Left Democratic Alliance yesterday demanded that the government make public the bilateral documents it signed with India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to the neighbouring country.
Reportedly, Bangladesh’s interests have been overlooked and India’s interests were given priority in the agreements, the alliance leaders said at a press conference in the capital’s Mukti Bhaban.
In protest, LDA will stage a rally at Jatiya Press Club on Sunday afternoon, they said.
On Saturday, Bangladesh and India signed seven bilateral documents, aiming to further strengthen the relations between the two countries, according to media reports.
The bilateral documents are: MoU for providing a coastal surveillance system; the standard operating procedure on the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India; MoU on withdrawal of 1.82 cusec water from the Feni river by India for a drinking water supply scheme in Sabroom town of Tripura; agreement on implementation of the lines of credit committed by India to Bangladesh; MoU between the University of Hyderabad and the University of Dhaka; MoU on cooperation in youth affairs and renewal of a cultural exchange programme.
The government has agreed to India’s use of Bangladesh’s sea ports but it did not disclose the agreement’s terms and conditions before the countrymen, said Communist Party of Bangladesh President Mujahidul Islam Selim.
Nothing has been said about whether there are any “protective measures” in the agreement, he said.
Selim also said the present government came to power through a “farcical election”. As a result, it agreed to whatever demands were made by India because its aim was to “survive” in power.
“This government has to step down if Bangladesh’s interests are to be upheld,” he added.
On the killing of Buet student Abrar Fahad, the left-leaning politician said such incidents would not have happened at a renowned educational institution if students there had the chance to practice and engage in ideology-based political activities.
Reading out a written statement, LDA central leader Abdus Sattar said countrymen are aggrieved and frustrated over PM’s consent to the withdrawal of water from the river Feni, as Bangladesh’s demand for logical distribution of water of common rivers, including the Teesta, still remains unresolved.
“This is similar to betraying the country and its citizens after sacrificing Bangladesh’s interest,” he said.
Saiful Haque, general secretary of Revolutionary Workers Party of Bangladesh, said Bangladesh as a sovereign country has failed diplomatically during PM’s recent visit to India and that the countrymen also rejected the government’s recent deals.
Withdrawal of Feni River Water: Experts see little impact here
India is going to draw around 51.54 litres of water per second from the Feni river once the deal between Bangladesh and India is implemented, but doubts remain as to how much impact it would have on Bangladesh.
The Feni water-sharing agreement was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi on October 6.
Some experts say the drawing of water will have little impact on the downstream of the Feni river.
Yet, the deal regarding withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water by India, to be used as drinking water for the people of Sabroom town in Tripura, triggered sharp criticism in Bangladesh.
The condemnation comes due to India dillydallying on signing the Teesta deal for last eight years even after finalisation of the deal and suspicions regarding the nature of the deal.
“I think withdrawal of 1.82 cusecs of water will have very little impact in the downstream. After a series of discussions, we have agreed to provide them the water for drinking purpose. There is no shortage of water during the monsoon and during the lean period, the river has a minimum flow of the water around 110 cusecs,” said KM Anwar Hossain, member, Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), Bangladesh.
He explained the quantity of water in one cusec water was equivalent to 28.32 litres of water flow per second. So, 1.82 cusec will be equivalent to 51.54 litres water per second.
When asked when the water-sharing would start, Anwar said it would start soon as the MoU was already signed.
While there is optimism on a government level, questions remain regarding how much water is to be withdrawn and how it would be monitored.
Professor Saiful Islam of the Institute of Water and Flood management, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said the discharge of Feni river was around 750 cusecs during the monsoon, while it was over 100 cusecs in winter.
“That means they are going to withdraw around two to three percent of water from the river during the lean period, which would not be a problem.
“But if they withdraw more than 1.82 cusecs, it may affect Muhuri-Feni irrigation project based on the water from Feni river,” he said.
Around 230.076 hectares land area is under the Muhuri-Feni irrigation project.
He, however, said it was necessary to sign deals on sharing of the water of all transboundary rivers.
Locals living by the Feni river in Khagrachhari said India had been withdrawing water from the Feni river “unofficially”, by setting up small pumps at zero point.
Regarding the deal, many said there was confusion whether it was to draw 1.82 cusec of water or more.
“If they withdraw 1.82 cusec of water, it will not have much impact downstream. But, if they withdraw 1.82 cumec instead, it will be a disaster for us because 1.82 cumec is 35 times higher than 1.82 cusec. So, the government should make it clear about the signed MoU,” said M Inamul Haque, Chairman, Institute of Water & Environment.
According to the joint statement of Hasina’s official visit to India, it is mentioned that 1.82 cusec of water will be withdrawn. A copy of the MoU, however, is yet to be made available on public domains.
In regards to monitoring, JRC member Anwar said, “Now India will invite Bangladesh to oversee the withdrawal activities jointly with them. They will set up water pumps to withdraw the water, while officials of Bangladesh and India will jointly monitor the activities,” he said.
“The officials will monitor some issues like whether the withdrawal activities cause any harm to the river, so it does not cause any erosion on the river bank,” he said.
Source: The Star Daily