Gently flows the Danube

Mahmudur Rahman | Published: July 03, 2018 22:11:17 | Updated: July 03, 2018 22:20:36


Meandering through 2811 kilometres, the river Danube makes its way majestically through nine European countries providing lifeline and endless attraction for tourists. All nine countries have unwritten agreement to keep it clean, flowing and undammed. The countries have had their share of enmity in the past and differences in political persuasion. But Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine have never fought wars over water and made their separate arrangements for after requirements. It doesn't make them great, merely civilised. Let's not forget that in the middle of the Great War water wasn't considered an opinion. Germany shares two other major rivers, the 1245-km Elbe with Czech Republic and the vast Rhine that stretches 1048 and touches common banks in Switzerland, Lichtenstein and the Netherlands.

Compare that with India and Bangladesh that despite having governments that are closer than any ones before, have been unable in nearly ten years to agree on how to share the 309-km Teesta river water. That the 2525-km Ganges river water sharing is turning putrid is another factor. Water has been a divisive issue between the two countries and the international concept of lower and upper riparian rights has been dispensed with unceremoniously. There have been calls for abrogation of the Ganges Water sharing agreement by sections in India as the stark reality of 21 states going dry in another seven years or so comes to the fore.

The issue is not of water; it is of keeping that water clean. Religious and social rites across the sub-continent combine to contribute a massive one trillion litre wastage that is dumped into the Ganges on a daily basis. The same river that is sacred for annual and periodic cleansing dips isn't exactly a reservoir of purity though rivers have the unbelievable self-cleansing ability. But the Teesta issue has to be resolved because it is, after the Ganges, the second arterial lifeline of Bangladesh. It's magnificent journey touches Pahurri, Zenu glacier, Lake Cholam, and  Gurudongrav Lake. In a series of diplomatic successes this and the Rohingya crises have evaded the best of efforts of our Prime Minister. That's because Dr Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi have failed to keep their commitments of settling the conundrum. Because the former and current Prime Ministers, two of the most powerful men on the horizon, have not been able to override the democratic norms that make a nod from Mamta Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, so much of an impediment. Ms Banerjee has been steadfast in saying she cannot agree to any water sharing that is to the detriment to her constituents. Perhaps she would like to comment on the courage with which Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman overrode his constituents in search of peace?

Times have changed. One would like to say the same about tides - except the tides ripple too softly in the parched Ganges and the trickling Teesta. Unlike the Danube, the flow is not even soft.

mahmudrahman@gmail.com

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