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Teesta water pact an urgent need for Bangladesh: Experts

The signing of Teesta water-sharing agreement is very crucial for the economic development of Bangladesh as the country has been facing serious difficulties for the lack of a water-sharing pact with India, claimed experts.

During the dry season, the Teesta River runs dry and the life and livelihood of people are being seriously affected by declining water flow in Bangladesh side.
The situation is getting worse due to environmental impacts.

Experts and people concerned expressed hope that India will come forward to sign the deal to ensure an equitable and fair distribution of Teesta water considering the impacts of the declining water levels in Bangladesh side.

Prof Dr Delwar Hossain of International Relations Department of Dhaka University said Bangladesh has long been facing serious impacts for not having the Teesta agreement with India. The magnitude of impacts is also increasing day by day. This water treaty should be signed on an urgent basis because it is very crucial for the economic development of Bangladesh as the country’s economy is also dependent on agriculture. For shortage of water in the Teesta Barrage, irrigation is not being possible properly for the vast cluster agricultural land. He also said Teesta water is being diverted to many places in India and no rules are being followed in providing water to Bangladesh for the lack of an agreement.

He said, “We hope that the Bangladesh government is considering this issue as a priority one. The prime minister will visit India soon. We are hoping that the Teesta treaty will get priority during the PM’s visit to India. Besides, the diplomatic efforts should also continue to make the deal a reality.”

Prof Dr Md. Ataur Rahman of Department of Water Resources Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) said a Teesta agreement will entail that Bangladesh gets a specific amount of water. Due to lack of water from the Teesta River, environmental degradation is taking place in Bangladesh side. Even adequate water is not there for irrigation projects. Some 3, 000 cusecs of water is needed only for the river flow.

“This deal is very urgent not only for irrigation but also for the River itself. The groundwater level declines on the banks of the River Teesta during the March-April, people don’t even get water from tube wells at that time. But during the month of August, the Teesta River turns into a sea. These two types of hydrological scenarios are seen in the span of 4/5 months in a year,” he said.

He also observed that the Bangladesh government is very cordial about the Teesta deal. “Even the Indian central government has a positive attitude in this regard. But the treaty is not being signed due to opposition from the West Bengal government,” he added.

Prof Dr AQM Mahbub of the Department of Geography and Environment of Dhaka University said Bangladesh is riverine country. If the river runs dry, it will not be considered as a river. An empty river will not only affect the crops, the environment will also be affected. The underground water table is also recharged through river water. Rivers are also the lifeline for the forests and trees.

People in the northern region are mostly dependent on groundwater for irrigation. “Those who use water of Teesta Barrage will be compelled to use the underground water soon as the water level from the river keeps declining,” he said, adding that environment and biodiversity will be affected. The fertility of the land will reduce and the trees will be destroyed day by day, disrupting the life and livelihoods of the people living on the edge of the river.

Prof Dr AQM Mahbub also said India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and China should adopt a policy on water resource management to tackle flood and drought in this region.

Sources said the Teesta Barrage irrigation project requires 10,000 cusecs of water against only 400 cusecs it is receiving now. Water levels in Teesta Barrage ranged between 700 to 800 cusecs even a few days back. The sharp decline in Teesta water flows making the making the boro farmers worried.

In 2014, some 65,000 hectares of lands were targeted for the irrigation in Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Rangpur and Dinajpur districts. But irrigation was possible only on 18,000 hectares of land. In 2015-16, only 10,000 hectares of lands came under the irrigation scheme. Due to the declining trend of water flow in the river, only 8,000 hectares of lands were targeted for irrigation this year. Some 57,000 hectares of lands in Rangpur and Dinajpur were excluded from the irrigation project while Dimla, Jaldhaka and Nilphamari Sadar and Kishoreganj of Nilphamari have been brought under the scheme.

Several thousand people living on edge of Teesta River are dependent on the river and the constant fall in water levels is threatening their livelihoods.

Source: Daily Sun, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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