BEN-BAPA Online Dialogue on the Teesta River

BEN Desk

Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN) hosted an online dialogue on the management of the Teesta River, a trans-boundary river flowing through India and Bangladesh. Dr. Md. Khalequzzaman, professor of Geology at Lock Haven University, Pennsylvania, USA, presented the keynote, laying out the environmental impacts of the proposed Teesta River Comprehensive Management Project (TRCMP). A Government of Bangladesh (GoB) project to be implemented by PowerChina, a wholly state-owned Chinese enterprise, TRCMP has apparently garnered support from the local people unaware of the long-term environmental implications of a large-scale project attempting to alter the natural course of the river through engineering. Dr. Md. Khalequzzaman presented facts and figures on the geomorphological dynamics of the river. He argued that the stated objectives of the TRCMP, for example, the plan to constrict the flows to a 700 meters canal in places, are impractical and dangerous. Speakers coming from a range of interest, expertise, and location provided additional insights on the issues. The speakers included, among others, Dr. Muinul Islam, a retired professor of economics from the University of Chittagong, and an ex-President of Bangladesh Economic Association. Dr. Muinul joined from Bangladesh over Zoom. He outlined the apparent economic benefits of such a mega-project for the local people. He cautioned that his analysis falls short of environmental and ecological concerns, as that is not an area of his expertise. The list of speakers also included Principal Nazrul Islam Hakkani, President, Teesta Bachao Nodi Bachao Sangram Parishad; Faridul Islam Farid, President, Teesta Nodi Raksha Committee; Safiar Rahman, Secretary, Teesta Bachao Nodi Bachao Sangram Parishad; Sharif Jamil, General Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA); Firoz Ahmed, Member, Political Committee, Gana Songhoti Andolon and Zonayed Saki, Principal Coordinator, Gana Songhoti Andolon. The rest of the speakers discussed and debated the environmental and the economic aspects of the project, the costs and the benefits to the local people and to the environment. Several speakers critiqued the lack of transparency on this issue on the part of the GoB. Preliminary Development Project Proposal (PDPP) is the only available project document, Dr. Md. Khalequzzaman mentioned during the question-and-answer session.

Dr. Saleh Tanveer, the BEN Global coordinator, opened the event welcoming such a dialogue and the participants. Dr. Mohammod Irfan, a BEN organizer, facilitated the discussion. Dr. Dipen Bhattacharya and Dr. Hossain Azam helped with the hosting and technology. Dr. Mazharul Islam Rana and Dr. Ahmed Badruzzaman of BEN attended the discussions.

Dr. S. Nazrul Islam, founder of BEN presided over the three and a half hour session. In the light of his own research, publication and field visits, Dr Nazrul reiterated the need for finding sustainable solutions to the immediate issue of river erosion while not ignoring the long-term concerns around the watershed ecology and the environment. He called for increased public discussion and dialogue on the issue.

The entire event was streamed live on Facebook. Interested readers can watch the dialogue on the Facebook page of BEN

Screenshot from the November 21 BEN-BAPA online dialogue on the management of the Teesta River

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