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9 October, 2019 12:43:20 AM

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Teesta deal still in a limbo

HARUN UR RASHID, Dhaka
Teesta deal still in a limbo

Even though Bangladesh signed a number of deals, including the Feni River water-sharing and transit facilities to India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi last week, the Teesta agreement has remained in a state of limbo over the last nine years after West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee raised objections on several occasions.

Prime Minister Hasina’s visit to India created a ray of hope that the Teesta deal would be signed. But talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained inconclusive.

People of Bangladesh are frustrated over the signing of any deal on Teesta water-sharing not materialising, while vast areas, including rivers and tributaries of the northern region of Bangladesh, are becoming dry.

During her meeting with Modi, Prime Minister Hasina said people of Bangladesh had been waiting eagerly for the signing and implementation of the Framework of Interim Agreement for the sharing of the Teesta waters, as agreed upon by both governments in 2011.

Modi, however, said his government was working with all Indian stakeholders for the conclusion of the agreement as soon as possible. Although the two governments couldn’t arrive at any agreement on Teesta, a deal was signed on the withdrawal of 1.82 cusec water from the Feni River for drinking purpose of the people of Sabroom town in Tripura.  

When contacted, joint river commission (JRC) member K.M. Anwar Hossain told The Independent: “The discussion on the Teesta River water-sharing is still on. But the deal is stuck on political grounds.”

He added: “As a deal on the Feni river has been inked, we hope the Teesta agreement will also materialise.”

About the Feni river water-sharing, he said, “It’s not the main agreement. Only the water of Feni has been shared for drinking purpose. When an agreement on the other seven rivers, including the Teesta, is signed, this water of Feni will be adjusted.”

“The framework of Teesta River is ready. Now, we are working on the other six rivers -- Dharla, Dudhkumar, Manu, Khowai, Gumti and Muhuri and preparing for agreement for fair water sharing,” he added.

Earlier, Dhaka and New Delhi had agreed on the water sharing during Prime Minister Hasina’s visit to New Delhi in January 2010.

Bangladesh and India signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to finalise an interim treaty for 15 years on the Teesta water-sharing at the last secretary-level meeting between the two neighbouring countries held in Dhaka in 2011.

It was expected an interim agreement would be signed during Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh on September 6-7 in 2011. But the Indian government had failed to ink the agreement due to the objections raised by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee during Singh’s visit to Dhaka. Even the last water resource secretary-level meeting between Bangladesh and India in Dhaka in August this year discussed on preparing a framework of interim water-sharing agreements of Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Feni, Gumi, Dharla, Dudhkumar and Teesta and enhancement of cooperation in flood forecasting.

However, Prime Minister Hasina returned home with Indian Prime Minister’s assurance that India would talk to other stakeholders to reach a conclusion on the Teesta water-sharing at the soonest possible time.

Teesta is a major river for the country’s northern region for irrigation purposes as farmers in the region largely depend on underground water for irrigation purposes during the lean season.

Prof Shahab Enam Khan, Department of International Relations, Jahangirnagar University, told The Independent: “Teesta is a political concern for India as it is a domestic issue for them. But Teesta is a lifeline and economic issue for Bangladesh.”

“We should continue the talks with India over the Teesta agreement for water-sharing,” he added.

He also said, “We’ve spent much time on Teesta. There are other common rivers. How long shall we wait for India to finalise the sharing of waters of these rivers? Now, we should look for new technologies for conserving water for meeting our own needs,” he added.

“We can hire such technologies from China, European Union countries or others for the conservation of water so that Bangladesh becomes less reliant on India,” he said.

MK

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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