Category Archives: National Boundaries/International Relations

Govt to prepare digital topographical map

Govt to prepare digital topographical map
Tk 3.74bn can be saved a year
Asif Showkat

The government with help of satellite imagery and digital elevation model will prepare a digital topographical map for implementing the country’s development programmes which can save at least Tk 3.74 billion a year.

A recent study conducted by the national surveying and mapping agency, Survey of Bangladesh (SOB) revealed new scope of cutting government and private sectors’ expenditures in several economic fields.

The study also estimated that the total economic benefits would be Tk 18.90 billion a year if indirect economic effects were accumulated with the direct benefits of the new digital map.Bangladesh Survey Directorate under Defence Ministry had already selected a Japanese consulting firm to assist the government in preparing the digital topographical map.A defence ministry’s proposal is likely to be placed before the cabinet committee on economic affairs next week for approval, according to committee sources.

Defence Secretary Khandaker M Asaduzzaman said successful implementation of the project would provide a common platform for the government agencies as well as private sector for using geographical data for development of the country.

Professor Ainun Nishat, vice-chancellor of BRAC University, told daily sun on Saturday that foreign donors like Japanese agencies would provide technological support.

“Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) has already used the digital mapping system (IDMS), although it faced difficulties in modelling,” he added.

He further said BWDB used satellite map after 1988 devastating floods for forecasting such disaster. The Finland government prepared a digital map of whole Bangladesh.

Using a digital map might be good in forecasting, he added and stressed on improvement of efficiency.

The programme is targeted at preparing a new 1:25,000 scale digital topographical map covering whole territory and 1:5,000 scale digital topographical map covering five major cities.

Official sources said the existing 1:50,000 scale national base map covering the whole territory of Bangladesh was prepared 50 to 60 years ago.

The study also said digital topographical maps can be used in the fields of communications, agriculture, infrastructural development, enforcement of law and order, disaster warning, defence, engineering and establishing e-governance for expediting work as well as reducing activation cost.

Of the projected saving amount, the study estimated that the highest Tk 980 million can be saved from transportation sector every year, followed by power sector by Tk 550 million.

The digital mapping system would save Tk 410 million in health and population sector, Tk 390 million in rural development, Tk 365 million in physical planning, water distribution and housing and Tk 301.6 million in agriculture sector.

A Japanese consulting firm PASCO Corporation was selected by the defence ministry under item of acquisition of satellite imagery of improvement of digital mapping system (IDMS) programme.

The government will be given Tk 153.2 million from Japanese Debt Relief Grant Assistance (DRGA) counterpart fund as consultancy fees for operation of Japanese consulting firm to provide satellite imagery and digital elevation modal services to the government as well as private sectors.

As per the defence ministry’s proposal, two Japanese consulting firms — Nakanihin Air Service Company Ltd and PASCO Corporation — took part in the tender process.

Considering growing demand for new maps, SOB had decided to take up a project under “Improvement of Digital Mapping System (IDMS)” programme.

The Japan government had supported this project “Bangladesh Digital Mapping Assistance Programme (BDMAP)” under its technical cooperation programme.

For public and private sectors, statistical data especially geographic information like topographical maps is the fundamental need for planning and implementation of various types of development projects, SOB sources said.

SOB had decided to take initiative to set up six permanent Global Positioning System stations in six districts from the current fiscal year which will help convert all maps in the country into digital format with creation of a geo-database, according to the defence ministry’s proposal.

Govt needs to take BDR’s concern seriously

Govt needs to take BDR’s concern seriously

THE recommendation of the Bangladesh Rifles for a dusk-to-dawn ban on the movement of Bangladeshis within 150 yards of the zero point inside Bangladesh territory, to prevent the killing of civilians by the Indian Border Security Force, highlights, above all else, the failure of the successive governments to effectively raise with India the murders of Bangladeshis by the BSF.

According to a report front-paged in New Age on Thursday, the BDR has cited sustained flouting of the Joint India-Bangladesh Guideline 1975 and the International Human Rights Convention by the BSF and ‘no solutions…despite discussions at the diplomatic level’ as the rationale for its recommendation.

In a report submitted to the home ministry in the first week of January, the BDR claims that the BSF has killed 50 Bangladeshis since the February 25-26 BDR rebellion in 2009 till January 1, 2010. (The human rights organisation Odhikar puts the number of people killed by the BSF in 2009 at 96 in a recent report.) The country’s border guards have also recommended formation of committees with public representatives in bordering villages that, along with BDR personnel, will identify the places where restrictions should be imposed. The recommendations, while defensive in nature, clearly stem from the concern over continued loss of lives and need to be taken into cognisance by the government.

Incidentally, the recommendations come at a time when the Awami League-led government appears willing to go any length to have the people believe that the prime minister’s recent visit to India marked a breakthrough in the Dhaka-Delhi relations, although, if the joint communiqué released at the end of her visit were to be taken as a yardstick, it seems all that she has managed to secure from her Indian counterpart is some clichéd, vague and open-ended promises. Ironically, the BSF killed a Bangladeshi on the very day that the joint communiqué was issued.

The continued killing of Bangladeshi civilians on the border could very well be indicative of New Delhi’s unwillingness to rein in its trigger-happy border guards; after all, it is inconceivable that the BSF would have continued its killing spree had there been an explicit directive from New Delhi against such killings.

The Indian government has time and again tried to brand those killed by the BSF as criminals, smugglers, etc, as if the border guards have the right to be the juror and executioner all at the same time.

It is true that informal trade does take place across the border and the BDR report acknowledges as much. Curiously, as economists in both countries have pointed out, informal trade across the border benefits India more than it does Bangladesh. In fact, available statistics have it that informal trade contributes as much as formal trade with Bangladesh to the Indian economy. It is thus difficult to believe that the killings by the BSF are what the Americans would say ‘collateral damage’ of India’s clampdown on smuggling. On the contrary, there are reasons to suspect that New Delhi’s apparent unwillingness to rein in the trigger-happy BSF men is just yet another manifestation of its big brother attitude towards Bangladesh.

Be that as it may, the BSF killing spree on the border must be put to an end and, as we have commented in these columns before, it would require more than occasional flag meeting or director general-level conference between the border guards of the two countries. The initiative must come from the political level at state-to-state level talks.

If the AL-led government really wants the people to believe that the prime minister’s recent visit did mark a breakthrough in the two countries’ bilateral relations, it needs, for a start, to prove that by raising the issue with its Indian counterparts and by making New Delhi take decisive and demonstrative steps against killings by BSF personnel so that they do not recur in future and Bangladesh does not need to restrict the movement of its citizens in its own territory.

BDR wants night-time ban on movement in border

BDR wants night-time ban on movement in border
Expresses concerns about border killing
Siddiqur Rahman Khan

The Bangladesh Rifles has recommended imposing night-time restrictions on the movement of Bangladeshis within 150 yards of zero point inside the Bangladesh territory aimed at stopping the killing of innocent people in the border by India’s Border Security Force.

The Bangladesh border force in a report sent to the home ministry in the first week of January has also recommended formation of committees with public representatives in bordering villages.

The BDR personnel and the proposed committees will identify the places where restrictions should be imposed, the report said.

The report observed that citizens of both the countries were involved in cross-border informal trade but the Indian border guards often killed unarmed Bangladeshis without bothering about bilateral or international human rights principles.

‘Citizens of both the counties trespass into the territories of each other for informal trade. Although the Bangladesh Rifles has taken lawful action against such organised crimes, India’s Border Security Force has continued killing unarmed Bangladeshi trespassers labelling them as terrorists,’ the report said.

‘India’s Border Security Force has thus kept flouting the Joint India-Bangladesh Guideline 1975 and the International Human Rights Convention,’ it said. ‘No solutions could be reached in this regard despite discussions at the diplomatic level.’

In view of the situation, the Bangladesh Rifles has recommended that dusk-to-dawn restrictions should be imposed on the movement of Bangladeshis within 150 yards of zero point inside the Bangladesh territory.

After the mutiny in the Bangladesh Rifles headquarters in February 25–26, 2009, the Indian border guards have killed 50 Bangladeshis till January 1, 2010, according to the BDR report sent to the home ministry.

A recent report by human rights organisation Odhikar showed 96 Bangladeshis were killed by the Indian guards in 2009.

The BDR report said the Indian border guards had ignored a Bangladesh proposal for using non-lethal weapons in the border by the guards.

The report proposed each of the committees in bordering villages, to be headed by union council or municipal chairmen, should have 17 members and the commanders of the BDR border outposts concerned may be made member secretaries.

An imam of a mosque or religious leader of other faiths, a madrassah teacher, a schoolteacher, two representatives of college students, four Village Defence Party members, three union council members or municipal commissioners, a retired military officer or a civil servant, a businessman of the locality and a local policeman should be members on each of the committees.

A high home ministry official on Wednesday told New Age they had received the draft of the working paper, containing statistics of the people killed by the Indian border guards. ‘We held a meeting in the past week and discussed the Bangladesh Rifles recommendations,’ he said.

Bangladesh must sign up for world’s easy customs system

Bangladesh must sign up for world’s easy customs system
ICCB chief stresses at workshop
Star Business Desk

Trade analysts yesterday underscored immediate implementation of the ATA Carnet System to help Bangladeshi businessmen compete on an equal footing with rivals.

The ATA Carnet simplifies the custom formalities by allowing a single document to be used for clearing goods through customs in the countries that are part of the system.

The need for the system is felt as the world experiences expansion of trade that has led to considerable growth of temporary exports and imports of goods.

“Industrialists and traders need to display their products at trade fairs and exhibitions, as these can offer them a valuable means for marketing their products abroad,” said Mahbubur Rahman, president of International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh (ICCB), at a workshop on ATA Carnet System in Dhaka.

Bangladesh is a member of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the intergovernmental organisation of customs administrators for the running of the recent and comprehensive international customs convention governing temporary admission of goods under ‘ATA Carnet’, namely the ‘Istanbul Convention’.

“But Bangladeshi businessmen and its foreign partners cannot take advantage of the benefits and facilities offered by ATA Carnet, as the country is not yet a contracting party to Istanbul Convention,” he said.

The ATA Convention that was put in place 45 years ago has become the most important customs document for the temporary duty-free admission of goods.

The ATA Carnet procedure has weathered many implementation problems and proved capable of adapting to a variety of new international transactions, he added.

Introduction of the system in Bangladesh will have a positive impact on foreign trade by ensuring local exporting firms are able to compete with other trading nations on the world market and facilitate integration into the global economy, Rahman said.

The ATA Carnet is used in 66 countries, including India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. A number of countries in Asia and Latin America are fairly advanced in the preparatory work involved in the accession to the system.

Abu Alam Chowdhury, vice president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, R Maksud Khan, chairman of ICCB standing committee on customs regulations, reforms and modernisation, Ju-Song Lee, ICC WCF Carnet adviser, were also present at the two-day workshop.

Khan observed that adoption of the ATA Carnet by Bangladesh is of utmost importance to attract investment and further enhance exports.

Participants from the National Board of Revenue, commerce ministry, Export Promotion Bureau, Bangladesh Bank, trade bodies, commercial banks, associations and national companies were present.

Asian Highway ESCAP route Dhaka becomes party

Asian Highway ESCAP route Dhaka becomes party
Chance of amendment slim: Yangon mum on Cox”s Bazar-Myanmar route

Bangladesh has become party to the ESCAP sponsored Asian Highway agreement. This was notified from the ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok. The ESCAP sponsored route kept Tamabil as the entry point and Benapole and Banglabandh as the exit points.

Earlier Bangladesh was not a party to the ESCAP-sponsored Asian Highway agreement because of the controversy revolving round the route.

The ESCAP sponsored route would help meet the Indian demand for transit from Bangladesh and obliterate the historical Grand Trunk Road built during the Shershah regime to connect the East Asian countries from Gumdung of Cox”s Bazar.

Except the Awami League government no other governments accepted the ESCAP sponsored Asian Highway routes. The last four-party alliance government withheld the ratification of the ESCAP prepared agreement and pressed hard to include the Chittagong-Myanmar route as one of the international routes of the Asian Highway.

But on every occasion Bangladesh was told to become party to the ESCAP agreement by ratifying the same and thereafter put forward the amendment proposal. But such advice was not considered logical, because once the ESCAP sponsored route is accepted it would be hard to change.

The present regime, however, accepted the logic to become a party to the agreement and ratified the ESCAP sponsored Asian agreement in August last.

After becoming party to the agreement, officials concerned felt that an amendment proposal to the original agreement should be proposed to accept the Cox”s Bazar-Myanmar route as one of the international routes. But the file could not move as no directive so far was received from the political authorities. The communications ministry officials feared that the amendment proposal might be dropped as there was indication that India would oppose the amendment proposal.

The communications ministry officials also said that they did not receive any encouraging response from Myanmar regarding Bangladesh”s demand to include Cox”s Bazar-Myanmar route as one of the international routes of the Asian Highway.

The maritime boundary dispute with Yangon compounded the whole gamut of bi-lateral relations. Both Myanmar and India have taken a common stand against Bangladesh”s claim regarding maritime boundary.

Bangladesh has already approached the UN arbitration to find a logical solution to Bay boundary dispute with its two neighbours. Two Indian nationals would plead in favour of Yangon and Delhi, which would create a great problem for Bangladesh.

In such a situation concerned officials feel that Yangon might side with India and might not support Bangladesh demand for the amendment to the Asian Highway agreement.

A senior official of the communications ministry said that Myanmar did not respond to the RFP (request for proposal) sent to them for their concurrence to develop Gumdung-Bawalibazar road, which would be developed by Bangladesh at its own expense. The understanding of developing the Gumdung-Bawalibazar was reached during the last 4-party alliance government.

Bangladesh sea boundary examined through UNCLOS III

Bangladesh sea boundary examined through UNCLOS III

Engr. M. Inamul Haque

THE present day Law of the Sea is the outcome of United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea of 1958 (UNCLOS I), UNCLOS II of 1960 and UNCLOS III of 1982. Bangladesh has its Territorial Waters & Maritime Zones Act of 1974. It has ratified the UNCLOS 1982 on 27 July 2001, having time for claims to UN Commission to the Limits of Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) by July 27, 2011. According to the UNCLOS III of 1982 articles 3 and 15, every state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention. The baseline is the line of low tide along the seashore of a state. As per article 17, ships of all states, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea. Article 33 gives authority of a state on certain other matters to further 12 nautical miles called the Contiguous Zone.

Exclusive Economic Zone

According to the UNCLOS III of 1982 article 55, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea, subject to the specific legal regime established in this Part, under which the rights and jurisdiction of the coastal State and the rights and freedoms of other States are governed by the relevant provisions of this Convention. As per its article 56, in the EEZ, the coastal state has sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds. The above two articles give the coastal states rights over an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea, for economic exploitation. But as per its article 57, this EEZ shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

Continental Shelf

The UNCLOS III of 1982 in its article 76 gives rights to the coastal states to go down to some points beyond the EEZ called the continental shelf. As per its sub article 1, the continental shelf of a coastal state comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance.

As the limits of sea boundary prolongs towards the deep sea, disputes may arise between adjacent states on their boundaries and claims over their natural resources. Bangladesh has three base lines on its seashore: 1) from the Hariabhanga Estuary to the Haringhata Estuary which makes about a 10 degree slanting towards east from the longitudinal lines; 2) from Haringhata Estuary to the Karnafuli River which makes about a 10 degree slanting towards west from the longitudinal lines; and 3) from the Karnafuli River to St. Martins Island which makes about a 70 degree slanting towards west from longitudinal lines. Thus, if the boundary limits are prolonged from these three baselines, three different scenarios of continental shelf shall arise where Bangladesh can claim over other state’s continental shelf. So, the sub article 4(a) of the article 76 gives clarifications to resolve the disputes.

Article 76 sub-section 4(a): “For the purposes of this Convention, the coastal State shall establish the outer edge of the continental margin wherever the margin extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured by either, i) a line delineated in accordance with paragraph 7 by reference to the outer-most fixed points at each of which the thickness of sedimentary rocks is at least 1 per cent of the shortest distance from such point to the foot of the continental slope; or ii) line delineated in accordance with paragraph 7 by reference to fixed points not more than 60 nautical miles from the foot of the continental slope. This article 76 limits of the continental shelf on the seabed, drawn in accordance with paragraph 4 (a) (i) and (ii), not beyond 350 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured or not beyond 100 nautical miles from the 2,500 metre isobath which is a line connecting the depth of 2,500 metres.”

The Bengal Fan

The Bengal Fan is the bed of sedimentary rocks in the sea that starts from the mouth of River Ganga sloping gradually down to 5 degree latitude in Indian Ocean. Sediments from the Indian Territory as well as from Myanmar also contribute to this fan, but their contributions can be easily separated from the isobaths. In the Bengal Fan, a deep trough from south of the Sundarbans, called the Swatch of No Ground, separates sediments of western and eastern branches of the River Ganga arriving through India and Bangladesh. A similar trough from south of the St. Martins Island can separate sediments from Bangladesh and Myanmar rivers. These two lines can be our sea limits as per UNCLOS III of 1982.

Bangladesh Sea

Boundary Disputes

Bangladesh has divided its mainland and territorial waters into several blocks for gas and oil exploration. Recently an invitation for tenders was issued for interested parties for exploration of 8 blocks under the EEZ and 20 blocks under the Continental Shelf. But objections were raised from India and Myanmar over claims on the peripheral blocks. A recent discovery of huge hydrocarbon reserves in the continental shelves of India in Orissa, and Myanmar in Rakhaine states has created the disputes over territorial claims. Bangladesh needs to solve this problem in the light of article 76 clause 4a and article 7 of UNCLOS III.

The article 59 of UNCLOS III says that in cases where this Convention does not attribute rights or jurisdiction to the coastal states or to other states within the EEZ and a conflict arises between the interests of the coastal state and any other state or states, the conflict should be resolved on the basis of equity and in the light of all the relevant circumstances, taking into account the respective importance of the interests of the involved parties as well as to the international community as a whole. As per this article, Bangladesh should negotiate not only on the basis of equity, but also in the light of other relevant circumstances, particularly the basis of sedimentary rocks deposited from the mainland.

I appreciate the Government’s decision to move to the UN for resolving sea boundary disputes with our neighboring states. As Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar are signatories to the UNCLOS III, the matter should be resolved there. I also appreciate the Government’s decision to conduct a Seismic Survey of the sea bed to update the available Bathymetric Records. But the government should not delay anymore to update Bangladesh Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act 1974 on the basis of UNCLOS III of 1982.

The writer is ex-Director General, Water Resources Planning Organization, Ministry of Water Resources. Email:

Dhaka takes maritime dispute with Delhi to UN

Dhaka takes maritime dispute with Delhi to UN
Shahidul Islam Chowdhury

Bangladesh has registered its objection with the United Nations to India’s claim over certain areas in the Bay of Bengal three months after a similar opposition lodged against Myanmar’s claim over sea waters.

‘We have submitted our objection to the maritime commission of the UN on October 29,’ Bangladesh’s permanent representative to the UN, MA Momen told New Age over telephone Monday evening.

India submitted its claim on maritime boundary to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in May 2009, one month ahead of its deadline.

Bangladesh earlier lodged its objection with the CLCS, a UN body to deal with the law of the seas, in July this year against Myanmar’s claim on the sea waters.

Bangladesh and Myanmar sent warships 50 km down Saint Martin’s Island in November last year as the latter allowed a Korean gas exploration company to send survey team and equipment in the Bangladesh waters.

Dhaka has disputes over territorial waters in the Bay with both New Delhi and Yangon in two areas—that of natural prolongation of the continental shelf and the baseline.

India argues that the course of the natural prolongation of continental shelf is from east to west while Bangladesh says it is from north to south.

Bangladesh and India have some overlapping claims on baselines.

According to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Seas, Bangladesh must demarcate its sea boundaries by July 27, 2011, India by June 29, 2009 and Myanmar May 21, 2009.

The three countries are signatories to the UNCLOS.

As per the UN provision, claims submitted by any country would not be taken for final consideration before settling the objection raised by a neighbouring country which might have overlapping claims.

Dhaka opted to go for negotiations as India and Myanmar recently opposed Bangladesh’s offshore block biddings for exploration of oil and gas even within its own territorial waters as Dhaka did not have an internationally accepted exclusive economic zone.

Bangladesh has problems with India and Myanmar on the issue of ‘starting point’ on how to mark the coastlines from the exclusive economic zone that has apparently overlapped claims of the three neighbouring countries due to the funnel-like shape of the Bay of Bengal.

A country is supposed to enjoy its rights to fish and extract and explore other marine resources in its exclusive economic zone, an area of 200 nautical miles into an adjacent sea, according to international maritime law.

Myanmar proposes road network with China, Bangladesh

Myanmar proposes road network with China, Bangladesh
Reuters/ . Dhaka

Myanmar has proposed expanding a planned road project with Bangladesh to link up with China in a tri-nation network, a senior foreign ministry official said on Sunday.

The proposal was made during talks between the Bangladesh foreign minister, Dipu Moni, and her Myanmarese counterpart U Nyan Win in Yangon on Saturday, he said.

China has friendly relations with both countries and is a major trade partner. With nearly $2 billion annual exports to Bangladesh it is the country’s largest trade partner after India.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a deal in July 2007 to construct a 25km road to connect the two countries and construction will begin soon, officials at the communications ministry said.

‘Both Myanmar and China are interested to set up the tri-nation road network,’ the statement quoted the Myanmar foreign minister as telling his Bangladesh counterpart.

There is no road linking Bangladesh and Myanmar, although there are two transit points along the border. Bangladesh will fund the road, most of which will be inside Myanmar, with only about 2km in Bangladesh.

Both countries believe that the road will help boost bilateral trade, currently worth only around $60 million, a spokesman for the Bangladesh foreign ministry said.

Bangladesh and Myanmar share a 320-km border, partly demarcated by the River Naf, a regular route for smuggling and illegal crossings by minority Muslims fleeing what they say is persecution by Myanmar’s military junta.

Tension rose between the two usually friendly neighbours last October when Myanmar started exploring for oil and gas in a disputed area of the Bay of Bengal, defying protests by Dhaka.

The Tipaimukh barrage

The Tipaimukh barrage

Mahmud ur Rahman Choudhury

Planned dam at Tipaimukh on the Bangladesh-India border. SOURCE:

Three important events have taken place in Bangladesh since I wrote the commentary last Monday. These are: (1) The Indian external affairs minister has visited Bangladesh barely a month after the AL government took office, (2) Student agitations on various issues have again taken a violent and destructive turn and (3) The Indians are going ahead with the construction of the massive Tipaimukh barrage – all of these events collectively impinge on us in more than one ways but the one which directly affects our very ability to survive is the issue of water-sharing of some 53 common rivers between India and Bangladesh. By constructing Tipaimukh and other barrages, India is depriving us of life-giving waters, drastically reducing our ability to survive and therefore this is the issue needing immediate and continued public attention and the subject of this commentary.

India has resumed construction of the Tipaimukh barrage on the Barack river just a kilometer north of Jakiganj in Sylhet; the construction work was stalled in March 2007 in the face of protests within and outside India. The barrage when completed in 2012 is supposed to provide 1500 megawatts of hydel power to the Indian state of Assam but in return its going to bring about a major disaster for Bangladesh, practically contributing to drying up of 350 km long Surma and 110 km long Kushiara rivers which water most of the north-eastern regions of Bangladesh. The Tipaimukh barrage is going to seriously affect not only agriculture in large portions of Bangladesh, particularly in winter, but is also going to bring about negative ecological, climatic and environmental changes of vast areas in both Bangladesh and India.

It’s not just this one Indian barrage that is a source of considerable concern and trepidation in Bangladesh; in 1976 India put into operation the Farraka barrage which more or less destroyed the Ganges-Brahamaputra basin, most of which lies in the deltaic plains of Bangladesh and in 1990 India also constructed a barrage along the Teesta river thereby virtually making ineffective much of the Teesta barrage project constructed down-stream in Bangladesh to support irrigation and agriculture in the north-west region of the country. What is even more worrying is that India has evolved plans to divert waters, from the north of the country to its drought-prone southern and eastern states, of some 53 river which flow from India to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh shares a common border with India in the west, north and east and with Myanmar in the southeast. These borders cut across 57 rivers which discharge through Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal in the south. The upstream courses of these rivers traverse India, China, Nepal and Bhutan. Trans-boundary flows, which enter Bangladesh from remote catchments extending short distance to thousands of kilometers upstream, are the important source of water resources.

Among the trans-boundary rivers, the ones most affected by Indian barrages and their related systems of canals, reservoirs and irrigation schemes are Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Teesta. Although the Indian and Bangladeshi governments have a water sharing agreement for the Ganges, there are none for the other 53 rivers that cross the border. With the Tipaimukh barrage now underway, India seems to be going ahead with its mega-project of diverting river waters from its north to its south and east, thereby putting Bangladesh’s very survival at stake.

As to how the AL government is going to handle this issue of our survival through water-sharing of common rivers between India and Bangladesh is difficult to say because right now the government is suffering from a sense of complacency and deja vu over “friendship” with India forgetting the fact that India is a state with interests to maintain and that Bangladesh too is a state with equally pressing imperatives to survive as such. India is taking unilateral decisions about matters which affect Bangladesh’s core interests and if these cannot be resolved bilaterally, Bangladesh must look at options of going to multilateral forums such as the UN to get its right not only recognized but also implemented. International laws dealing with water-sharing of common rivers and sources are ambiguous, unclear and contentious and so, Bangladesh ought to vigorously pursue these matters, perhaps even garner international support for a change in those laws dealing with water-sharing – this international dimension is a crucial factor affecting the management of the trans-boundary river systems. There is thus, no scope for Bangladesh to be deflected from this core issue of water-sharing notwithstanding Indian deceitful and diversionary insistence and propaganda on “terrorists and transit”.

Govt will build road, railway with Myanmar: Minister

Govt will build road, railway with Myanmar: Minister

Feb 7: Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain said the government will start implementing election pledges from the south-east, building connecting road and railway from Ukhia of Duhazari to Myanmar’s Ghum Dhum point.

He said this after visiting the location of the proposed China-Myanmar-Bangladesh friendship road and railway at Myanmar border close to Ghum Dhum town yesterday.

The minister was briefing newsmen at the local BDR outpost following his visit to the spots including the Ghum Dhum point where Bangladesh also plans to set up a railway station.

He said the government has sent proposals to Myanmar government to this effect and awaiting response to start planning and other physical mobilisation.

Local MP Abdur Rahim Badi who accompanied the minister said the former Awami League government initiated the project 10 years ago and it will implement the project now.

The minister said the government is putting top priority to developing the road and railway communication in this part of the region. This is needed to develop the region as the strategic transit point for goods, business and closer people to people connectivity, he added.

He said the government is planning to spend up to Taka 21,00 crore in developing the communication system in the region. It will be part of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s far reaching plan to create a digital Bangladesh, he said.

The minister said Bangladesh government looks forward to open a new horizon in the area of trade, people to people connectivity and economic development of the region extended up to China in the east.

It will be the new economic zone to benefit all three countries of the region, he said suggesting it will not only develop tourism of the region but also bring boost to socio- economic development using the Chittagong port.

Beijing, Yangon back Dhaka’s plea for Asian Highway route change

Beijing, Yangon back Dhaka’s plea for Asian Highway route change

Shakhawat Hossain

Dhaka has taken an initiative to join the UNESCAP-sponsored Asian Highway through its proposed route after getting green signals from Beijing and Yangon, said a senior communication ministry official Tuesday.

“We have already sent proposal to Yangon after receiving positive signals from Myanmar and China to back the country’s plea for route change,” said communication ministry secretary Mahmububur Rahman.

Dhaka has not joined the highway after United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) turned down its proposal on the change of route in 2005.

The country wanted Dhaka-Yangon as its main Asian Highway route although UNESCAP proposed Dhaka’s main route through India.

As per rules a country can bring about changes in the proposed route with the support of two member countries, which Dhaka failed to get from China and Myanmar in 2005.

The latest positive sign of support from the two countries was aired at the recent bilateral talks between Dhaka and Yangon, and Dhaka and Beijing, he said.

The chief adviser of the caretaker government undertook his first bilateral overseas tour to China last month and played host to a senior Myanmar leader in Dhaka last week.

The communication secretary said construction of a tri-nation highway to establish a road link among the countries, which Dhaka wanted to be its main Asian Highway route, was discussed prominently.

“We have made lot of progress on the issue during the talk,” added the communication secretary.

Ministry officials said they will ask the foreign ministry to raise the issue with the UNESCAP after necessary groundwork as any lack of initiative will isolate the country from a major project.

Communication expert Rahmatullah said the move is very good, but the country will have to deal with it very carefully.

“First of all, the country will have to sign the agreement as a member of the pact,” he said.

Without membership a country can not make any proposal for a change in the route, added the former UNESCEP official.

The Asian Highway was initiated in 1959 with the aim of promoting the development of international road transport in the region by linking 140,000 kilometres road network from Tokyo to Ankara.

During the first phase of the project in 1960 and 1970s considerable progress was achieved. However progress slowed down when financial assistance was suspended in 1975.

The UNESCAP revived the mega project in early 1990s and adopted in Seoul in 2001.

The Highway will cover some 23695 kilometres road network in South East Asia, 50422 in East and North-East Asia, about 20616 in South Asia and 46471 in North Central and South-West Asia.

Deepening economic ties with Myanmar

Deepening economic ties with Myanmar

Myanmar, Bangladesh’s important neighbour to the east, has promising prospects for deepening economic relations with the latter. The economic relationships can blossom very quickly indeed if only the governments on the two sides want an acceleration in that direction. Thus, the on-going visit to Bangladesh by the Vice-Chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar, Vice-senior General Maung Aye, is seen as significant in the backdrop of recent high level visits to Yangon from Dhaka. The current visit to Bangladesh by the number two man in the government of Myanmar signals a quest on the part of both countries to try and exploit the potentials of economic cooperation between them.

Generally, the prospects of bilateral economic cooperation between the two next-door neighbours are extensive. Myanmar is considered to be rich in natural resources. But a great deal of these resources remains untapped. Geo-physical proximity, in the context of the situations in both the countries vis-a-vis the region and the rest of the world, makes Bangladesh an ideal partner of Myanmar for trade and investment related matters. The two countries enjoy friendly and good relations and the openness of Yangon towards Dhaka makes Bangladesh especially suitable for Myanmar to expand its trade and seeking of investments.

For example, Myanmar has huge fallow lands which are not producing any returns at the moment. Bangladesh has offered to rent and farm a part of these lands under either production sharing contract or any other form of arrangement. The materializing of this plan can be highly beneficial for both countries. Without any form of investment, Myanmar stands to gain from receiving large scale output of rice and other agro-products. Bangladesh can gain from a steady source of supply of food grain and other agro-oriented raw materials from an external but very near source for its upcoming industries. Thus, the government in Myanmar will certainly appreciate the merit of the Bangladeshi proposal in this regard and act in response to it, in view of the given socio-economic realities facing the two countries.

Bangladesh has offered to extend its road building activities inside Myanmar at its own costs up to the Chinese borders. The completion of such road construction will lead to an increase in bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar and also aid in trilateral expansion of trade between Bangladesh, Myanmar and the economic superpower, China. Besides, such road building will also bring Myanmar and Bangladesh closer to the East Asian countries like Thailand for greater trading activities with them. Therefore, Yangon is also expected to show real interests in these endeavours to improve road communication to give a boost to the regional trade.

Energy is one sector where both countries can engage in mutually supportive activities with no loss of time. Myanmar has huge reserves of gas far in excess of its current and projected rate of consumption. In this context, the proposal for having a gas transmission line from Myanmar to Bangladesh can serve useful purposes for the better and through Bangladesh, to any third country, provided a win-win situation is created for all to harness equitable benefits thereof. On its part, Bangladesh has always been ready to play a positive role in making concerted efforts for creating such a situation. Therefore, with similar position moves by Myanmar, the benefits of cooperation can equitably be shared by all concerned. Bangladesh also wants to buy gas from Myanmar and this can be made possible through a gas pipeline or an independent project. A proposal is also there to set up fertilizer factories inside Bangladesh using Myanmar’s gas and the related arrangement to share the produced fertilizers. A positive response to it from Myanmar can be a big step taken towards contributing to the food security of both countries.

Package of proposals to bolster ties : Myanmar agrees to export one-lakh MT rice

Package of proposals to bolster ties : Myanmar agrees to export one-lakh MT rice

UNB, Dhaka

Myanmar yesterday agreed to export one lakh metric tonnes of rice to Bangladesh on regular basis as Dhaka made a host of proposals for expanding bilateral trade and economic cooperation with Yangon to a new height.

The agreement came during official talks between Chief Advisor Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed and visiting Vice-Chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar Vice-senior General Maung Aye at the Chief Advisor’s office.

One of the major proposals placed by Dhaka is for installing a cross-border gas pipeline from Myanmar into Bangladesh to produce fertilizer here to meet Myanmar’s demand.

During the 90-minute talks, the two government leaders discussed early construction of a 23-km road linkage inside Myanmar at a cost of $ 20.3 million for direct trans-border communications.

The Bangladesh side proposed that the road link could be extended up to China to establish a direct land route connecting China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Myanmar side said they would think about the proposal, since it requires funding.

Briefing reporters at the CA’s office Foreign Advisor Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury said the two leaders also discussed delimitation of maritime boundary, contract farming by taking lease of cultivable lands in Myanmar and repatriation of the remaining 21,000 Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.

The two sides also focused on how to increase bilateral trade from the current $ 140 million to $500 million as Myanmar showed interest in importing more pharmaceuticals from Bangladesh.

Besides, they discussed intensifying military-to- military cooperation through training program and exchange of visits between the two neighboring countries.

An agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation was signed after the meeting.

“Talks were extremely fruitful,” Iftekhar told the reporters. He said Myanmar’s Ministers for Energy, Commerce, Construction, Immigration and Foreign Affairs, who are accompanying General Maung Aye, would sit with the Advisors concerned tomorrow to follow up the official talks.

In reply to a question about tentative date for the construction of the 20-km road connecting Bangladesh and Myanmar, he said it would be clear after tomorrow’s meeting with Communications Advisor Maj Gen (retd) Golam Quader.

Asked about Myanmar’s response to Bangladesh proposal regarding supply of gas through pipeline for production of fertilizer in Bangladesh, the Advisor said there was no instant response, but the energy ministries of the two countries would further discuss the proposed venture.

On maritime boundary, the Chief Advisor requested the Myanmar General to use his political clout as well as a political direction from them for resolving the longstanding matter quickly.

About progress on Bangladesh’s proposal for contract farming, he said it is a complex subject and needs more discussions.

On procurement of rice from Myanmar, the Advisor said the Bangladesh side proposed to increase the quantum of import to one-lakh ton from 50,000 since rice production in that country got stable. The Commerce Ministries of the two countries will decide the matter in a couple of days.

About repatriation of the 21,000 Rohingyas, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed proposed a tripartite mechanism involving Myanmar, Bangladesh and UNHCR for speedy repatriation of the refugees camped in Cox’s Bazar since early 90s.

Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain and CA’s Press Secretary Syed Fahim Munaim were present at the briefing.

Bangladesh-Myanmar link road survey to begin soon

Bangladesh-Myanmar link road survey to begin soon
Mustafizur Rahman

Dhaka is set to begin a survey on the proposed Bangladesh– Myanmar link road this month with the consent of Yangon.

The communications ministry has already requested the foreign affairs ministry to seek opinions of the Myanmar authorities in this regard, said a senior official concerned.

Dhaka may take up the issue of the proposed direct road link between the two neighbours for discussion with the vice-senior general Maung Aye, the vice-chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar, who is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka this morning on a three-day official visit.

‘The survey on the proposed Bangladesh–Myanmar link road will begin soon… The construction work may begin in the middle of 2008,’ the communications secretary, Mohammad Mahbubur Rahman, told New Age in his office on Monday.

The contract for conducting the study and cost estimation of the trans-boundary road by March 2009 will be signed soon as the evaluation of the proposals was under process, official sources in the communications ministry said, adding that five consulting firms were short-listed for proposal submission.

Eight firms submitted expression of interest for the survey in response to the advertisement by the Roads and Highways Department.

The interim administration of Fakhruddin Ahmed after assuming office in January 2007 expedited the previous government’s move to establish the direct road link between Bangladesh and Myanmar to boost trade and commerce between the two neighbours.

The Planning Commission on March 10, 2008 approved an estimated fund of Tk 4.97 crore for the survey.

The governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar earlier signed a memorandum of understanding on April 4, 2004 to initially construct the 25km link road — two kilometres in Bangladesh and 23 kilometres in Myanmar — at an estimated cost of Tk 195.85 crore.

Later in July 2007, the two governments signed another agreement on the proposed road communication between Myanmar and Bangladesh, to be financed by Dhaka.

The project area includes Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and the Arakan province of Myanmar. As per the memorandum of understanding, two task forces —technical and financial — were commissioned for the proposed link road.

The Bangladesh–Myanmar Direct Link Road Project has been initiated by communications ministry of the government of Bangladesh and the Roads and Highways Department is the implementing authority of the project.