Ganges barrage: China keen to help

Mustafizur Rahman

China is willing to provide both technical and financial assistances to the much hyped Ganges Barrage project to be constructed at Pangsha in Rajbari at an estimated cost of $4 billion.
Senior secretary to the water resources ministry Zafar Ahmed Khan said this after a meeting with a Chinese delegation at the ministry on Wednesday.
A three-member Chinese delegation led by China Gezhouba Group Company Ltd general manager Hu Oili called on water resources minister Anisul Islam Mahmud at the minister’s office.
The secretary told New Age that the Chinese state-owned firm, already appointed to conduct a detailed feasibility study with focus on both financial and technical sides, was expected to submit its report within a year.
The construction firm was engaged almost two year and a half ago and was given one more year to complete a counter feasibility study, Zafar said, adding that the government earlier had conducted a feasibility study on the project on its own.
There was no such barrier to the implementation of the project now, he replied to a question.
He said that the government would go ahead with the construction of the barrage over the cross-border river with the cooperation of India, an upper-riparian country, mainly to check salinity intrusion and provide irrigation facility in the country’s south-western region.
Several officials said that the construction of the barrage was now pending for ‘clearance’ from New Delhi, which had sought a detailed feasibility study report with answers to some specific queries from Dhaka on the planned barrage over the river Padma, the lower part of the course of the Ganges in India.
The secretary said that the government would share the detailed study report with India and give answers to the queries.
The proposed barrage would provide irrigation for around 1.90 million hectares of land in the greater districts of Kushtia, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna, Barisal, Pabna and Rajshahi.
It would also protect the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, and its biodiversity, according to project documents.
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, in April 2015 in her directives on the issue reportedly said that the barrage would be a Bangladesh-India joint project and it would ensure that the natural flow of the Ganges/Padma in Bangladesh parts.
The reservoir to be created by the barrage would involve both Bangladesh and Indian parts of the river, as per the directives.
In 1975, India commissioned a barrage across the Ganges at Farakka to divert water into the Bhagirathi-Hoogly river in West Bengal for the purpose of flushing the silts to improve the navigability of the Kolkata port, official documents show.
Due to the diversion, the flows in the Ganges, known as Padma after it enters Bangladesh, reduced considerably and affected agriculture, fishery, forestry, navigation and industrial development in the Ganges dependent areas in Bangladesh, said officials.
The World Heritage site Sundarbans was now on the verge of extinction, because of high salinity levels during dry season due to lack of water flow, said officials involved in the project.
In September 2014, Bangladesh apprised India of the brief feasibility study of the project for optimum and proper management of water available under the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty signed between the two neighbours in 1996.
Later in January 2015, India requested Bangladesh to share the complete feasibility report, including the mathematical modelling and morphological studies.

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