What's Ganges barrage project and why Bangladesh wants India to be a stakeholder

Bangladesh is keen to have India as a "stakeholder" in the proposed USD 4 billion Ganges barrage project and a team from India's water resources ministry will soon visit Dhaka to hold talks in this regard, a senior minister has said.

State Minister for Water Resources Nazrul Islam said two Chinese firms were keen to fully finance the project and even Japan was willing to fund at least USD 2 billion.

"But because the Ganges flows into Bangladesh from India, we take a long-term view of the project and our prime minister is keen to get India into it," he told bdnews24.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in Dhaka on 06 June 2015. Image courtesy PIB

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in Dhaka on 06 June 2015. Image courtesy PIB

He said a team from India's water resources ministry will soon visit Dhaka to hold discussions on the barrage project.

"The issue was raised during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Dhaka last year. He showed much interest and Indian officials later asked for the project details which we have provided," Islam said.

He said funding was not a problem for the project.

"Two Chinese companies have offered full finance while the Japanese have said they can put in half the project cost and we can manage the rest, but it makes long-term sense to have India involved as the Ganges flow into Bangladesh from India," Islam said.

The Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina also seems keen to have New Delhi on board. However, she is likely to convey her decision to her PM Narendra Modi when they meet in Goa on 16-17 October on the sidelines of Brics summit, reports The Economic Times.

High cost, phenomenal capacity

The Ganges barrage will be a 165-kilometre long reservoir running from Rajbari to Chapainawabganj districts, with a depth of 12.5 metres.

It will hold a phenomenal 2.9 billion cubic litres and cost Tk 314 billion (approximately USD 4 billion). The barrage will retain the water of the trans-boundary river Ganga, known as the Padma in Bangladesh, during the monsoon and feed small rivers during the lean season.

This will help Bangladesh flush the small rivers and reduce salinity, a major threat to public health and agriculture in the country's southwest.

Islam sought to allay fears of flooding on the Indian side of the Ganges. "The project has provided for allocations for upgrading and raising embankments on the Indian side to avoid any flooding," he said.

Salinity problem

Much of Bangladesh’s salinity problem seems to be linked to the Farakka barrage situated in West Bengal. After the construction of the barrage there was a drop in the river Padma, which resulted in increased soil salinity southwest of Bangladesh, affecting 6,200 hectares of farmland, reports The Third Pole.

The report states that after the signing of the Ganga Waters treaty between India and Bangladesh in 1996, Bangladesh has received water during the extreme dry season, but the damaged land couldn't be undone.

Water expert Prof Ainun Nishat said the Ganges Barrage Project should be implemented as soon as possible to protect the Bangladesh's southwestern region, including the Sundarbans, reports The Daily Star.

The proposed project has a reservoir to augment the flow of water and its equal distribution over the Ganges dependent area. The project will meet the demand for agriculture, fisheries, ecosystems and navigation, experts and officials told The Daily Star.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 10, 2016 21:23 PM

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