The government has already completed the feasibility study and design of the long-cherished proposed 2.1 km-long Ganges Barrage Project at Pangsha of Rajbari district, around 98 kilometers downstream from the Farakka Barrage built on the common Ganges River in the Paschimbanga state of India. The proposed project will have a reservoir for flow augmentation of water and its equitable distribution both dry and wet season over the Ganges dependent area. The project will meet the demand of the Ganges water for agriculture, fisheries, ecosystems and navigation, experts and officials say.
Director (water resources) of Dhaka-based Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) M Sarfaraz Wahed said Bangladesh will be benefited from the project in all aspects – salinity will be reduced considerably and all dead rivers of the region will be recharged after implementation of the project. He said the Gorai river system with its augmented flow will provide an improved navigational route to and from the country’s second seaport, Mongla.
Environmental expert Dr Atiq Rahman said the Ganges Barrage is a long-standing project which was discussed in last several decades. “Obviously, Bangladesh will be benefited from the barrage project, but it’s urgent to conduct vigorous environmental, social and climate impact assessments before implementation of the project,” he said. Official sources said the increased water flow through the Hisna-Mathabhanga, Gorai-Modhumati and Chandana-Barasia systems will provide the required flow for the ecosystem and reduce environmental degradation in the Ganges dependent area. The surface water salinity will be reduced due to increased upstream water flow.
About US$ 4 billion is needed to implement the Ganges Barrage Project, but the annual incremental benefit of the project will be Tk 7,340 crore, which means the cost of barrage project will be returned within five years, they claim. According to the feasibility study, once the project is implemented, agricultural production in the Ganges dependent area will be increased while additional paddy production would be about 26 lakh metric tonnes minimising the crop damage area and loss of paddy significantly. Additional fish production would be about 2.4 lakh metric tonnes.
The increased upstream water flow will reduce the rate of siltation in the river systems in the Southwest region. About 33 percent area of the Sundarbans would become moderately low saline zones and about 11, 000 hectares of land in the Sundarbans would become very low salinity zone. About benefits of the project, Water Resources Minister Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud said agricultural production will increase in the region and its one-third of population will be benefited economically and environmentally from the project.
He said Bangladesh will not face any trouble in getting equity share of the trans-boundary river water as per the Ganges Water Treaty signed between Bangladesh and India in 1996. In 1975, India constructed the Farakka Barrage across the common Ganges River to divert 40,000 cusec water into the Bhahgirathi-Hoogly River in Paschimbanga for flushing out the sediment deposition from the Kolkata harbour, which adversely affects the lower riparian area Bangladesh.