India-Bangladesh round table moots joint rivers panel

New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) An India-Bangladesh round table has suggested the creation of a single joint rivers commission headed by a prominent Indian or Bangladeshi leader on an alternative basis for sustainable management of their shared water resources.

The roundtable termed the current functioning of the Joint Rivers Commission “as extremely inadequate as there are in effect two parallel national river commissions, instead of one joint commission”.

It said the proposed India-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission should have a team comprising of nationals from both countries who can undertake necessary activities for sustainable management of shared water resources in a joint and collaborative manner.

The Joint Rivers Commission should have “an arbitration clause with a well defined mechanism to resolve differences and conflict of interest”, said a statement here Wednesday.

Since many of the rivers shared by India and Bangladesh originate from third countries, the panel suggested adoption of also “gradual multilateral approach towards including third countries”.

The round table welcomed the trilateral talks between India, Bangladesh and Bhutan and the possibility of similar talks between India, Bangladesh and Nepal in the future.

In the long term, it would be necessary to explore ways of cooperation between all countries in the Eastern Himalayan river systems, the statement said.

“There are unresolved issues with regards to trans-boundary water resources which need to be addressed urgently and earnestly in the spirit of good faith and cooperation that currently exists between the two countries,” it said.

The round table said “it is necessary and possible to finalize the Teesta river agreement, bearing in mind the importance of environmental flows for sustenance of the river and ecological security of the basin”.

It said it is “not feasible to negotiate a separate agreement for each of the 54 trans-boundary rivers between India and Bangladesh. It is necessary to move towards integrated collaborative and sustainable management of all shared rivers.”

“It is necessary to apply the principles of Integrated Water Resource Management to the entire Ganges-Brahmaputra basin shared by India and Bangladesh,” the statement said.

The round table on Blue Peace in the Eastern Himalayas was held in Mumbai July 1-2. It was convened by the Strategic Foresight Group and attended by 25 senior diplomats, members of parliament, former ministers and experts from India and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh High Commissioner Tariq Karim and Gowher Rizvi, International Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, were among the Bangladesh participants, while the Indian side included Muchkund Dubey, former foreign secretary, and Sanjay Nirupam, Congress Party MP.

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