Thursday, June 13, 2024

Vast tracts of land to go barren

Feni River water sharing
A large tract of cultivable land in the south-eastern parts of the country will face a serious irrigation crisis during the dry season if Bangladesh and India share waters of the river Feni, officials told The Independent, on Tuesday.
The river Feni, originating from a spring in the hills of South Tripura district in north-eastern India, flows down the frontier town of Sabroom before entering Bangladesh on its way to the Bay of Bengal. The river meanders through the highlands and passes down Feni district where it acquires its name on the Bangladesh side. During the dry season, the river Feni is hardly navigable up to Ramgarh, about 80 km upstream.
Members of the joint river commission (JRC) of Bangladesh and India has prepared a draft agreement to equally share the Feni river waters, which was scheduled to be signed during the Dhaka visit of Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, a competent source of the water resources ministry, told The Independent.
However, the agreement was not signed and the reasons were not known as to why the deal fell through.
Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) has a project named “Muhuri irrigation project,” which depends on the waters of three rivers — Feni, Muhuri and Kalidas Pahalia, executive engineer of the Feni district, BWDB, Md Rafiqullah, said.
Farmers of the area, who depend on waters of these three rivers to irrigate about 40,000 hectares of land under the project, could not water about 23,000 hectares due to several problems, he said.
The river Feni mainly feeds the Kalidas Pahalia, the BWDB official said.
JRC member Mir Sajjad Hossain said they didn’t have the data on the quantity of the water flowing down the river Feni.
The director general of the BWDB, Habibur Rahman, said India wanted two cusecs of water from the river for supply of drinking water to Sabroom, a town opposite to Ramgarh inside Bangladesh.
India proposed to share the Feni waters on an equal basis to irrigate its lands, he said adding, Bangladesh agreed to sign a deal (not like the one that was proposed to be inked on Teesta) in this regard.
The Feni district deputy director of the department of agriculture extension said they didn’t know how many farmers were dependent on the Feni waters to irrigate their lands.
The river Muhuri, a tributary of the river Feni and is called the little Feni, flows down Noakhali district and joins the Feni near its estuary.
The question of sharing the waters of the river Feni between India and Pakistan was discussed way back in 1958. And, recently, the issue was revived when the JRC added the Feni issue to its mandate at its 36th meeting.
A decision was taken at the meeting that the water resources ministers of both the countries would visit the sites where developmental works had been held up. The joint inspection of various locations of developmental and flood protection works on the common rivers was held from September 14-21, 2006.
Sabroom in India’s South Tripura is only 18-20 km away from Bay of Bengal, but it is virtually a land-locked territory. There are suggestions that an inland harbour could be built at Sabroom, connected to the sea through a canal, if Bangladesh allows it.
The construction of such a harbour would also reduce cost of transportation from the rest of India to Tripura, and its neighbouring north-eastern states.
However, the suggestions failed to materialize into a concrete proposal.

-With The Independent input

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