SHIV SAHAY SINGH
IUCN atlas maps course of 54 rivers that flow between India & Bangladesh
Fifty-four rivers flow between India and Bangladesh, sustaining the lives of 620 million people along their banks. Charting their course and the cultures that grew around it is a trans-boundary river atlas, “Rivers Beyond Borders,” a first such publication brought out by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The atlas provides maps and infographics and tells the stories of the people and cultures along their banks and the tales behind the names of the rivers. The publication, part of the “Ecosystem for Life” initiative of the IUCN, is a result of three years of work of interdisciplinary experts, with joint research taken up by participants from both nations.
Not only the mighty Ganga and the Brahmaputra but even less-known rivers such as the Bizni, the Sonai Bardal and the Talma find a place in the atlas. All officially known rivers which are part of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Barak-Meghna basins are there.
Very little information is available in the public domain about these rivers, says Kalyan Rudra, a river expert associated with the project. The atlas provides information about the origin of the rivers, their confluence with the sea, important places along their course and the quality of water in them.
“The official records say 54 rivers flow between the two countries, though, in reality, there can be many more. Across the world, there are 260 rivers flowing from one country to another, and everywhere, disputes are emerging over sharing of their waters,” Professor Rudra says.
The publication says society has not always been kind to the rivers now buffeted by pollution and encroachment. Smaller rivers have hardly got the attention and importance from the governments, leading to their further decline.
The names of the rivers show the diversity of language, cultures and even the terrain as if rivers are not physical entities but carriers of cultural threads. As they cross territories and pass through different tracts, most rivers change names, the atlas says.
The Brahmaputra is called Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibetan. In India, it is Siang in Arunachal Pradesh and Dihang in the plains of Assam. The river enters Bangladesh as Jamuna. The rivers in the atlas are in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna region. Experts say that the document will turn out to be a resource for policy-makers, students, geographers and everyone with an interest in rivers.
Keywords: India-Bangladesh rivers