B'desh hopes for a deal on Teesta water sharing with India

B'desh hopes for a deal on Teesta water sharing with India

"Preparations are underway for the secretary level meeting in Dhaka soon," Water Resources Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen said. Sen said the meeting would discuss in detail the already prepared draft proposals by the two countries which were placed during the minister level last Joint River Commission (JRC) meeting in New Delhi in March this year to prepare specific proposals for the water sharing treaty.

The next JRC meeting which was scheduled to be held in Dhaka was expected to end with the signing of the Teesta Water Sharing Agreement, he was quoted as saying by state-run BSS.

Sen's comments came a day after Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told Bangladesh media in the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu that talks between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the 16th SAARC summit reviewed the progress in devising ways for equitable share of the Teesta waters.

Moni said the Teesta issue was widely discussed in the meeting between the two leaders while Bangladesh and Indian foreign ministers and officials briefed them on the progress of the deals reached during their summit in the Indian capital in January this year.

Sen said an agreement on the Teesta waters appeared crucial as five districts of northwestern Bangladesh would be exposed to a catastrophic situation for want of waters.

"This is a serious issue and the Indian leadership would have to be sympathetic in this regard," Sen told BSS.

Bangladeshi media report, however, earlier reported that despite the absence of the treaty, India released substantial quantum of waters opening up regulating systems in the upstream region in the past two months infusing some sense of relief among farmers in the northwestern districts.

The last JRC meeting was held in New Delhi after a lapse of five years thought its 1972 charter suggested the water resources ministers of the two courtiers to meet twice a year.

Sen and his counterpart Pawab Kumar Bansal in their New Delhi meting signed a memorandum of understanding to conclude an interim treaty on the Teesta water sharing during their next meeting in Dhaka "soon".

 Dhaka and New Delhi agreed on water sharing during Hasina's maiden India visit in January this year when the Bangladesh premier and Singh asked their concerned ministers to hold a JRC meeting within three months.

Both the countries have directed their respective water resources ministries to reach an interim agreement on the Teesta water sharing.

 A technical committee meeting on sharing of Teesta waters and a secretary level meeting were held in Dhaka earlier this year when the two countries exchanged draft proposals of the treaty.

 Bangladesh officials earlier said if it was not possible to reach a long-term agreement on the Teesta, the two sides might go for an interim agreement as sharing of waters in the Teesta is a major issue in Bangladesh-India water talks for the past several years.

Under a 1983 understanding Bangladeshis supposed to get 36 per cent share of the flow and India 39 per cent allowing the rests to be flowed naturally.

Drastic fall in the water flow of Teesta during the lean season, especially in February and March, seriously hampers irrigation in Bangladesh while JRC sources said the flow on the river weakened significantly in last 24 years for Gajoldoba barrage and some dams built in the upstream Indian region.

Bangladesh and India inked a landmark treaty on sharing of the Ganges water during Hasina's previous 1996-2001 tenure removing a major irk in bilateral ties.

Deltaic Bangladeshis are crisscrossed by 230 major rivers, 54 of them mostly originating from India.

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