Government Policy

Water a strategic asset; rivers influence geopolitics: Shahidul Haque

Former Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque on Friday said these days water is seen as a strategic asset, not only as a resource, and rivers influence geopolitics in South Asia.

“Geopolitics is a tool to analyse in the context of political views and national interest,” he said while delivering his remarks as chair on the second day of the 7th International Water Conference 2022.

Haque also said geopolitics should not be seen as a zero-sum game. It should be a win-win situation looking through the geopolitical lens.

The conference titled “Teesta River Basin: Overcoming the Challenges” was organied by ActionAid Bangladesh.

The second day of the conference focused on the thematic issues- Structural Interventions and Regional Geo-politics around Teesta River Basin and Teesta River Basin and its Ecosystem and Gender Implications.

Urging for a basin-wise water management system, Hasanul Haq Inu, MP said barrages and dams are affecting the ecosystem.

At the conference, Jayanta Basu, Environment Documentation Expert, Director of Environment Governed Integrated Organisation (EnGIO), Faculty, Calcutta University, presented a paper titled ‘Geopolitics of River Teesta and need to pursue Nature based Negotiated Approach (NBNA)’.

According to his presentation, South Asian transboundary river issues are linked to regional geopolitics as all countries in the region strongly depend on rivers mainly for agriculture, hydroelectricity and other reasons.

Unequal political power positioning in the region; influence of international, national, and local political relationships; river and climate change are the vital factors in regional geopolitics.

He said upper riparian versus lower riparian country narrative does not hold water in such a dynamic water sharing paradigm and proposed for the holistic intercountry stakeholder-level discussion to arrive at a comprehensive transboundary river water usage model.

“Between India and Bangladesh, there’s no holistic basin-based approach although both countries share 54 transboundary rivers. A holistic basin-based approach is needed to be taken,” said Jayanta Basu.

Basu also said Nature Based Negotiated Approach (NBNA) to Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) is key to addressing the conflicts like Teesta.

Keeping agriculture and food security at center, Dr. Atiq Rahman Executive Director, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), said restricting the flow of water by barrage and holding water can disrupt the life and livelihood of the river-based people.

He also said West Bengal and Bangladesh are fortunate to have good civil society organisations that can act as a catalyst to mitigate any conflicting issues like the Teesta River water.

Terming rivers as a living entity, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), said this value is totally lost in India-Bangladesh negotiation and decision-making process.

Source: United News of Bangladesh