Northeast India can be ‘central actor’ in water co-operation


Kolkata: India’s northeast could be the “central actor” in water and energy co-operation in the sub-regional grouping of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) given its rich resources and connectivity to the neighbouring countries, experts said here on Thursday.

“Northeast connects the east, rest of India to neighbouring countries and it is resource rich in every respect – borders, natural resources, plantation.

“If you are able to grow tea in the northeast like we do in the tea gardens of north West Bengal, we will be the highest producer of tea in the world,” said Mahendra P. Lama, an expert on south Asian co-operation.

“I see the Indian government giving huge emphasis on linking northeast in politics of growth and integrating and inter-linking rivers,” said Lama, chairperson of Centre for South, Central, Southeast Asian and Southwest Pacific Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Echoing Lama, Madhukar Upadhyay, the former poverty-environment initiative adviser at the National Planning Commission, Nepal, said BBIN framework will help address issue of depleting water resources and trans-boundary water sharing.

“What we are seeing is more water in the monsoons and you have less water in the dry season so you don’t know what to do with the water in the wet season. The need of the BBIN initiative would be to understand the water science in mountains and in the plains.

“Bhutan and Nepal have similar problems which will affect countries like India and Bangladesh downstream,” he said at the ‘Advancing the BBIN Agenda: Exploring possibilities in Trade, Transit, Energy and Water Cooperation’ organised by the Observer Research Foundation and The Asian Foundation here.

However, Upadhyay, a climate change consultant, warned India’s ambitious river inter-linking project could be a “blunder” since it would create ‘negative floods’ instead of ‘positive floods’ that ensure nutrient flow.

Deliberating on Nepal’s contribution to BBIN in terms of water co-operation, Hari Pandit, an expert in water resource engineering, said 80 billion cubic metres of water stored in Nepal’s reservoirs during monsoons could be mobilised for the region during the water-deficient months.