Regional cooperation for measures against floods

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 20 Aug 2017, 21:39:56

Regional cooperation for measures against floods

Rushing flood waters this year have spared none, particularly in South Asia. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the raging deluge has affected more than 16 million people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. China too has been ravaged by floods. The fury of Nature has left in its trail hundreds of people killed, crops and property worth billions of dollars damaged and destroyed and economies of the four countries bleeding. As the IFRC has estimated, more than one-third of Bangladesh and Nepal have been flooded, and the humanitarian crisis could get worse in the days and weeks ahead.

Against this backdrop, the International Farakka Committee (IFC), a non-governmental advocacy platform, has attributed intensive flooding and acute water scarcity faced by Bangladesh during rainy and dry seasons respectively to an unsustainable river management. At a news conference in Dhaka on Friday, it called for keeping the common Himalayan rivers alive through basin-wise integrated management on the basis of regional cooperation so that people of all the riparian countries living along the banks of these rivers can continue to benefit from it. The IFC quoted experts as saying 92 per cent of floodwater in Bangladesh comes from the upper catchments of the common rivers while the rest eight per cent is generated from local rainfall and stream flows from hills. Due to unplanned construction of a series of dams and barrages at the upper catchments of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, many small rivers in the subcontinent have started drying up.

Notably, Bangladesh, India and other countries have spent billions of dollars separately in the past 40-50 years in building infrastructure to control floods, but could not achieve the desired goal. Had these countries built infrastructures jointly to flush out water, flooding could be checked to a great extent. Adequate preparation for disaster management could be taken if these countries could work out a system of exchanging weather forecast and prior information about flood by developing geographic information system. Such cooperation can help reduce damage to life and property during flooding every year and the governments does not need foreign aid for post-flood rehabilitation.

That is why cooperation in flood control among the regional countries where major rivers originate and pass through is the crying need of the hour. While only eight per cent catchment area of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna is in Bangladesh, it is 62 per cent in India, 18 per cent in China, eight per cent in Nepal and four per cent in Bhutan. This means water 12 times the capacity of Bangladesh's rivers flows over the country. Agreements on water distribution of these rivers are limited only to India, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. 

Bangladesh and others could benefit if China would have been included in flood control and water distribution talks. Mutual appreciation of each other's limitations and difficulties is crucial for any understanding and cooperation in this regard. Cooperation takes place only when there is benefit for all the parties from such cooperation, direct or indirect and there exists a win-win situation. However, such benefits may differ for different countries. But the cooperation may facilitate broader regional integrity.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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