The International Farakka Committee (IFC) is a non-profit, non-political environmental organization. It was formed in New York in 1993 to campaign against diversion of Bangladesh's righteous share of water from trans-national river system, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Meghna and other common rivers. IFC voice concerns about the conservation of the ecosystem in Bangladesh for its sustainable development. From the very inception of IFC in 1993, it had clear stand about the Ganges water treaty. Due to two reasons: (1) the treaty should be among Nepal, India and Bangladesh as the Ganges flows through these three nations, and (2) there should be arbitration system to oversee the treaty included in which each nation will be ensured with the minimum amount of water each country will be getting in the lean period (guarantee clause).
IFC leaders organized a good number of meetings, Photo Exhibition, Videos and Film Show, and seminars in USA at Boston, Washington D.C., New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Los-Angeles, Buffello and Montreal, Canada; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Sweden and other parts of the world.
From overseas, whenever we, IFC members look at our native land, we fondly remember our rivers, canals, lakes, ponds and water holes, our boat rides and swamps, our fun fishing and water frolics, and the lush green landscape that cradles our homes. The image of our homeland that we cherish in our hearts came for a rude shock when the international press and the UN sources reported serious environmental repercussions on Bangladesh caused by unilateral withdrawal of waters from the course of the Ganges upstream. We were told by experts involved in the study of Sub-Himalayan river systems that after the expiry of the memorandum of understanding between Bangladesh and India about Ganges water sharing in 1988, large scale withdrawal of water from the Ganges in the two Indian states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, was going on unchecked. In the absence of a water sharing agreement, Bangladesh was facing serious crisis of water in the Ganges/ Kobadak Project. It was compounding the eco-disaster caused by the drying-up of Ganges distributaries in Southwest Bangladesh after the Farakka link canal became operational and started diverting flows from Ganges to flush the Calcutta port.
In the mean time, a water-sharing agreement has been signed by the Government of Bangladesh with the Government of India in 1996, which arose criticism that basic guarantee of arbitration clauses were absent, also Nepal was not involved in the process. So, it was not found very suitable for the revival of environmental health of Bangladesh.
Moreover, severe droughts situation caused by water withdrawal of Ganges, showing low river flows and increased evapo-transpiration leads to a drought situation causing fresh water scarcity in northwestern region of Bangladesh. It changes hydrological, climate conditions and agricultural practices, which have gradually converted Bangladesh into a drought-prone country. The growing imbalances between water demand and supply in the dry season is deteriorating day-by-day, desertification syndrome has already started in the north western part of the country, causing hazardous environmental health.
In the process of our deliberations and exchange of views the International Farakka Committee, has become keenly aware about inter dependence of renewable and underground water resources and the entire gamut of development activities of Bangladesh, domestically and regionally. Moreover, IFC became aware about a serious eco-disaster, Arsenic, which has far-reaching implications. It has already spreading its tentacles in many parts of Bangladesh, as arsenic contamination of our groundwater, presumably from oxidation by air creeping into the vacuum left by falling water tables. Arsenic, the silent killer, poses by far the biggest mass poisoning case in the world, said William Chappell, an environmental expert at the University of Colorado, U.S.A. Most arsenic compounds have no smell, taste, can dissolve in water, gets into air when contaminated materials are burned, settles from the air to the ground; it does not break down but can change from one form to another. Atomic weight of arsenic is 74.922 while the atomic weight of iron is 55.847. Metamorphosis of the element explains why arsenic is available in deep groundwater level.
Upstream withdrawal of common river flows is said to be the cause of fast lowering of the groundwater level, leading to a continuous depletion in the groundwater reserves in the region. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), which has heavy metal like arsenic came up, affected the agriculture, food chain, industry, domestic and municipal water supply, endangering human life of Bangladeshi people by 'Arsenic Poisoning'. EPA sets a limit of 0.05 ppm (parts per million) for arsenic in drinking water. But due to a lowering water table the EPA limit exceeds manifold, 80 million people are affected by this arsenic poisoning, an epidemic without answer.
IFC has promptly approached the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh, to join with our efforts to organize an international conference in Dhaka for a comprehensive assessment of water-management as well as related environmental and public health problems of Bangladesh. The civil Engineering Division of the Institute of Engineers of Bangladesh responded to our request positively and we are grateful for their co-operation and may obtain a consensus approach and multidisciplinary formulations from the experts and leaders of opinion assembled in Dhaka, and help build a more secure and healthier future for Bangladesh. IFC organized seminars research works, exchanges, and dissemination of findings relating to the ecology and sustainable development concerns of Bangladesh.
The International Farakka Committee has remained as active as ever on the awareness creating movement. Regular reporting on the impact of Farakka and Arsenic in the Mass Media of Bangladesh and other countries is one such area where the committee feels that it has made a humble contribution.
Recently, India is implementing 'River Inter-link Mega Project' with a motive to Convert our Green Bangladesh into a Desert by withdrawing upstream Water from international and common Rivers, from the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Meghna and other tributaries and distributaries.
In protest of and in demand for the cancellation of 'Indian River Inter-link Project' IFC held the long March & grand rally at Chilmari Bandar Kurigram Bangladesh on 4 March 2005 (go to picture ) where IFC announced a 15 points Declaration and the future Programme of IFC to-
SAVE OUR RIVERS SAVE BANGLADESH
In the 'LONG MARCH 2005 and GRAND RALLY 2005' joined a huge mass of people and it became a human sea.
Express your solidarity with us in the events of IFC : Sustainable Management of Himalayan Rivers from 23-25 April 2011 at Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The steering committee sponsored by IFC has organized a three day international workshop on Sustainable Management of Himalayan Rivers from 23-25 April 2011 at Dhaka, Bangladesh. Experts from different countries specially from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Canada and Bangladesh participated in the workshop and raised voices.