Bangladesh and India together have some of the most intricate and complex river systems in the world. There are 54 river systems in this region with most of them flowing into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, the three major rivers, along with their tributaries drain an area of about 1.75 million square kilometres and have direct impact on around 620 million people. These great rivers are inseparable from the histories and cultures of the region, and are fundamental to the people who depend on them for their well-being.
IUCN in collaboration with Drik has brought out a publication titled 'Rivers Beyond Borders: India-Bangladesh Trans-boundary River Atlas'. The book is a narrative of the 54 rivers crossing the borders between the two countries, celebrating their journey as they flow towards the Bay of Bengal. It combines maps, photographs, info-graphics and narratives to chart out these rivers.
"We have few publications on some big rivers like Ganges, Jamuna or even Brahmaputra. But I haven't seen any documentation on cross-border rivers like Kulik or Dahuk. I think more documentation should be done to understand the trend of these rivers. From this perspective I think Rivers Beyond Borders is truly a unique publication which brings into focus maps, info graphics and stories of the large and small trans-boundary rivers in Bangladesh and India," said eminent water expert, Dr Ainun Nishat, Former VC, Brac University. He said this at the launching of the book which took place today at Drik Gallery in Dhaka.
The launch event, followed by a photo exhibition, was attended by Dr Mihir Kanti Majumder, Chairman, Palli Shanchoy Bank; Shahidul Alam, managing director, Drik; Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad, country representative, IUCN Bangladesh; Professor Sajjadur Rasheed, Dhaka University; Md. Wajiullah, executive director, CEGIS and Bushra Nishat, South Asia Programme Manager, IWA among others.
International river basins cover half the land surface and support over 40 percent of the world's population. Managing the flow of rivers or "water regimes" are a significant part of resource governance in both national and international trans-boundary contexts around the globe.
"Developing a relevant and comprehensive knowledge base on integrated ecosystems management of common water regimes by engaging with civil society groups, research institutes, universities, scientists and experts is a potential solution to resolve longstanding issues with neighbouring countries. I think the River Beyond Borders is such a knowledge product that is based on this understanding", said Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad, Country Representative of IUCN Bangladesh.
The Atlas not only features the most revered river, the Ganga/Ganges, or the most iconic river, the Brahmaputra, but also lesser known rivers such as the Bijni or the Sonai Bardal or the Talma. But be it a river as long as the Brahmaputra (2900km) or a small river such as the Longla, each of these rivers is the lifeline of the people and communities living on its banks and at times has also been at the root of their sufferings. Many of them have not made it into printed books, but each of the rivers has a story to tell and has been the fountainhead of folklores among the local communities.
Bushra Nishat, who is one of the authors of the book, said that the Atlas strictly adheres to the official list of the rivers that was developed in the mid 80s by Indo- Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission. The spirit of the River Atlas is a clarion call to save and protect our rivers, big or small, from the brutality of abuse which would render them as a mere name in the list of lost rivers or the rivers of the bygone days.
The book is published under Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative, a regional project implemented by IUCN. The project has used a multi-stakeholder dialogue process to promote insights across the three major rivers systems with particular focus on Food security, water productivity and poverty, impacts of climate change, inland navigation and integrated water resources management, environmental security and biodiversity conservation.