Regionalism Washed Away

An important element which was included in the 1977 agreement, and a point that has come up again and again in the Indo-Bangla water talks, was the need for "augmentation" of the Ganga´s flow. This meant, essentially, adding to the river´s volume by building dams and reservoirs on the Himalayan tributaries to trap excess monsoon flow for release during the dry winter months. The bilateral Indo-Bangla 1977 treaty specifically mentioned Nepal, a third party, by stating that the proposals for augmentation "do not exclude any schemes or schemes for building storage in the upper reaches of the Ganges in Nepal." That very year, in 1977, King Birendra of Nepal also put forth the concept of regional cooperation in development of the significant Nepali water resources. His proposal would supposedly mesh well with Bangladesh´s own proposal for upstream storage dams. In fact, Kathmandu was already in discussion with New Delhi on the feasibility of four "mega-storage" reservoir projects in Nepal. However, the government in Kathmandu remained an onlooker when it came to the many years of discussions on Farakka, even though its role would have been paramount under the Bangladeshi proposal. There was only one trilateral meeting between India, Bangladesh and Nepal, in 1986, and that failed to proceed beyond pleasantries.

While augmentation through storage in Nepal was thus a specific part of the previous agreement on the Ganga, the new 1996 treaty makes no such reference. All that the instrument does is encourage the two signatory governments to cooperate in finding solutions to the long-term problem of augmenting the flow of the Ganga in the dry season.

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Himal Southasian