SITUATION IMPOSSIBLE

SITUATION impossible, but not desperate. It is reassuring to read a journalist report at this year's commemoration of World Water Day that "Countries have shown great success in cooperating in water resources than fighting over them."

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With the expiry of prescriptive period of official secrets act, I am reproducing verbatim an embassy despatch nr. JAZ-285/86 circa September, 1986, from our New Delhi embassy:

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India and Bangladesh agreed to continue bilateral talks on sharing the Ganga waters. The talks were initiated between the Bangladesh Minister for Water Resources and his Indian counterpart (see despatch 219/86, 25.VII.86).

Both sides agreed to construct the mega project of damming the Ganga at upper north in Nepal, the source of the waters. Situating the dam in India would entail astronomical cost as the river traverses a plain on the Indian side; and this would require building a dam on all four sides. India and Bangladesh agreed to include Nepal in the discussions, but only as an "observer" while keeping the negotiations bilateral.

Nepal temporizes on the question, and the Nepalese Embassy say that they have no information other than that the Nepal government is invited as "observer." Nepal reserves judgment on the project depending on advice where the dam will be sited - in the fertile lowland where most of the crops are grown, or in the mountains with possible impairment of the ecology.

Nepal will also not accept a dam in its territory if its hand is not on the tap. Some of the waters must be alloted to its croplands. Moreover, the Nepalese could not mask chagrin at the dual position of India. The Indian side claims upper riparian rights in their bilateral talks with Bangladesh, but denies the same rights to Nepal.

Notwithstanding the spirit of SAARC, the Ganga waters project may come to impasse, unless India and Bangladesh bring in Nepal and recognize upper riparian rights of the country which is the source of the waters.

I asked the Nepalese Minister Counsellor Mr. Tharayan his views on the issue. By way of answer, he narrated the following anecdote, with the caveat that these were his personal views, and not of his government:

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Two Scot drinking buddies for many years were together in the pub. Then one of them, very heavy of heart, confided that his doctor said that he was terminally ill of cancer. The news brought more glum to the two normally dour Scots. The terminally ill one broke the silence. "Laddie," he said, "will you promise me that when I am gone, you will pour a glass of this goode whiskie over me grave ev'ry evening to quench me thirst?"

"Done!" said the healthy one, steadfast as a rock. Then he thought on it... of goode water going to waste... (Eureka! the bright idea) "...but would you mind if I first let it pass me kidneys?"

Very truly yours,

J A Z

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