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  21 Jan 2022, 21:29

Rivers influence geopolitics in South Asia: experts

    DHAKA, Jan 21, 2022 (BSS) - Experts at an international conference

today stressed taking basin-wise watershed management to address water
problems in trans-boundary rivers of South Asia, saying the river
issue influences geopolitics in the region.

  "Water management has to be basin-wise management starting from the
origin and down to the point where river reaches to the ocean", chief
executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) Syeda
Rizwana Hasan said while speaking at the conference on its second day.

  The 7th International Water Conference 2022 is being held virtually,
arranged by ActionAid Bangladesh.

  Terming rivers a living entity, Rizwana said this value is totally
lost in India-Bangladesh negotiation and decision-making process.

  She said the nature-based negotiation approach is missing, and the
negotiation process should be accountable and transparent regarding
the water management and allocation.

  Former Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said nowadays water is seen
as a strategic asset, not only as a resource.

  "In South Asia, river influences geopolitics. Geopolitics is a tool
to analyze in the context of political views and national interest,"
he said.

  Delivering his remarks as a chair on the second day of the
conference titled 'Teesta River Basin: Overcoming the Challenges', he
said geopolitics should not be seen as zero-sum game. "It should be
win-win situation looking through the geopolitical lens," Shahidul
said.

  The second day of the conference focused on the thematic issues-
Structural Interventions and Regional Geopolitics around Teesta River
Basin and Teesta River Basin and its Ecosystem and Gender
Implications.

  Urging for a basin-wise watershed management in the region,
parliament member Hasanul Haq Inu said barrages and dams are affecting
the ecosystem of rivers.

 Keeping agriculture and food security at center, executive director,

Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) Dr Atiq Rahman said
restricting the flow of water by barrage and holding water can disrupt
the lives and livelihoods of the river-based people.

  He said West Bengal and Bangladesh are fortunate to have good civil
society organisations that can act as a catalyst to mitigate any
conflicting issues like Teesta river water.

 As per the rule, the joint river commission between Bangladesh and
India has to be sat twice in a year but the real scenario is different
and no fruitful outcome is visible, said general secretary of
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) Sharif Jamil.

  He said the entire river system among the Ganges, Brahmaputra and
Meghna should be looked holistically and five riparian countries
should sit together and manage these entire three basins because this
is an integral part of single river system.

 Noting that the Teesta River is linked with 25 rivers in Bangladesh,
Tuhin Wadud, a professor of Begum Rokeya University and director of
Riverine People, said: "No decision should be taken on the Teesta
without consultation with the people living on the banks of the
river".

  He said each river has its own characteristics and when it comes to
adopting any master plan for the river, it is important to keep in
mind about the people and the environment along the river.

  Ajaya Dixit, advisor, ISET-Nepal; Sharmind Neelormi, professor of
Jahangirnagar University; Minket Lepcha, storyteller, filmmaker,
independent researcher; Dr Mahbuba Nasreen, professor and director,
Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies, University
of Dhaka; and Shahnaz Parvin, project coordinator, Gana Unnayan Kendra
(GUK); also spoke on the second day of the conference.

  Zehrin Ahmed, communications coordinator at Bangladesh, Youth
Environmental Initiative (BYEI); Chhaya Namchu, affiliated with West
Bengal Lepcha Development Board, and Mayalmith Lepcha, general
secretary of Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) shared their thoughts
from the grassroots.

 

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