The New Horizon

A new world explored with a rational view

Posts Tagged ‘South Asia

Indian Films – Quality or Business?

with 3 comments

Indians are proud of Bollywood – the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai. The gross earnings of some of the Hindi movies are really impressive. It is also instrumental in creating direct and indirect job opportunities for millions of Indians – not only as actors, actress and directors, but also as crew and ‘extra’s. Of course all these prove that Indian films are accepted well in the market.

However, when we take a different look at the same industry and try to look at how Indian films are received by the critics, we get an entire different picture. It is well known that none of the Indian films has ever won an Oscar. The only entries of Oscar from India are Satyajit Ray (Academy Honorary Award – 1991) and A. R. Rahman (Best Original Score and Best Original Song – 2009) (won’t count Slumdog Millionaire as the director was not Indian). The Cannes Film festival, one of the most prestigious film award winning spot, has awarded only 7 films so far. None of these happened in last 10 years. It seems 1950s were the best of the films, getting 3 out of these 7. The most prestigious award of Palme d’Or was awarded to only a single Indian film – named Neecha Nagar in 1946. It was directed by Chetan Anand, brother of famous film actor Dev Anand. Pather Panchali, possibly the best Indian film ever made, had the award of Best Human Document in 1955. The last award was on Camera work – Murali Nair won it in 1999 for his film Marana Simhasanam. The list of 7 has 3 Hindi, 2 Bengali and 1 each for Marathi and Malayalam films, one of the Hindi films (Do Bigha Zamin) is actually a remake of a Bengali film.

The failure is not limited to awards only. Last ten years, Indian films seldom have make a cut in the nominations list. The list of entries have Udaan(2010) and Pattiyude Divasam(2001) and Arimpara(2003) and the latter ones are from the same Keralite director – Murali Nair. I should rather say that Indians did better to be a part of the jury since three Indians made it to the jury list – Arundhati Roy, Aishwarya Rai and Nandita Das. In Asian Film Festival (Hong Kong) only a couple of awards went to India in last four years – Amitabh Bachchan won the Lifetime Achievement award and Om Shanti Om won the best composer award.

The failure is even more prominent for the entire South Asia, which produced only a couple of awards in last ten years (Sulanga Enu Pinisa from Srilanka in Camera d’Or – 2005 and Matir Moina from Bangladesh won FIPRESCI award in 2002). With a population of 1.5 billion and such success in commercial movie industry – this is one huge gap one should try to fix. The region has enough stories to tell the world, but it is really unfortunate that those ones seldom get to the screen.

Interesting to see in the list below – the presence of Hindi films in the list is quite rare given the number of films produced each year in Hindi. Two of the three Hindi films mentioned here are actually made by non-Hindi speaker Directors and the last one is a documentary co-produced in Hindi and English.

A list of Indian Films awarded by FIPRESCI (2000-2010)

Name Director Language Award Year
Manjadikkuru Anjali Menon Malayalam 2008
The Fortunate One (Sonam) Ahsan Muzid Monpa 2007
Kramasha Amit Dutta Hindi 2007
Painted Rainbow Gitanjali Rao English 2007
Ore Kadal Shyamaprasad Malayalam 2007
AFSPA, 1958 Haobam Paban Kumar Manipuri 2006
Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara Jahnu Barua Hindi 2006
Talnabami Dhananjoy Mandal Bengali 2006
Amu Shonali Bose English 2005
Nizhalkkuthu Adoor Gopalakrishnan Malayalam 2003
Margam Rajiv Vijayaraghavan Malayalam 2003
Titli Rituparno Ghosh Bengali 2002
Mankolangal Subrahmanian Santakumar Malayalam 2001
My Friend Su Neeraj Bhasin English 2001
Deveeri Kavitha Lankesh Kannada 2000
Vanaprastham Shaji N. Karun Malayalam 2000
Paromitar Ek Din Aparna Sen Bengali 2000
Oru Cheru Punchiri M.T. Vasudevan Nair Malayalam 2000

The next one is the list of NETPAC awards (2000-2010) -

Name Director Language Award Year
Paruthiveeran Ameer Sultan Tamil 2008
Final Solution Rakesh Sharma Hindi 2004
Bariwali Rituparno Ghosh Bengali 2000

Written by Diganta

February 8, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Tista (Teesta) : The New Dilemma

with one comment

I believe everyone, who want India to have a better relationship with Bangladesh, is following the recent bonhomie between India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh did their best possible to hand over Indian separatists and allowing India to use ports in Bangladesh. The much-debated transit deal is also on its way. But the question that is asked now – what is the return? In an era of selfish-for-own-people foreign policy, everyone wants their equation to look as healthy as possible. However, the red-tape and Indian constitution are the two most obstacles in improving the pay-back. How? The details follow …

1. Brief about Tista (Teesta in Bangladesh)

The River Teesta or Tista is said to be the lifeline of the Indian state of Sikkim, flowing for almost the entire length of the state and carving out verdant Himalayan temperate and tropical river valleys. The emerald-coloured river then forms the border between Sikkim and West Bengal before joining the Brahmaputra as a tributary in Bangladesh. Total length of the river is 315 kilometres. The river crosses 97 km in Indian plains before it enters into the extreme northwest region of Bangladesh. It flows about 124 km in Bangladesh and joins Brahmaputra River.

2. Brief about dispute

The idea of using the Teesta River for irrigation for the betterment of the people is as old as the British period. During the 1950s, the then East Pakistani authorities intimated the Indian authorities regarding the Teesta Project in her territory. After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, talks on the Teesta water sharing continued in the Indo-Bangladesh Joint River Commission. Bangladesh objected to India’s plan to divert the water of the Teesta to the Mahanada basin area. The talks continued without any result until 1983, when the two parties reached an adhoc allocation agreement, according to which India was to get 39 percent, Bangladesh 36 percent and the remaining 25 percent was to be reserved for reallocation later, after further study. However, even this agreement has not been executed and the amount of dry season water on the Bangladesh side has gradually decreased.

3. Barrages in dispute

The Dalia Barrage is the largest irrigation project in Bangladesh. It stands across the Teesta River at Doani-Dalia point in the Lalmonirhat district of Bangladesh. The barrage was completed successfully in August 1990 and its operation commenced in 1993.

The Gazoldoba Barrage stands across the same Teesta River in the Jalpaiguri district of India.India had started to construct a barrage at Gazoldoba, which began to be used for irrigation in 1993.

4. Talks, Discussions …

The high level committee of JRC in both India and Bangladesh sat for meetings about 33 times for the Teesta water problem but no fruitful decisions were made. Dhaka and Delhi have been discussing the Teesta sharing issue since 1972.

5. Proposal from Bangladesh

Bangladesh wants to split the water at 50:50 ratio at the Indian barrage to have an ensured supply of half of the water during dry season. The proposal also considers to keep 20% of the water for environmental flow.In other words – the draft proposed that Bangladesh and India each would get 40 percent water of the Teesta and 20 percent water would go to Bay of Bengal (via Brahmaputra) for maintaining the channel of the river.

6. Proposal from India

India prefers keeping only 10 percent for the river. Moreover, India wants other factors to be taken into account before distributing water of these rivers. In the case of Teesta, 85 percent of agricultural land served by the river was in  India  and the remaining 15 per cent in Bangladesh. So, India wants water to split in that ratio. The ratio of catchment area are also another point mentioned in the argument.

7. The role of Indian Constitution

Indian constitution offers the sovereignty of water resources (and irrigation too) to the State, in this case West Bengal. As per various newspaper reports, Indian Govt is keen on resolving the water issue almost at par with Bangladesh offer.  But West Bengal refuses because the consequences will directly affect them and not the rest of the country.

To explain more on this, Indian constitution bars the Govt of India to have a treaty with Bangladesh without the consensus of West Bengal. Even if they do sign it, West Bengal can appeal against it in Supreme Court and a victory would enable them to nullify the treaty. On the other hand, if West Bengal agrees, the Central Govt has no power to stop them to go ahead with a treaty. This is why Jyoti Basu played a key role in getting Farakka treaty done.

According to some news sources, West Bengal Govt does not want to commit anything before upcoming elections next year as it could potentially be used against the ruling party. We can hope for a progress after 2011.

8. Bangladesh allows India to draw 1.82 cusec of water from the Feni river for drinking water. What is the impact of this?

It sounds strange but it does not affect the treaty at all. The reason is mentioned in the above article. The withdrawal of water is from river Feni which flows through the state of Tripura. So, the benefit goes to that state. Since state is in power of water resources, West Bengal sees no benefit from it.

9. What does International Law says on this dispute?

The International Convention and India-Bangladesh treaty of 1996 points to the same fact – distribute river water in terms of equity. The concept of equity is a bit complex and I discussed it at length in another post. There are 7 or more factors to be taken into account when measuring what an equitable share should mean.

One important thing to remember is that equity does not mean equal sharing. For example, the Indus water treaty allows India to use approximately 20% of the water since the area under irrigation and population dependent on it are close to that ratio. It is an example of equitable sharing of water resource. If the water of Brahmaputra is distributed at 50:50, it won’t be an equitable sharing since Bangladesh is overwhelmingly dependent on it.

10. How are the factors of equity for Bangladesh and India?

Factor Bangladesh India
Population in Catchment 7620913 8028752
Catchment Area 2071 sq km 12650s km
Catchment Irrigable Area 2071 sq km 2970 sq km
Population in Irrigable area 7620913 7488259
Geography Plains Plains and hilly
Area currently under irrigation 111,000 hectare 527,000 hectare
Target area 750,000 hectare 922,000 hectare

The numbers are obtained from Govt websites. The parts of West Bengal (total area – area in Sikkim) is assumed to be the irrigable area in the catchment – the reality should be close to that. The population is calculated adding the population of concerned districts.

The Tista project in West Bengal actually covers areas in Dinajpur also, which may distort the population numbers. In that case district population figures add up to 9827331.

11. How logical is West Bengal argument on sharing water in proportion of area under irrigation?

There are a couple of fallacies in the argument to distribute water in proportion with area under irrigation. As the water withdrawn is solely used in irrigation, the target irrigation area can be the sole determining factor in this treaty. However, it’s wrong to look at current area under irrigation and ignore the potential. The reason that area under irrigation in Bangladesh is so low despite having a decent target area is the availability of water. Since water is not at all available after the upstream dam diversion, Bangladesh did not proceed with increasing area under irrigation. So, the argument loops back itself – very purpose of the treaty is being used as a parameter of it.

If we go back in history, India had under 10% usage of Indus basin water resources before partition. During Indus basin negotiations, India argued that their Colonial masters did not show any interest in developing any particular area with irrigation since they were part of the same country and state (Punjab). Indian argument was valid and was accepted during negotiation. Similarly, Bangladesh didn’t get a fair chance to bring the irrigable area under cover due to upstream diversion. The factors we should look at are the irrigable area under catchment and the target areas of the project and neglect the actual area under irrigation.

As the numbers indicate, the proposal from Bangladesh is what is closer to equity if my argument is considered. In fact, a research by Yoshiro Higano and Fakrul Islam proposed Bangladesh to have 40% of water in order to maintain equity.

12. Are there any other areas of focus for the treaty?

There are a few more potential areas of co-operation under the same treaty. India is building 50,000 MW hydroelectricity dams (most of these are run-of-the-river) on Tista and it’s tributaries. Bangladesh can grant a “no-objection” to that plan since that will probably not affect the dry season flow. In future, India can build a reservoir to facilitate the dry season flow and solely use the entire augmented water in West Bengal – the treaty can have provisions for that. To move the relationship in a better direction, the reservoir can be built as a joint venture and electricity and irrigation water can be shared. With the same reservoir, any flood moderation plans can also kick-in.

Sources  (Will be updated):

Written by Diganta

September 29, 2010 at 8:55 am

Towards Equitable Water Allocation in South Asia

with 4 comments

This is the last of my series of articles on river water and international laws. I have heard many comments on equitable water usage among the countries. While there are no real explanation of the term “equitable” and it doesn’t necessarily evolve into a formula of water distribution among nations, it could be considered as the framework of sharing river and groundwater.

The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin

The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin

The picture above is the map of Ganges-Brahmaputra basin. It is my topic of discussion. Let me first clarify why the whole of the region is considered as a single unit and not as two different river basins. The Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses says in definitions :

““Watercourse” means a system of surface waters and groundwaters constituting by virtue of their physical relationship a unitary whole and normally flowing into a common terminus;”

As per the laws of the watercourse, all these rivers flow into a common terminus and are connected as a unitary whole. Hence, Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin is considered as a single unit of watercourse. Even the damodar basin in West Bengal would get added to this.

The equtable distribution of water resources would depend on a few key statistics. As directed by the law they are -

(a) Geographic, hydrographic, hydrological, climatic, ecological and other factors of a natural
(b) The social and economic needs of the watercourse States concerned;
(c) The population dependent on the watercourse in each watercourse State;
(d) The effects of the use or uses of the watercourses in one watercourse State on other watercourse
(e) Existing and potential uses of the watercourse;
(f) Conservation, protection, development and economy of use of the water resources of the
watercourse and the costs of measures taken to that effect;
(g) The availability of alternatives, of comparable value, to a particular planned or existing use.

I tried to prepare a chart for Bangladesh, India and Nepal with a few key statistics to determine the equitable distribution.

Factor Bangladesh India Nepal
Population (density/km2) 153 million (1045) 1.14 billion, approx half in catchment area) (349, double in the basin) 29 million (184)
Catchment Area 7% 64% 8.5%
Availability of water (Renewable Water Resource – including groundwater) 8090 cu.m. per year per capita (2% groundwater) 1750 cu.m. per year per capita (22% groundwater) 8170 cu.m. per year per capita (10% groundwater)
Existing Use of water 7% 34% 5%
Availability of Alternatives – Water None for agricultural and domestic use None for agricultural and domestic use None for agricultural and domestic use
Availability of Alternatives – Others Gas for electricity Coal for Electricity None
Geography Mostly plains Plains and hilly Mostly hilly
Hydrography & Climate Tropical; 80% river flow in 3 months during monsoon Tropical; 80% river flow in 3 months during monsoon Tropical; 80% river flow in 3 months during monsoon
Land under irrigation (efficiency) 3.75 million hectare (25%) 57.2 million hectare, 33m hectare in catchment area (54%) 1.17 million hectare (25%)

I kept Bhutan and China out of the list since they both have significantly low population in the catchment area. However, non-consumptive use (such as Hydropower generation or navigation) should not cause much problem to the riparian states. The data for water availability and water usage has been taken from UNESCO database, reproduced as a list at Greenfacts website. The irrigation statistics is collected from fao database (link1, link2).

There are various approaches towards equitable allocation of water resources among riparian states. Some of them are found in the website of Some of these needs based criteria are noted here -

Treaty Criteria for Allocations
Egypt/Sudan (1929, 1959, Nile) “Acquired” rights from existing uses, plus even division of any additional water resulting from development projects
Johnston Accord (1956, Jordan) Amount of irrigable land within the watershed in each State
India/Pakistan (1960, Indus) Historic and planned use (for Pakistan) plus geographic allocations (western vs. eastern rivers)
South Africa (Southwest Africa)/Portugal (Angola) (1969, Cunene) Allocations for human and animal needs, and initial irrigation
Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement (1995, shared aquifers) Population patterns and irrigation needs

Irrigation and population pattern are the two key criteria of equitable consumptive useage of water resources.

Here are a brief summary of water resource potential use and cooperation by different countries. (source – UNESCAP)

Countries Involved Potential fields of cooperation River basin
1. Nepal and India a) Construction of storage reservoirs
b)  Flood mitigation
c)  Irrigation
d)  Hydro-power genration
The Ganges and its tributaries
2. Bhutan and India a) Construction of storage reservoirs
b)  Flood mitigation
c)  Hydro-power generation
Mahananda, Tista and their tributaries.
3. India and Bangladesh a) Construction of storage reservoirs
b) Flood mitigation
c) Hydro-power generation
d) Irrigation
e) Inter-basin transfer
f)  Guaranteed minimum flow
The Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Meghana and all their tributaries.
4. International expertise (in case of extreme necessity) a) Technical expertise
b) Financing
c) Arbitrating dispute if any

As I mentioned earlier, water resources are getting scarce day by day. The population pressure in the subcontinent is growing. Before the situation gets out of the hand, multilateral treaties are required to assist water development and stop unilateral water planning.

Some Related news on disputes around the world :

  1. Turkey-Syria-Iraq dispute over Euphrates
  2. Ethiopia-Sudan-Egypt dispute over Nile
  3. China-Thailand-Laos-Myanmar-Cambodia over Mekong
  4. China-India-Bangladesh over Brahmaputra (Chinadaily News confirms dam construction)

The point to add here is the upper riparian Turkey, Ethiopia, China do have the right to build hydropower (or for equitable share of irrigation) even if that causes some damage to the lower riparian. The lower riparian does not have a veto power to stop them, neither they can claim that any use of water upstream would damage their stability. They definitely need to exchange sufficient data with lower riparian and ensure them an equitable share of the benefits and water resources.

Further Reading :

1. Why does the current International law for water-sharing harm Bangladesh?

2. Why India should continue with Indus water sharing treaty?

3. India’s problems with UN water treaty.

4. Possible co-operation in South Asia.

Written by Diganta

June 17, 2009 at 2:15 am


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