June 20, 2008

Bangladesh Court May Tell Government to Review India Water Treaty

Text of report by Bangladeshi newspaper New Age website on 20 June

The High Court on Thursday [19 June] asked the government to explain in four weeks why it would not be directed to review the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty [with India] and take steps to ensure due share of waters.

The bench of Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana and Justice M. Rezaul Haque gave the ruling after hearing a public interest litigation writ petition filed by Supreme Court lawyers M.K. Muraduzzaman and Faruk Hossain on 8 June.

Pleading for the petitioners, Tazul Islam argued that the treaty, signed with India on 12 December 1996, failed to protect the interest of Bangladesh and ensure proper and equitable share of the Ganges water.

"The respondents may be directed as to why the treaty on sharing of the Ganges water will not be reviewed according to the provision of the Berlin Rules on Water Resources, 2004, and the provision of the UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, 1997, treating the Ganges as an international river," said Tazul.

Bangladesh was getting drier every year because of India's unilateral withdrawal of water from the common river Ganges. The quality of water down the Ganges point has critically declined because the Ganges water was diverted through various channels in India in violation of the water-sharing treaty, he added.

Bangladesh was supposed to get 67,516 cusecs (cubic feet of water per second) during each specified "period". The Bangladesh-India treaty divides each month into three periods. Bangladesh received only 55,556 cusecs in the first 10 days of January 2008, losing almost 12,000 cusecs during this period, the lawyer pointed out.

Deputy Attorney-General Idris Khan opposed the petition, saying: "The court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter as it is an international agreement."

Originally published by New Age website, Dhaka, in English 20 Jun 08.

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