Dr Ainun Nishat, professor emeritus at BRAC University, said the river has the right to flow as it was flowing. The rights of the river mean the rights of the people who live on its banks.
He made the remarks at a session on "Rights of Rivers" on Thursday, the second day of the three-day 6th International Water Conference, arranged by ActionAid Bangladesh.
About managing the flow of rivers, Dr Nishat stated that the average annual flow or peak flow should be never taken into consideration; instead, the month-by-month flow should be considered.
He also added that ecological and social considerations should be taken into account while identifying the implications of building large dams.
About the River Teesta issue, Dr Nishat said, "The Teesta has been turned into a zero-flow river."
He suggested that the solution could be to conserve the high flow during monsoon and use it in lean periods.
Adil Qayoom Mallah, research scholar of India's University of Kashmir, in his presentation on "Bangladesh's River Right: Contesting the Teesta Water" mentioned that, "Trans-boundary water has become an issue of high politics in South Asia."
Dr Adil also said the Teesta is the fourth largest trans-boundary river between these two countries and the construction of large dams and barrages by India upstream has drastically reduced its flow downstream, in Bangladesh.
During the "Rights of Rivers" session, the speakers focused on the socio-economic and environmental impacts of building large dams.
Dr Rohan D'Souza, associate professor at Kyoto University, said Dams are naturally viewed as symbols of development and nation building, and have been since 1930.
During the 2000's these views have been challenged on the ground that large dams often ignore people's indigenous rights to rivers, he added.
Although large dams are a good source of renewable energy, they are transforming local endowment to natural resources, D' Souza said.
Dr Manzoorul Kibria, professor at University of Chittagong, said due to unplanned construction of sluice gates and dams, the waste of Annonya Residential area and Asian Paper Mills, and the ecological balance of the River Halda is heavily impacted.
He also said due to ecological imbalances and pollution, fertilised fish egg collection is decreasing day by day in Halda, which is the only natural carp spawning ground in Bangladesh and the tidal river in the world.
An interesting finding has also been shared that fish egg production was counted 25,536 kilogrammes in 2020 during Covid-19 which broke the previous records of 14 years.
During the first session of this conference on "Water, Gender and the Covid-19 nexus," the speakers focused on how women are impacted on grounds of water in the pandemic situation.
Hina Lotia, independent expert of Climate Change and Water Resource Management in Pakistan said water policies generally avoid gender, but women and children are most vulnerable to accessing pure and safe water.
Dr Mahbuba Nasreen, professor and director, Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies at University of Dhaka, stated, "The water sector is not gender-neutral. Women and girls bear the burden of collecting drinking water within the household. "
Barrister Manzoor Hasan OBE, chairperson, executive board, ActionAid International Bangladesh Society (AAIBS), said "Issues of water flowing through rivers are key factors in terms of international relations."
''We should be talking about the rights of rivers as it will mean talking about the rights of individuals,'' he added.
Among others, Dr Catherine Grasham, postdoctoral researcher, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, United Kingdom; Farah Kabir, country director, ActionAid Bangladesh; Lubna Marium, dancer and cultural activist; and Rahima Sultana Kazal, general assembly member of AAIBS also spoke.