The solution to Teesta River issue could be to conserve the high flow during monsoon and use it in lean periods, says Dr Ainun Nishat
Rivers should be allowed to flow freely as the lives of many people as well as ecological balance depend on a river, speakers said at a webinar.
They made the remark on Thursday at a virtual session on Rights of Rivers of the 6th International Water Conference organized by ActionAid Bangladesh, according to a media statement.
“The rights of the river means the rights of the people who live on the bank of it. River has the right to flow as it was flowing,” Dr Ainun Nishat, professor emeritus of Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research at BRAC University, said.
About managing the flow of rivers, Dr Nishat said the average annual flow or pick flow should be never taken into consideration rather the month-by-month flows should be considered.
On the Teesta River issue, he said: “Teesta has been turned into a zero-flow river.”
He suggested that the solution could be to conserve the high flow during monsoon and use it in lean periods.
Adil Qayoom Mallah, research scholar at University of Kashmir in India, mentioned: “Transboundary water has become an issue of high politics in South Asia.”
Dr Adil said in his presentation on “Bangladesh’s River Right: Contesting the Teesta Water” that construction of large dams and barrages by India in the upstream of Teesta River have drastically reduced the flow in downstream Bangladesh.
At the event, the speakers focused on the socio-economic and environmental impacts of building large dams.
Dr Rohan D’Souza, associate professor at Kyoto University in Japan, said large dams often ignore people’s indigenous rights to rivers.
Dr Manzoorul Kibria, professor of Zoology Department in University of Chittagong, said the ecological balance of Halda River is getting highly impacted due to unplanned construction of sluice gates and dams as well as the wastes.
During the first session of the conference on Water, Gender and Covid-19 nexus, the speakers mainly focused on how women are impacted on the grounds of water in the pandemic situation.
Hina Lotia, independent expert, Climate Change and Water Resource Management in Pakistan, said the access to safe and pure water has declined dramatically due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
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Mentioning that although water policies generally avoid gender, Hina said women and children are most vulnerable when it comes to accessing pure and safe water.
Dr Mahbuba Nasreen, director of Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies in University of Dhaka, said: “Water sector is not gender neutral. Women and girls bear the burden of collecting drinking water within the household.”
Barrister Manzoor Hasan OBE, executive director of Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) and chairperson, executive board of ActionAid International Bangladesh Society (AAIBS), said: “Issues of water flowing through rivers are key factors in terms of international relations.
“We should be talking about the rights of rivers as it will mean talking about the rights of individuals,” he added.
Among others, Dr Catherine Grasham, postdoctoral researcher, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK; Farah Kabir, country director, ActionAid Bangladesh; Lubna Marium, dancer and cultural activist, and Rahima Sultana Kazal, general assembly member of AAIBS, spoke at the event.