Bangladesh should motivate the upper riparian countries like India and China to sign a water connectivity agreement, aiming to ensure the fair share of water of its trans-boundary rivers, according to a water expert, reports UNB.
"If we give a navigation route to India to ply its water vessels and if India gets benefits from it, it'll, of course, release water of its rivers to Bangladesh," deputy executive director of Dhaka-based Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) Engr Abu Saleh Khan told the news agency recently.
If water level rapidly declines in the country's rivers, he said, Bangladesh as a lower riparian country cannot fight with a big neighbour like India for water. "Therefore, there should be water connectivity agreement and this is a practical solution.
Observing that water level in rivers is not only declining here but also shrinking in upstream countries in recent years, the water engineer said since water demand is growing in the upper countries day by day, they may take steps to divert water from trans-boundary rivers.
"But, we must find ways how we can get water from upstream countries in a win-win situation. That's why Bangladesh is now trying to take basin-based water management in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna (GBM) basins, involving other countries," he said.
Bangladesh has 57 trans-boundary rivers. Of them, there are 54 with India, while the remaining three with Myanmar. Bangladesh signed a water agreement with India over the Ganges River in 1996.
During the dry season, Bangladesh faces a rapid decline in water flow in its all rivers every year. Water flow during the dry season in the Teesta River was 4,494 Cusecs in 1980 and it declined to only 232 cusecs (cubic feet per second) on March 22 in 2015, the lowest water flow in history, according to Joint River Commission data.
Bangladesh Water Development Board data showed that the average minimum flow of the Padma River has been 22,300 cusecs over the last 12 years. But it experienced a drastic drop in water level in May 2011 when water level fell to only 3,100 Cusec.
Abu Saleh, who has 30 years' professional experience in planning and management of water resources, said there is no alternative to signing agreements with India for getting river water aiming to keep Bangladesh's rivers alive and protect its biodiversity.
"If we sign a deal with India to get only water, it won't bring any fruitful result at all. The deal must be a broader one. So, we're now talking about regional interconnectivity-transhipment," he said.
The IWM deputy executive said if Bangladesh signs only a water agreement, it will not be a functional one anyway. "If we go forward to establish regional power grid connectivity and can do it, why we won't be able to launch the regional water connectivity?" he questioned.
Biodiversity and aquatic animals have been facing acute trouble for adequate water flow in the country's rivers. A 2014 study shows that a total of 30 freshwater fish species have been listed as extinct in inland water-bodies, particularly rivers. More than 100 species of fishes are also under threat to extinction.a