Dhaka: With India and Bangladesh bearing the brunt of floods annually, a consequence of their location in the world’s second-largest river basin, experts in both the countries are stressing on adopting an “integrated approach” and “regional co-operation” to mitigate its huge economic and human costs.
Straddling the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna (GBM) river basin, India and Bangladesh – along with Bhutan, China, and Nepal – are host to a multitude of water management problems resulting from floods, droughts and distribution of water.
“The problems are similar. There should be a common understanding of the problems, be it floods or erosion. The solutions to the problems should be sought out in conjunction with scientists of both countries and possibly also China, since it is also part of the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin,” said Mashfiqus Salehin, professor at the
Institute of Water and Flood Management in the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka.
Salehin was speaking at a media workshop and field trip organised by The Third Pole and Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) in Dhaka.
“We should learn from each other. Bangladesh should learn from India and India from Bangladesh,” said Salehin.
Of the total estimated flood prone areas in India, 68 percent lies in the GBM, mostly in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh.
Bangladesh is affected in a major way, being the lowest riparian with only seven percent of the country lying in the GBM basin and with extensive floodplain topography.
For starters, scientists like Salehin from Bangladesh and Kalyan Rudra from India are advocating the need to go in for trans-boundary initiatives in flood forecasting methods, as these are similar in both the countries.
“One area we should work together is in flood forecasting and prediction,” river expert Kalyan Rudra told IANS in Kolkata.
“The way it is done in India and Bangladesh, there are much similarities. If it’s done in an integrated way, it will be good for both,” said Salehin.
“This synergy would benefit Bangladesh in obtaining real-time data,” said Istiak Sobhan, programme coordinator of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Bangladesh.
“The research, the analysis, the methodology has to be transparent between the two parties. We need real-time data,” said Sobhan.
Besides an integrated approach, experts are calling for a deviation from flood control to flood management.
“We must learn to live with the river. The time has come for a paradigm shift from flood control to its management,” said Rudra, who felt structural controls like dams and associated reservoirs should be erected with extreme caution.
Rudra emphasised that all fallout effects should be carefully considered before embarking on major structural interventions, as they do impact lower riparian countries significantly.
“Any kind of structural interventions in upstream rivers would have a huge impact on the lower riparian countries like Bangladesh,” said Rudra.
Scientists on the other side of the border echo the same.
“I am not against dams, but the question is that if you decide to restrict the release of water from it, then what do we do when we need the water during the dry season? Not much research is done before implementing the project and its impact,” said Salehin.
Researchers conclude that it boils down to focusing on non-structural procedures, including flood forecasting.
“We need to come up with some strategy looking at the hazards, vulnerabilities and risks and then whether we can use structural methods to control it or use non- structural methods to reduce vulnerability. It’s all about integrated flood management,” said Salehin.