The Meghna River Basin is important to both Bangladesh and India as it provides the livelihoods of nearly 50 million people. Photo credit: Rafiqul Islam / IPSDHAKA, May 31 (IPS) – Kajol Miah is a rice farmer on the Bangladeshi side of the Meghna River basin. And rice from Bangladesh is in great demand in cities on the Indian side of the river basin.
The example is simple and underscores the concept of benefit sharing between neighboring countries. Benefit sharing goes beyond simply sharing water resources. This includes the fair distribution of the goods, products and services associated with the watercourse.
According to Raquibul Amin, country representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in Bangladesh, benefit sharing can offer a solution to conserving water resources and ensuring integrated and cooperative management of the Meghna river basin.
“Negotiations on benefit sharing are based on the principles of international water law, such as B. a sensible and equitable use of shared water resources without causing harm and win-win results for multiple stakeholders, “Amin told IPS, adding that benefit-sharing governance was more holistic than traditional governance which in the past was about the allocation of water.
An example of traditional water policy is the 1996 Ganges water treaty between India and Bangladesh, which is based on the sharing of water.
However, according to Amin, the negotiating partners of a benefit-sharing agreement are usually not interested in the water itself, but in the economic opportunities and ecosystem services that can be gained and improved through joint management of a river basin.
The Meghna River Basin is important to both Bangladesh and India as it provides the livelihoods of nearly 50 million people.
The area is also considerably large – almost twice the size of Switzerland – with 47,000 km2 of the basin in India and 35,000 km2 downstream in Bangladesh.
A rice field in the Haor region of Bangladesh. Benefit sharing goes beyond simply sharing water resources. This includes the fair distribution of the goods, products and services associated with the watercourse. Photo credit: Rafiqul Islam / IPS Nearly 90 percent of the forest or watershed of the Meghna Basin is in India and is the source of the river water that flows downstream into Bangladesh. For example, the Meghalaya Plateau in India is rich in forests and the source of many transboundary tributaries of the Meghna river system, such as the Umngot and Myntdu, which run from the Jaintia Hills into the haor Region of Bangladesh, known for numerous wetlands of considerable area, which are important places for fish farming.
Tanguar Haor and Hakaluki Haor are examples of wetland ecosystems that are rich in aquatic diversity and a resting place for many migratory bird species. Both are Ramsar areas, and Hakaluki haor is the largest inland body of water in Bangladesh.
But what happens upstream affects downstream. This can be seen in the nearly 6 million tons of sediment that flows from the Indian side of the basin to the Haor region of Bangladesh, creating problems for the management of these wetlands.
“The benefit-sharing approach in the water dialogue will enable the two countries to participate in the joint management of forests and wetlands. The natural infrastructure of the Meghna Basin is critical to maintaining its hydrology, ”said Amin.
Amin indicated that Bangladesh and India can discuss ways to jointly manage the basin forest to improve flood and silt management – two major challenges affecting the productivity of the fishing and agricultural sectors in the Surma-Kushiyara region of upper Meghna. Basin in Bangladesh.
Miah, a resident of Kalmakanda in the Netrakona district, has also seen repeated floods.
“We, the Haor residents, are dependent on Boro-Paddy, as there is no alternative to growing other crops in Haors. However, flash floods often damage our lonely crops due to the lack of proper flood forecasting and put our lives in trouble, ”he told IPS.
The fortunes of the Haor rice farmers also have an impact on Bangladesh’s food security, as their rice production accounts for 20 percent of the country’s total rice production.
The Meghna River Basin benefit sharing dialogue is part of a larger IUCN project called Building River Dialogue and Governance in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna River Basin (BRIDGE GBM) carried out by the Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation (SIDA). the Oxfam Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA) program is funded.
The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna or GBM Delta is a cross-border river system that crosses the five countries of Nepal, India, China, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
“The IUCN offers a neutral platform to facilitate cross-border dialogues and joint research between the relevant interest groups from Bangladesh and India. These have documented a variety of ecosystem benefits of the Meghna River Basin and identified priority areas, such as joint management of forests for flood and erosion protection, the development of cross-border shipping and ecotourism cycles in which the two countries can work together to improve these benefits the basin, ”Vishwa Ranjan Sinha, program officer, Natural Resources Group, IUCN Asia Regional Office, told IPS.
The IUCN has developed a six-step process to support the development of benefit-sharing agreements in a common river basin:
Identification of the advantages of the pool,
Identifying stakeholders and potential equity issues,
identify and build useful scenarios,
Estimate and distribute benefits and costs,
Negotiations about a benefit sharing agreement and
Strengthening the institutional arrangement for the implementation of the agreement.
The IUCN also facilitated joint research and data sharing on land use and socio-economic changes in the Meghna River basin to produce data and evidence for bilateral dialogue. Research institutions include the Dhaka-based Think-Tank Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) and the Asian Center for Development, as well as Northeast Hill University in India and the Institute of Economic Growth.
Dr. Malik Fida A Khan, Executive Director of CEGIS, is optimistic about the benefits of benefit sharing. If done well, he told IPS, the local communities of both countries will come forward to support joint management of the basin as it makes a living. He said their mutual benefit could also lead to mutual benefit data sharing.
Freshwater protection is one of the topics of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which will take place in Marseille from September 3rd to 11th, 2021. One of the congressional sessions will specifically focus on nature-based solutions, which have been used as a tool to strengthen inclusive governance in the BRIDGE GBM project.
** Writing with Nalisha Adams in BONN, Germany
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