It is unfortunate that the Farakka barrage controversy has often been seen as an India versus Bangladesh issue.
But that is not a productive way of looking at the problem.
The truth is, Indians and Bangladeshis alike are disadvantaged by the effects of the barrage, and oppose the project, which has been responsible for floodings and increased salinity levels on the Indian side, particularly in Bihar.
Bangladesh, being a largely agrarian nation, also suffers greatly from Farakka’s effects, as our water bodies are drying up, and higher salinity levels cause irreparable damage to farmers and their livelihoods.
It is, then, heartening to see Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar speak out on the matter, urging the Indian government to decommission the harmful Farakka barrage.
Some estimations claim environmental losses to India could be in the thousands of crores, and experts on both sides of the India-Bangladesh border agree that the Farakka project is environmentally unsound and not sustainable.
It is clear that India and Bangladesh need to work together to improve the management and sharing of the 54 rivers we have in common.
Improved water-sharing compliance would go a long way in reducing the suffering of the people -- unfortunately, in spite of the 1996 water-sharing agreement, Bangladesh has often been deprived of its projected volume of water in lean periods.
Decommissioning the Farakka dam, then, makes sense for both sides.
If our governments can get together and agree on the importance of decommissioning Farakka, it will have a tremendously positive impact on the perception of India in Bangladesh.
We hope the Bihar chief minister’s statements will hasten the way towards a viable, long-term solution.