9 m wide, and 9 m high over the Doukee in the nineteen hundred seventies. The groyen is a permanent
obstruction to the Doukee's original flow.

14. Punarbhaba-It originates from a low-lying areas at Deolee in the district of Thakurgao in Bangladesh. It joins the Dhepa river, a distributary of the Korotoa, near the city of Dinajpur, before entering India. It then enters Chapai Nawabganj, a northern border district in Bangladesh. It
joins the Harbhanga river reentering India. It enters Bangladesh again and joins the Mahananda near Mahimpur. India built a dam at Komordanga upstream over the Punarbhaba to use its water. Indian water withdrawal creates scarcity of water in the northern districts of Bangladesh.

Apart from these, there are water diversion construction on small rivers – the Ichamati-Kalindi, the Betna-Kodalia, the Bhairab-Kabodak, the Atrai, the Deonai-Jamuneshwari, the Buri Tista, the Sangil, the Dharla, the Bhogai, the Kushiyara, the Sonai Bardal, the Juri, the Dharla, the Sonai, and the Feni. More could be discovered if an exploration was taken for this purpose alone.

Our rivers are at their lower courses which naturally favours silt deposition. The deposition is accelerated by the set of some control mechanisms to regulate their flows. The prolonged presence of dams and barrages has not only silted the distributaries' beds, and shrunk their widths, but also has dried up some of the distributaries by accumulating huge shoals at their mouths, the point where water speed is the lowest due to change of directions in the distributaries. Canals of dead distributaries have lost their widths and depths, and perennial low lands have been leveled off and turned into agricultural lands.

More Diversion Constructions

The Tipaimukh Dam. India is building a dam upon the Barak river in Assam, upstream of the Meghna. The height of the dam is 161 meter and the length is 390 meter. It will store sixteen billion cubic meter of water. This Tipaimukh dam is located 200 km upstream of Amalshit, the point where the Barak River splits into the Surma and the Kushiyara in the states of Manipur/Mizoram in India. The dam will substantially reduce the dry season flow in the Kushiyara and the Surma rivers, the headstreams of the Meghna river in north-east Bangladesh.

Water Diversion From the Brahmaputra. India is planning to divert water from the Brahmaputra for taking to South India. India now plans to divert water from the Brahmaputra through 1,466-km long canal within India to the Kaveri River of south India. The link canal will extend from Dhubri region of Assam to upstream of Gazal Doba on the Indian Tista of the Indian district of Jalpaiguri. Link canals will be dug from the Sankosh (a tributary of the Brahmaputra) and Manos rivers of Bhutan to add to the Brahmaputra-Tista canal. Later, a 473-km long link canal will pass through the Indian districts of Darjeeling, West Dinajpur, and Maldah to connect with the Ganges upstream of the Farakka point.

In the second phase of the grand networking of rivers, a link canal will connect the Ganges with the Kaveri of south India . The canal will go from the Farakka point to Durgapur in the district of Bardhaman. From there it goes to the Darkeshwar River in the district of Bankura. From here the canal will be linked to many rivers of the province of Urissa. Then the canal links to the Krisna River through the Godavari River in the province Andhrya. Then the canal links to the Kaveri River in the Province of Tamil Nad. There will be many more small canals linked with the main canal. This artificial control of the river will make the Ganges dry. Also, the rivers – the Tista, the Torsa, the Raydhak, the Jaldhala, the Mahananda, etc. - that discharge water to the north-west Bangladesh will be controlled by India. India's master plan will create micro-level climatic changes. Direct and feedback effects resulting from the grand networking are not likely to be favourable for the environment.

India failed to stop siltation at the Farakka point, siltation at the tributaries of the Bhagirathi, siltation in other riverbeds. Will she be able to keep the beds clean in the network of canals and planned dams after their constructions? Her track record is not trustworthy – full of politics.

We have seen the US and Canada good neighborly fellow feeling in the case of the construction of a dam on the Kootenai River ; however, we have not seen any real neighborly feelings of India toward Bangladesh. Demonstration of India's fake feelings is found in the meager donation at the time of floods (which should have been refused by the Foreign Advisor), construction of fence on the border, frequent killings of innocent people by the BSF, force occupation of lands emerged in the Bay of Bengal, maintenance of trade deficits, use of lame excuses, breaking of words, creation of the world's largest man-made disaster – arsenic contamination of groundwater through depletion of aquifers in the presence of little or no recharging, and so on.

In the absence of the goodwill feeling from India, Bangladesh needs to be proactive in regard of keeping her river arteries free of sedimentation. It should be one of the prioritized items in the national development program. Decades of deposited silts cannot be removed in a year. A national policy should be formulated in which local people will have their own share of responsibility in keeping the riverbed clean. Government should have one or more dredgers for every river depending its size. Although we rhetorically deny our independence during the Pakistan period, we did rule East Pakistan, and had, if not exactly, about 50% representation in the central government, but nothing was done to maintain, not to say improve, our inland distributary waterways for the northwest part of the country, at least. Over the time shoals engulfed many small rivers which today could help drain water for interior distribution.

The same legacy is being preserved by the Bangladesh government. The first distributary of the Ganges in Bangladesh is the Baral, and the Musa Khan is the first distributary of the Baral. Although in one of the petticoat government's time, the water resources minister was from the Baral bank at its point of origin, no attempt of removing the huge shoal from the Baral mouth was taken by the minister. We fail to realize our national priorities. The obstructed flow in the Baral quickly dried up the Musa Khan, the river people used to boat across for at least six months of the year, and the river that used to feed thousands of acres of flood plains. When our petticoat governments focus making their fortune illegally, this type of welfare work for the country is not expected. It is a society where politics is preferred to research and development. Even the highest seat of learning is not immune from it.

At the same time, a movement has to be launched worldwide against the construction of dams on international rivers. However, the movers cannot take the case to the international court or to the UNO unless Bangladesh government takes the initiative. World nations should pass protocols to stop river current blockage as they have done the Rio and the Kyoto to maintain the air quality. We need water as much as we need air.

Indian government should realize that she is the most fortunate one to capture, so to say overnight, the market of 150 million people. These people contribute a lot to the Indian economy in the sectors of education, tourism, medical treatment, technology, industrial products, and agricultural products. If man-made calamities are frequently imposed on these people, Indian economy will be affected. On the contrary, giving them the opportunity to raise the purchasing power, will result in the better economy of India. Indian national policy should be balanced between promotion and the remotely controlled suppression. India must share all flood forecast reports with Bangladesh to let her get ready for the situation. This is more important than the introduction of Maitree Express or the transit discussion. India should dredge her parts of international riverbeds. All departments of the Bangladesh government should work coherently so that the flood control initiative receives the top priority.

Conclusion. Upstream country has built a ring of water diversion constructions around Bangladesh. That is her weapon to withdraw water in the dry season and releaser water in the wet season without any warning to the downstream country. This is not a sign of true friendship. Silted riverbeds, shrunken rivers, and shoal-formed mouths are the accelerated results of water diversion constructions on the rivers at their lower courses. Ecosystems exist in diversity. Conversion of an arid ecosystem to a wet one via a subcontinental river linking of transboundary rivers will create a perturbation on the existing natural ecosystem. Natural delicate balance will be lost and nature will behave unfavorably with feedback effects on many interconnected and coexisting courses vitally important for the subsistence.

In the greater interest of saving riparian civilization, such master plans should be abandoned. India should dredge her parts of the international riverbeds. Bangladesh, too, should do this job on a priority basis. Let not the administration of these two countries go in the wrong hands, but in the hands of people's welfare. United Nations should promptly come forward to solve transboundary water disputes. Formulation and implementation of international river laws has become necessary to save our surface water resources. World nations should get together to sign protocols like the Kyoto Rio to maintain availability of quality water for all living beings. Violators of water rights should be punished by UN sanctions.

Dr. Miah Muhammad Adel is a Professor of Physics and Interdisciplinary Sciences at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Pine Bluff, AR USA. E Mail :


Adel, M. M., 2005, Background state leading to arsenic accumulation in the Bengal Basin groundwater, Journal of Water and Health , Vol. 3 No. 4, 435-452.

Adel, M. M., 2004, Impacts from trans-boundary water rights violations in South Asia, in R. Murray, K. Jacobson, and S. Anderson (eds.) Proceedings of the 2004 Water Management Conference: Water Rights and Related Water Supply Issues, pp. 205-214, October 13-16, Salt Lake City, Utah

Adel, 2004, M. M., Upstream water diversion constructions on transboundary rivers, in R. Murray, K. Jacobson, and S. Anderson (eds.) Proceedings of the 2004 Water Management Conference: Water Rights and Related Water Supply Issues, pp. 547-556, October 13-16, Salt Lake City, Utah

Adel, M. M., 2003, Biosphere III: The site of unprecedented ecocide in the Ganges basin, in Jasimudin (ed.), National Documentation on the Problems of Arsenic and Farakka,

published by a water rights advocacy group, Inc. New York, 59-79 ( invited)

Adel, M. M., 2002, Man-made climatic changes in the Ganges basin, International Journal of Climatology , 22, 993-1016

Adel, M. M., 2001, Effects on downstream water resources from upstream water diversion in the Ganges basin, Journal of Environmental Quality, 30, 356-368

Adel, M. M., 2000, Arsenic contamination in the groundwater of Biosphere III: causes and remediation, in H. Inyang and V. Ogunro (eds.), Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on Environmental Geotechnology and Global Sustainable Development, Boston, MA, 71-80

Adel, M. M. 2000, Microlevel climate change in the Ganges basin, Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Sciences, 53, 83-91

Goodman, A. S., 1997. International Seminar on Farakka Barrageand Other Related Issues of Bangladesh (abs.). p. 10. In Shaheen et al., (ed.) A Publication of the International Farakka Committee for the International Seminar on Farakka Agreement, Arsenic Problem, Natural Gas, and Other Related National Issues of Bangladesh, September 28, New York.

Haque, M. A. 1997. International Seminar on Farakka Barrageand Other Related Issues of Bangladesh (abs.). p. 10. In Shaheen et al., (ed.) A Publication of the International Farakka Committee for the International Seminar on Farakka Agreement, Arsenic Problem, Natural Gas, and Other Related National Issues of Bangladesh, September 28, New York.

Sattar, M. A., 1997. Farakka: Bangladesher Bhagya Zekhane Bondi, Padma Prakashani, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Sattar, M. A., 1998. Bangladesh-Bharat Ovinno Nodir Pani Sankot (Bangladesh-India Transboundary River Crisis), Tofazzel Hossain Vishwya Sahitya Bhaban, Banglabajar, Dhaka, Bangladesh.


[Disclaimer: ALOCHONA Management is not liable for information contained in this message. The author takes full responsibility.]
To unsubscribe/subscribe, send request to

Your email settings: Individual Email|Traditional
Change settings via the Web (Yahoo! ID required)
Change settings via email: Switch delivery to Daily Digest | Switch to Fully Featured
Visit Your Group | Yahoo! Groups Terms of Use | Unsubscribe