Speakers at a conference on Thursday called for establishing a South Asian river commission and greater cooperation among Bangladesh, India and Nepal to help protect rivers and settle existing water-related disputes.
According to them, lack of cooperation, political will, pollution and indiscriminate use of water are deepening water-related problems in the region where concerted efforts, a joint institution and fullest cooperation could solve such problems and bring benefits for the people of the three countries.
They made the observation at a programme titled 'Water Walk Culmination-2007' at the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) auditorium.
Chairman of Standing Committee on Ministry of Finance Dr. Abdur Razzak, member of parliament Nazmul Haque Pradhan and Chairman of National River Conservation Commission Md. Atharul Islam were the guests of honour at the programme.
The discussants were chairman of Gram Bangla Sangstha Dr. S. I Khan, country director of Oxfam Bangladesh Snehal Someji, deputy country representative of Asia Foundation Sara L. Taylor and Executive Director of Institute of Water Modeling Prof. Dr. M. Monowar Hossain.
Shamsher Ali of ActionAid Bangladesh, Shiva Pokhrel of ActionAid Nepal and Dr. Bratindi Jena of ActionAid India were the keynote speakers.
Director of ActionAid Bangladesh Asgar Ali Sabri was the moderator at the programme.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Abdur Razzak said water should flow naturally as it knows no political boundary or politics but its flows are being hindered by different dams and barriers.
"Due to political interest and lack of cooperation, various water and river problems between Bangladesh and India remain to be solved. Water flows are also being impeded indiscriminately which is further worsening water-related problems in this region," he added.
He said it is national, regional and even global concern that these countries still could not reach a structured framework to solve such problems.
Mr Razzak urged concerned authorities, civil societies and NGOs of three countries to work on these important issues.
Dr. S. I Khan said among the country's trans-boundary rivers, 65 per cent comes from Nepal, 10 per cent from China and 25 per cent from India but India's attitude towards rivers is very depressing as it has been showing as if most of these rivers come from its territory.
"We should go to international forums to solve various existing river or water-related problems,"
He said a joint commission to protect and settle disputes could also be established to solve such problems.
Mr Atharul Islam said before independence, the country's waterway was around 24,000 km which has now declined to only 5,000 to 6,000 km. Thousands of rivers have now been reduced to only 350.
He said due to different regional and national reasons, condition of surface and ground water has already worsened.
"I think, politics with water is one of influential factors regarding such an alarming situation"
He said such a situation gives us the signal that one day the country will lose its rivers and even water.
"The problem should be solved regionally through prompt actions", he added.
Besides, Water Commons Forum of the three countries also presented some proposals including signing of United Nations river-related laws, use of knowledge and experience of riverside people in initiatives and development projects and turning of the bilateral river commission into the river commission of South Asia.