‘Water now seen as strategic asset not only as a resource’

Experts tell 7th Intl Water Conference

Published : 21 Jan 2022 08:02 PM

Speakers at an international conference on Friday opined that now a days, water is seen as a strategic asset, not only as a resource. 

They said in south Asia, river influences geopolitics. Geopolitics is a tool to analyze in the context of political views and national interest.

The remarks were made in the second day of ‘7th International Water Conference 2022’ titled ‘Teesta River Basin: Overcoming the Challenges’ organied by ActionAid Bangladesh.

Shahidul Haque, Professorial Fellow, NSU, and former Foreign Secretary of  Bangladesh chaired a session on the day

While addressing, he said that geopolitics should not be seen as zero-sum game,it should be win-win situation looking through the geopolitical lens.  

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, parliament member Hasanul HaqInu said, barrages and dams are affecting the eco system.

In this 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 paper presentation, South Asian trans boundary river issues linked to regional geopolitics as all countries in the region strongly depend on rivers mainly for agriculture, hydroelectricity & 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. 

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

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. 

As per the rule, the joint river commission between Bangladesh and Indiahas to be sat twice in a year but the real scenario is different and no fruitful outcome is visible, said Sharif Jamil General Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA). 

Noting that the Teesta river is associated with 25 rivers in Bangladesh,Tuhin Wadud Professor, Begum Rokeya University, Director, Riverine People, said, “No decision should be taken on the Teesta without consulting the people on the banks of the river”.

Another paper titled ‘Living with the Teesta River: women's livelihoods strategies in the changing climate of the Teesta River basin’ was presented by Zarin Yesmin Chaity, Assistant Professor at Gender and Development Studies, Begum Rokeya University.

From historical, cultural and socio-economic perspectives, women share a strong and significant bonding with the river and are dependent on the river for their survival, said Zarin Yesmin Chaity.  

Ajaya Dixit, Advisor, ISET-Nepal; Sharmind Neelormi, Professor, Jahangirnagar University; Minket Lepcha, Storyteller, Filmmaker, Independent Researcher; Dr. Mahbuba Nasreen, Professor & Director, Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies, University of Dhaka; Shahnaz Parvin, Project Coordinator, Gana Unnayan Kendra (GUK) also spoke in the second day of the conference.