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Offers Tk 7,340cr benefit a year

Ganges Barrage scheme put on ice for decades

Says feasibility study on the Tk 31,414cr project

Special Report - March 5th, 2013

Although the foundation stone of the Ganges Barrage Project was laid nearly three decades ago, successive governments could not even finalise a site for the barrage yet, leading to continuing deterioration of the ecology and agriculture of southern Bangladesh.
With no tangible action towards realising the project yet in sight, the people of the region and environmentalists are saying the entire region will continue to pay a heavy price as more rivers will dry up hampering navigability, irrigation, and fishing.
Now the researchers says by building a barrage in the Ganges river system in Rajbari, the country can stop the salinity creeping in the southwestern region as well as reap a net benefit of Tk 7,340 crore every year, says a government study.
Once the project is completed, the area will produce 25 lakh tonnes of extra rice and 2.4 lakh tonnes of fish yearly, according to the Ganges barrage feasibility study tabled yesterday at an inter-ministerial meeting.
The meeting, held in the National Economic Council auditorium, was chaired by Planning Commission member MA Sattar Mandal.
The total cost of the proposed Ganges barrage has been estimated at Tk 31,414 crore and it can be implemented in seven years, says the study, adding it would take only seven years to recover this cost.
The water flow of the rivers dependent on the Ganges will increase and distribution of the Ganges water to the rivers of the area could be ensured as per demand during the dry season when the barrage reservoir is built.
About 33 percent of the high-salinity area in the Sundarbans will have low to moderate salinity. Of the area, 11,000 hectares will have very low salinity.
Member of the Planning Commission (General Economic Division) Shamsul Alam told that the barrage project is very important to the country and the commission will urge the concerned ministry to forward the project quickly to the planning ministry.
Another high official of the planning ministry said $1.03 billion of foreign currency would be required to bear the total project cost. He added that China had expressed its interest to finance the project.
After the barrage is built, about 52 lakh hectares of land could be brought under cultivation in different agricultural projects including GK and Pabna Irrigation.
A total of 113 megawatts of hydro-electricity can be generated in the main barrage and an off-track structure in the river Gorai.
The study report also says the amount of underground arsenic will be reduced and the coastal rivers saved from siltation. A direct communications and transport link can be made between the northern and southwestern regions of the country.
Entertainment and tourist spots could be built around the reservoir and in its adjoining areas.
In 2005, the Planning Commission approved a proposal for conducting a feasibility study of the Ganges barrage. In 2009, the government purchase committee approved DDC and Associates Ltd, an international consultant, for carrying out the study.
Though only 240 kilometres out of the 2,200-kilometre Ganges river flows into Bangladesh, an area of as many as 46,000 kilometres is dependent on the river system.
After India commissioned Farakka barrage in the upstream of the Ganges in 1975, Bangladesh suffered adverse effects as the water flow fell drastically.
In 1996, the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty was signed between Bangladesh and India.