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Transboundary River Water for Ganges and Teesta Rivers in Bangladesh: An


Assessment

Article · July 2013

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Rounak Afroz
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Global Science and Technology Journal
Vol. 1. No. 1. July 2013 Issue. Pp.100-111

Transboundary River Water for Ganges and Teesta Rivers in


Bangladesh: An Assessment
Rounak Afroz* and Md. Ataur Rahman**
A total of 57 major rivers of Bangladesh have entered the country, of which 54
rivers are from India and 3 rivers are from Myanmar. These 57 rivers have
many tributaries and distributaries which contribute in forming almost 230
rivers in Bangladesh. As hydrologically Bangladesh has a long duration of dry
period which remains almost 7 to 8 months in a year, these transboundary
rivers are very significant in agriculture, navigation, ground water contribution,
fisheries resources of Bangladesh. But among the 54 rivers coming from India
more than twenty five rivers face one or more upstream diversion basically in
dry months. For this reason, abundant water during monsoon and water
scarcity during non-monsoon months cause year round water related socio-
economic and environmental problems for Bangladesh. This study includes
assessment of upstream water diversion from the selected two main rivers
such as Ganges and Teesta. The study also finds the impact of water
withdrawal from Ganges. Some analysis of International Water Law related to
transboundary water management has been done.

1. Introduction

A river that crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an
international boundary is called Trans-boundary River. The country of Bangladesh has
the greatest number of these rivers, almost all of which cross national boundaries. The
environment, economic growth and development of Bangladesh are all highly influenced
by water - its regional and seasonal availability, and the quality of surface and
groundwater. Spatial and seasonal availability of surface and groundwater is highly
responsive to the monsoon climate and physiography of the country. Availability also
depends on upstream withdrawal for consumptive and non-consumptive uses.

Bangladesh is one of the largest active deltas of the world having a flat topography with
very low elevations which are larger than 10 meters from mean sea level. Eighty
percent of the country is deltaic floodplains which are crisscrossed by about 230 rivers
including 57 Transboundary Rivers of which 54 is shared with India and 3 with
Myanmar. The river system that flows through Bangladesh is the third largest source of
freshwater discharge to the world's ocean. Catchments area of the three major rivers
system of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) region is about 1.72 million km2,
93% of which lies outside the country. Bangladesh, being a lower riparian country, does
not have any control on the flow of these rivers. This has deprived the country of any
opportunity for effective water management.
___________________
*Rounak Afroz, Lecturer, Department of Water Resource Engineering, BUET, Dhaka.
Email: rounak@wre.buet.ac.bd
**Md. Ataur Rahman, Professor, Department of Water Resource Engineering, BUET, Dhaka.
Email: mataur@wre.buet.ac.bd
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Afroz & Rahman
The conditions and challenges of water management in Bangladesh are two folds;
scarcity of water during dry season together with water quality deterioration, ground
water depletion, salinity intrusion and environmental degradation and too much water
during monsoon with devastating flood. This study includes the assessment of
transboundary river water, their management and to find the hydrological and
morphological impact on Bangladesh due to upstream water withdrawal.

The specific objectives of this study are to make an assessment of Transboundary


Rivers of Bangladesh and their importance, to get the historical information about the
discharge carried by these rivers, to find the impact of upstream water withdrawal on
major rivers in dry and flood season, to assess the international river law and to study
about the successful transboundary river water management in international river
basins and to recommend for transboundary water management in GBM basin.

As Hydrologically Bangladesh has a long duration of dry period which remains almost 7
to 8 months in a year, these transboundary rivers are very significant in agriculture,
navigation, ground water contribution, fisheries resources of Bangladesh. But among
the 54 rivers coming from India about 30 rivers face one or more upstream diversion
basically in dry months. For this reason, abundant water during monsoon and water
scarcity during non-monsoon months cause year round water related socio-economic
and environmental disasters for Bangladesh.

As the study includes the assessment of transboundary river water, their management
and to find the hydrological and morphological impact on Bangladesh due to upstream
water withdrawal, for this the paper is organised with an introduction about
transboundary river and their significance in the hydrology and morphology of
Bangladesh. After that there is the significance of the study which is followed by
Literature Review of relevant past studies. Then the process of data collection and the
methodology of analysis is given with the discussion on results. After that the impact
analysis for upstream withdrawal of Ganges water for different sectors of Bangladesh is
described. and at the end conclusion is given with limitations and suggestions for further
studies.

2. Literature Review

Ahmed (2000) showed that the sustainable river basin management through River
Basin Organization will create a common platform and a joint forum for all expertise for
promoting the concept of Multipurpose River Basin Development (MRD). It will seek a
reasonable solution for water resources management shared by all and renewable
energy schemes at river basin level. Major activities would include effective cooperation
for disaster management, basin-wide development, ecosystem protection and regional
institutional framework.

An overall framework of regional cooperation among the co-riparian countries to set


principles of transboundary water resources management on the basis of broad political
and social consensus is evaluated by Salman and Uprety (2002).
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Afroz & Rahman
Adel (2005) presented his studies over hundreds of meetings between India and
Bangladesh, the resulting temporary water-sharing agreements on the Ganges water,
and the Indian Grand River networking plan and its potential downstream impact. He
focuses on the world record number of meetings toward a permanent water-sharing
treaty, resulting shorter-term water-sharing treaties, and the Indian Grand River
networking plan that reflects the Indian hegemony of transboundary river control.
Ahmed (2007)seeks for a permanent solution and durable system to resolve conflict in
sharing of water resources call for enhancing effective regional cooperation for
integrated use of the water resources of the region.

Rahman (2009) reveals that principle of equitable and reasonable utilization, obligation
not to cause significant harm, principles of cooperation, information exchange,
notification, consultation and peaceful settlement of disputes are widely acknowledged
by modern international conventions, agreements and treaties. These principles could
facilitate effective transboundary water resources management involving riparian
countries of shared watercourses and hence, promote sustainable development around
the world.

3. Methodology and Data Analysis

This study is based on analyses of hydrological data collected from Bangladesh Water
Development Board. Daily discharge data for the Ganges River at Hardinge Bridge
gauging station during the period of 1970 to 2011 and for the Teesta River at Dalia point
during the period of 1979 to 2011 were collected. These data were analyzed by plotting
graph with Microsoft Excel to visualize the changes between before and after upstream
withdrawal.

3.1 Data Analysis of Ganges River

Historical discharge data of Ganges River at Hardinge Bridge station from 1970 to 2011
are plotted against time and shown if Figure 1. Two demarcation lines are established,
one at the year 1975 when the Farakka Barrage operation started and another at the
year 1996 when the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty was signed (Figure 1(b)). From
Figure 1 (b), possible changes in the peak discharge series have been examined.
Average peak annual discharges during pre-Farakka, post-Farakka and post 1996
Ganges treaty were found to be 42200 m3/s, 76000 m3/s and 73091 m3/s, respectively.

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Afroz & Rahman

(b)

(a)

(b)

Figure 1: (a) Variation of Discharges from the Year 1970 to 2011; (b) Variation of
Peak Discharges from the Year 1970 to 2010

An increase flood discharge of about 80% has been occurred after the operation of
Farakka Barrage and an increase of about 73% occurred after the 1996 Ganges treaty.
The average discharges of these three phases are almost constant. For this reason
Bangladesh gets inundated with devastating floods every year. In the monsoon period
when there is already huge rainfall occurs in Bangladesh, then there is an uncontrolled
amount of water is received by Bangladesh which deteriorates the flood condition.

In Figure 2 (a), a significant decreasing trend is observed in the annual minimum


discharge. In this figure, pre- Farakka, post-Farakka and post 1996 Ganges treaty
minimum annual discharges were found to be 2070 m3/s, 261 m3/s and 87.345 m3/s,
respectively. A huge decrease on dry period has been occurred due to operation of
Farakka Barrage. From Figure 2 (b) it can be seen that, during dry months (November
to May) the discharges are found to be decreasing. A decrease of about 82% is found in
case of the minimum discharges during these dry months, after the operation of
Farakka Barrage which slightly increased after 1996 Ganges treaty.
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Afroz & Rahman
.

(a)

(b)

Figure 2: (a) Variation of Annual Minimum Discharges from the Year 1970 to 2011;
(b) Variation of Discharges of the Months November to May from the
Year 1970 to 2010

From Figure 3, in case of Monsoon months (June to October) there is an opposite


scenario to the dry months. In these months flood occurs in Bangladesh almost every
year due to the heavy rainfall and uncontrolled discharges coming from upstream.
There is an increase of about 53% in discharges is found after the construction of
Farakka Barrage and there is no significant change is found after the 1996 Ganges
treaty. From the graphs spectacular effects of diversion are noticed in the daily and
lowest annual discharges. FAP 4 (1993a) study reported that increases in the frequency
of discharge greater than 50,000 m3/sec occurred in the post-Farakka period. In the
post-Farakka period, low flows below 2500 m3/sec are more pronounced in the dry
season (FAP 4, 1993a). The decrease in the dry season flow is worst in February and
March, followed by April and May.

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Afroz & Rahman

Figure 3: Discharges of the Months of June to October from the


Year 1970 to 2010

3.2 Data Analysis of Teesta River

In Figure 4 (a), yearly discharges of Teesta River at Dalia station from 1979 to 2011 are
plotted against time. Two demarcation lines are established, one at the year 1985 when
the operation of Gajoldoba Barrage in India started and another at the year 1990 when
the Teesta Barrage operation started in Bangladesh. After the operation of Gajoldoba
Barrage started the flow in Teesta River became significantly low which increased after
the Teesta Barrage operation started in Bangladesh. This is because after the
construction of Teesta Barrage water stored in the monsoon could be used in the dry
season.

From the Figure 4(b), spectacular effects are noticed after the Gajoldoba and Teesta
Barrage operation. The annual peak discharges have an increasing value after the
operation of Teesta Barrage. It has increased about 24% after the operation of
Gajoldoba Barrage.

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Afroz & Rahman

(a)

(b)

(b)

Figure 4: (a) Variation of Discharges from the Year 1979 to 2011; (b) Variation of
Peak Discharges from the Year 1979 to 2010

From Figure 5, during the dry months (November to May) of a year the discharges are
found to be decreasing after the operation of Gajoldoba Barrage by India. A decrease of
about 88% is found after the operation of this Barrage, but which increased up to 2.5
times after the operation of Teesta Barrage. But after construction of Gajoldoba Barrage
a decrease is observed in case of lowest annual discharges. The decrease is about
85%, but after construction of Teesta Barrage the lowest annual discharge increased to
almost four times the initial value. In case of dry months the maximum discharge values
were always found in the month of November and the minimum values were found in
the months of February and March.
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Afroz & Rahman

(a)

(b)

Figure 5: (a) Discharges of the Months of November to May from the Year 1979 to
2011; (b) Variation of Minimum Discharges from the Year 1979 to 2010

In Figure 6, it is evident that there is always an increasing trend in case of maximum


discharge during June to October when Bangladesh already remains flooded with
water. After construction of Gajoldoba Barrage and even after the Teesta Barrage,
Bangladesh gets an increasing amount of water. The maximum values were found in
the months of August and September.

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Afroz & Rahman

Figure 6: Discharges of the Months of June to October from the Year 1979 to 2011

4. Impact Analysis for Upstream Withdrawal of Ganges Water


The diversion of water by the Farakka Barrage has introduced significant changes in the
hydrology of the Ganges River system in Bangladesh. Available discharge data show
that the water supply during July–October in the monsoon has increased while the dry
season (November–May) flow has decreased considerably. Increased monsoon flow
has introduced changes in the annual flooding pattern in Bangladesh (Khan 1993).
There are concerns that the reduced dry season flow may have significant
socioeconomic impacts in the Bangladesh part of the basin by altering the hydrological
pattern, inducing accelerated sedimentation in the Gorai River (an offtake of the
Ganges) and helping saline water to penetrate further inland from the sea (MOEF 1995,
Swain 1996).

4.1 Reduced Dry Season Flow in the Gorai River and Its Effects on Increased
Salinity

A vast network of rivers in the southwest region of Bangladesh is dependent on the


water supply through the Gorai River. Water from this river is used for irrigation,
industry, and urban water supply. Most importantly, the Gorai River flow pushes away
the saline water front in the Passur River, near Khulna. Monsoon flow is adequate for
repelling the salinity intrusion. The dry season flow of the Gorai River is most critical in
controlling salinity in a large part of the southwest region of Bangladesh.

During the post-Farakka period, salinity in the south-west region of Bangladesh


increased significantly. For example, at the Khulna station, the average monthly
maximum salinity for April in the pre-Farakka period was 1626 µmho/cm. During 1976,
when the Gorai discharge dropped to 0.5 m3/sec from its pre-Farakka average of 190
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Afroz & Rahman
m3/sec, maximum salinity in April increased to 13,000 µmho/cm. Recall that the Farakka
Barrage was commissioned in April 1975. In recent years, extreme low flow in the Gorai
River in the dry months has appeared to exacerbate the intrusion of saline water to the
most inland parts of the southwest part of Bangladesh (Khan, 1993).

(a) (b)

(c)

Figure 7: (a) Salinity Variations at Chalna Station; (b) Salinity Variations at


Goalpara Power Station; (c) Salinity Variations at Mongla Station.

5. Conclusion

This study includes assessment of upstream water diversion from the selected two main
rivers such as Ganges and Teesta. The study also finds the impact of water withdrawal
from Ganges. Some analysis of International Water Law related to transboundary water
management has been done. Discharge data of Ganges River for the period of 1970 to
2011 show that dry season (November–May) flow has decreased up to 82% after the
construction of Farakka Barrage. In case of Teesta River, after commissioning
Gajoldoba Barrage in India in 1985, flow reduced up to 88% in Bangladesh which was
found increasing up to 2.5 times after the operation of Teesta Barrage in Bangladesh in
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Afroz & Rahman
1990. The diversion of water by the Farakka Barrage has introduced significant changes
in the hydrology of the Ganges River system in Bangladesh. There are concerns that
the reduced dry season flow has significant socioeconomic impacts in the Bangladesh
part of the basin by altering the hydrological pattern and helping saline water to
penetrate further inland from the sea. The study reveals that principle of equitable and
reasonable utilization, obligation not to cause significant harm, principles of cooperation,
information exchange, notification, consultation and peaceful settlement of disputes are
widely acknowledged by modern international conventions, agreements and treaties
This study also suggests for formation of a regional river commission with the co-
riparian countries, undertaking a common storage reservoir and also to ratify the UN
convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses as
recommendation for proper management of Transboundary Rivers in GBM basin.

This Study will be helpful to the concerned water management authorities of


Bangladesh and India to understand the problems associated with the upstream
withdrawal of transboundary River water. The astudy also provides some guidelines of
smooth management of transboundary river water among the concerned countries
based on the existing International Laws and conventions by formming a regional river
commission. A common storage reservoir should be undertaken at a suitable location to
meet up the scarcity of water during the dry season by storing the water in flood season.
Also the lower riparian countries must have voices to create strong public opinion and to
participate in all decision making processes which may affect the stakeholders at the
sub-regional level. Again any treaty or agreement among the countries should include
suitable provisions for consultations, conciliation, mediation, arbitration, adjudication, as
may be agreed upon - for the resolution of differences and disputes. And a downstream
environmental and social impact assessment should be undertaken by an independent
party for any large project in transboundary basins. For future study, these procedures
can be conducted for other major rivers of the country to observe the impact in a large
scale.

References

Ahmed, M., (2004), ‘Development and management Challenges of Integrated Planning


for Sustainable Productivity of Water Resources’, Bangladesh Journal of Political
Economy (BJPE), Bangladesh Economic Association, Volume 21, No. 2,
December 2004.
Ahmed, M., (2007), ‘Regional Co-Operation on Transboundary Water Resources
Management:Opportunities and Challenges’, Conference of Bangladesh Economic
Association, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Adel, M. M., (2005), The Ordeals to Have Due Share of Transboundary River Water,
University of Arkansas, USA.
FAP 4 (Flood Action Plan 4). 1993a, Southwest area water resources management
project, Vol. 3, Morphological studies. Sir William Halcrow and Partners Ltd.,
Dhaka.

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Afroz & Rahman
FAP 4 (Flood Action Plan 4). 1993b, Southwest area water resources management
project, Vol. 9, Impact studies. Sir William Halcrow and Partners Ltd., Dhaka.
Khan, A. H., (1993), Farakka Barrage: Its impact on Bangladesh-an overview, Dhaka, P.
13.
MOEF (Ministry of Environment and Forest). 1995, National environment management
plan, Main report. MOEF, Dhaka, P. 167.
MPO (Master Plan Organization). 1986, Chapter 7: Salinity. National water plan, Vol. 1,
MPO, Dhaka.
Mirza, M. Q. 1998, Diversion of the Ganges Water at Farakka and Its Effects on Salinity
in Bangladesh, Centre for Environmental and Resource Studies (CEARS),
University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Rahman, M. M., (2009), Principles of International Water Law: creating effective
transboundary water resources management, Int. J. Sustainable Society, Vol. 1,
No. 3.
Salman, M.A.S., and Uprety, K., (2002), Conflict and Cooperation on South Asia’s
International Rivers: A Legal Perspective. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
Swain, A., (1996), The environmental trap: The Ganges River diversion, Bangladeshi
migration and conflicts in India. Department of Peace and Conflict Research,
Uppsala University, Sweden, P.135.

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