Why Teesta Water Still Teases Indo-Bangla Relations ?

Teesta Water

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Why Teesta Water Still Teases Indo-Bangla Relations ?

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Read Current Affairs Topic: Why Teesta Water Still Teases Indo-Bangla Relations ?

Water is the most critical resource for sustaining the human life as well as the economy. Because of the increasing demand of water across the globe, number of inter-state water disputes are rising. India too have issues with Pakistan over construction of Baglihar Dam on Chenab River by the former, with China over construction of dam at the bend of Brahmaputra River by the latter and with Bangladesh over the sharing of Teesta River water. Bangladesh had also raised its concerns against the river interlinking project of India. 

Though Awami League (AL) government in Bangladesh lead by Sheikh Hasina has cordial relations with India in contrast to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) lead by Khalida Zia, Teesta is a major irritant in Indo-Bangladesh relations.

Teesta originates from Kangse Glacier and Chamaru Lake in Sikkim, passes through northern region of West Bengal, enters Bangladesh at Rangpur and joins Brahmaputra before falling into the Bay of Bengal. It is the fourth largest river of Bangladesh after Brahmaputra, Ganga and Meghna.

Teesta Water

According to Bangladesh government, the water flow in Teesta had dropped drastically in the recent years. The historical flow of the river is 5000 cusecs at Rangpur but now it had dropped to merely 500 cusecs. The diminishing amount of water is affecting the livelihood of farmers and fisherman in Bangladesh. Rangpur, which is also known as ‘rice bowl’ of Bangladesh heavily depends of Teesta water for its survival. In Bangladesh, the river mainly affects the five northern districts of Rangpur Division: Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Rangpur.

In India too, the reducing flow of Teesta is affecting the irrigation potential in northern parts of West Bengal. In order to boost the agriculture potential, the West Bengal government is also planning to bring additional 1.5 lakh acres of land under the irrigation.

Teesta Bridge

Bangladesh wants 50% of Teesta water between December and May every year when the water flow into the river drops drastically. In the 2011, an interim agreement was agreed between India and Bangladesh for 15 years which allocated 42.5% of Teesta water to India and 37.5% to Bangladesh but because of the opposition of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee, deal could not be signed. She opposed the water sharing agreement citing, “When we need a certain quantity of water to maintain our Kolkata Port and fulfil the need of farmers, water is released from Teesta and Farakka barrages to Bangladesh sacrificing the state's interest".

As per the new deal, Bangladesh would get 48% of Teesta water which will translate into around 33,000 cusecs of water against the 25,000 cusecs agreed earlier. Mamta Banerjee said that releasing so much water to Bangladesh would affect irrigation systems in five districts of the North Bengal – Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, South and North Dinajpur, and Darjeeling – which constitute some of the poorest blocks in West Bengal. In lieu of Teesta water, Mamta Banerjee has offered Torsa and Manshai Rivers but Bangladesh is currently interested in Teesta water only.  

In Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina is facing pressure from the opposition parties like BNP and Jamat-e-Islami (JeI) who call her to be an Indian pawn. If she fails to clinch a deal on Teesta by 2018, it may cost her the general elections. In 2014, BNP and JeI had organized protests across Bangladesh against the failure of Hasina government on Teesta front. India too cannot afford to ignore the interests of Bangladesh as China has started making inroads in all of Indian neighbourhood. Sheikh Hasina government is favourable to India in contrast to Khalida Zia government which is more inclined towards Pakistan.

It was Sheikh Hasina government which followed zero tolerance policy on terrorism in letter and spirit. It was under Hasina government that Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) terrorists were arrested, United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) chief Paresh Barua was arrested and awarded death penalty. Therefore, it is in Indian interest that Sheikh Hasina government wins another term in 2018 general election of Bangladesh and for that matter, early execution of Teesta deal is in interest of both the countries.

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