Hindu Vivek Kendra
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Posted By Ashok V Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
31 December 1996

Date : December 31, 1996

India's secularist rulers have once again surrendered to the
pressures of the international Islamic lobby - whatever the
incentives for some political leaders and parties - and signed the
1996 Ganga Waters Treaty with the Government of Bangladesh, which
militates against India's interests. especially the interests of
its eastern region. The 1977 Ganga Waters Treaty was bad enough,
for, it offered to Bangladesh a disproportionately large share of
waters available at the Farakka point. But the 1996 Treaty is

1. There is a lack of transparency in the treaty, as also in the
negotiations leading to the treaty. It is not clear whether the
treaty conforms to international regulations on the distribution of
the water of international rivers. There is not much evidence that
the Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been consulted
before the signing of the 1996 Treaty, and that the flow for the
entire length of the Ganga along tile territories of West Bengal,
Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has been measured for the allocation of
waters. If not, the provisions of the 1996 Treaty may appear to be
Infirm in terms of International law.

2. As to the division of Ganga waters available at the Farakka
point, there is a worry about whether the estimates of the
anticipated total flow of water in the lean season are correct or
realistic. For, the 1996 Treaty estimates substantially exceed the
1977 Treaty estimates. This is not acceptable to experts who are
aware of largescale deforestation in the region before and since
1977, which cannot but have an adverse impact on rainfall and the
flow of waters.

3. The mode of assessment of the anticipated water flow, too, does
not bear scrutiny. The data for the period 1949-98 have been
assumed to be valid for the period 1996-2026. This is far from
realistic, if one keeps in mind the turbulence of the Ganga, end
the dangerous ways in which it can render obsolescent the data base
of the 1996 Treaty.

4. The view, that an ingenious sequencing of water flows in the
lean season will ensure that the silt deposited in the
Hooghly-Bhagirathi at one ten-day period (e.g. 1-10 April and 21-30
April) will be flushed out in the following ten-day period (i.e.
11-20 April and 1-10 May, respectively), is erroneous. Such a view
betrays a lack of familiarity with the characteristics and
behaviour of silt deposited in the Hooghly.

5. If, on account of the above noted miscalculation of the
anticipated water flow at the Farakka point, there emerges a gross
disparity between the actual and anticipated flow, and Bangladesh
continues to secure 90% of its share of the anticipated flow as
delineated in the 1996 Treaty, Calcutta may suffer from three
serious consequences. First, the port of Calcutta may face a severe
crisis. Secondly, water supply in the city of Calcutta may be
disrupted by salinity. Thirdly, the thermal power plant at Budge
may be irreparably damaged.

6. Moreover, in the highly likely event of a huge disparity between
the actual and the anticipated total flow at the Farakka point,
even the guaranteed supply to Bangladesh of 90% of its share (as
stipulated in the 1996 Treaty) may not be much avail (at any rate
till the construction of a storage dam, etc. on the Padma inside
Bangladesh territory in the long run) in the removal of such
grievances of Bangladesh as the decrease of water in the Padma
during the day season and the rise of salinity. If the grievances
persist in the coming 3-4 years, the Government of Bangladesh may
face a political upheaval in which opposition parties can accuse
the Governments of Bangladesh and India of practising deception
upon Bangladeshis by means of the 1996 Treaty.

7. The 1977 Treaty had the essential merit of securing a commitment
from Bangladesh to earnest endeavours towards resolving the
principal issue of augmentation of the flow of Ganga waters. The
1996 Treaty has liquidated this commitment. There are newspaper
reports about the construction of a canal from Bhutan's Sankosh
river for augmenting the flow of Ganga waters. These reports are
misleading. For, in the first place, the costs re prohibitive.
Secondly, there is no firm evidence that the Government of India is
ready to bear these costs. Thirdly, even if one (unwarrantedly)
assumes the availability of funds, one must remember that the
Sankosh river is so turbulent and the construction of the proposed
canal can cause so much of environmental damage that the Ministry
of Environment of the Government of India will find it virtually
impossible to endorse any scheme for such a canal. Fourthly, this
scheme is being vaguely published without the requisite hydraulic
observation and reconnaissance survey.

8. Some reports in Indian newspapers echo the view of Bangladeshis
that Calcutta need not worry about the decline (or even demise) of
its port. For, the Haldia port can act as a substitute for the
Calcutta port. This is entirely wrong, because the Haldia port can
handle only such types of cargo as coal, oil and fertiliser. It
does not have the infrastructure to handle other types of cargo for
which the preservation of the Calcutta port is essential not merely
to India but also to Bhutan and Nepal. Some Indian newspapers have
even indulged in a wild flight of fancy, and suggested that the
1996 Treaty may facilitate the use of the Chittagong Port of India,
which can compensate for the decline of the Calcutta Port!

9. Some newspapers in India have put forward the suggestion that
the implementation of the 1996 Treaty may so improve the economy of
Bangladesh as to deter illegal migration from Bangladesh to India.
This suggestion has two presuppositions, both of which may turn out
to be false. One, the disparity between the actual and anticipated
flow of waters at the Farakka point will not be such as to render
the economic impact of the 1996 Treaty upon Bangladesh
insignificant. Two, the predominance of the lumpen - bourgeoisie in
Bangladesh - which specialise the misusing national resources by,
e.g. taking loans from commercial banks, defaulting on repayment,
and deverting a large part of these loans to personal accounts in
the banks of rich countries, and thus throttling the economic
development of Bangladesh - will vanish in a support period
following the signing of the 1996 Treaty.

Despite all the aforesaid complaints and criticism about the 1996
Ganga Waters Treaty, it is possible to take an optimistic view of
some probable consequences of the 1996 Treaty.

(I) This Treaty may pave the way to the multiplication of transit
facilities for India through the Bangladesh territory to India's
northeastern region. This will appreciably cut down transportation
costs currently borne by India. Moreover, the sale of transit
facilities to India will enable Bangladesh to reduce substantially
its trade deficit with India. This can lead to an improvement in
India-Bangladesh relations, and speed up the process of emergence
of South Asia Free Trade Area.

(ii) An improvement in India-Bangladesh relations may lead to the
amelioration of the lot of minorities in Bangladesh by means of
such steps as the revocation of the Vested Property Act.

(iii) An upswing in India-Bangladesh relations may lead to a
resolution of the problem of refugees from Bangladesh's Chittagong
Hill Tracts in India.

The above noted optimistic scenario may not materialise, because an
overwhelming majority of the people and the ruling circle of
Bangladesh are incorrigible anti-Hindu and, therefore, anti-Indian.
Consequently, in the near future, the people of India may curse the
ruling politicians for imposing on them a package of fraudulent
statistics interlaced with deceptive promises.

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