Teesta River has become an important factor in India – Bangladesh relations. What are the hindrances in successful implementation of river water sharing agreement and what are its possible implications on India-Bangladesh relations? What could be the possible solutions?

Mentors Comment:

In the intro, discuss the Teesta River and recent challenges in Indo-Bangladesh relations when it comes to the sharing of water of this river.

After intro briefly give the background of the issue and later discuss the challenges and the reasons behind those challenges when it comes to Teesta river.

What is the importance of the issue in the bilateral relations and implications.

End the answer with proper way forwards. They have to be separately discussed rather than as a concluding statement.

End the answer with proper conclusion.

The Teesta River (or Tista River) is a 315 km (192 mi) long river flowing through the Indian
states of West Bengal and Sikkim, before going to Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh. The river water sharing agreement has marred the relations between the two countries.
Teesta Water Agreement Teesta is an inter-country river and therefore attempts were made to finalize an agreement on river water sharing.

Background Of The Issue:
• In 1983, an ad-hoc water sharing agreement was reached between India and Bangladesh,
whereby both countries were allocated 39% and 36% of the water flow respectively.
• Bangladesh wants equal sharing of the waters, especially during the Dec-May lean season
• The new bilateral treaty which was to be signed in 2013 during then PM visits expands upon this agreement by proposing an equal allocation of the Teesta River, as desired by Bangladesh.
But the last time refusal of the West Bengal government put the deal into trouble and after
that West Bengal Government has stuck to its stand.

Why West Bengal is opposing the deal:
• It is estimated that the Teesta River has a mean annual flow of 60 billion cubic meters but
a significant amount of this water flows only during wet season(June-Sept) leaving scant
flow during the dry season(October-May) wherein the average flow gets reduced to about
500 million cubic meters (MCM) per month.
• This creates issues of equitable sharing during lean season.
• Bangladesh has claimed that West Bengal’s Gazaldoba barrage is ‘unilaterally’ channelizing a large volume of water on the Teesta, due to which the country’s historic flow has been reduced to only 10% and its Teesta Irrigation Project has suffered.
• It is also claimed that since Bangladesh has higher per capita water availability, then why
to equally share waters of Teesta. Apart from that after construction of Teesta Barrage in
1998 by Bangladesh, farmers there are taking three crops per year.

Why Teesta Agreement is important for both countries
The Teesta river issue is not a water sharing issue alone but signifies:
• The importance of water as a future resource and the tensions it can create
• The principles (technical, humanitarian) which should be employed to solve the dispute
• And can determine the health of the relations among two nations
• Bangladesh has been one of India’s strongest allies in South Asia. And if New Delhi wants
it to remain so, it has to move fast on signing an agreement on sharing the waters.
• Bangladesh is going for elections in 2019 and water sharing agreement can be a deciding
factor. Though India should not take sides, but history tells that India-Bangladesh relations
have been stringer under Awami League government.
• Regional integration, India’s access to North East, security of North East are some areas in
which Bangladesh cooperation is of great importance.
• Any delay and non-consideration of the Bangladesh’s viewpoint may create political backlash in Bangladesh which may be utilized by China and other parties not having positive correlation with India.

Way forward
In recent times, there have been quite a bonhomie between the countries which was seen in finalization of Land Boundary Agreement, agreement on rail, road connectivity and can be used to carry through the Teesta deal. Water sharing agreement should be concluded quickly by taking into account the needs of both the countries which could be satisfied through latest technologies available to maximize the efficiency in water use. Given the water is a state issue and West Bengal apprehensions of losing irrigation potential in north region because of the treaty needs to be addressed before taking any step.

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Shivangi Uliana
Shivangi Uliana
4 years ago

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