India – Bangladesh relations : Teesta and beyond

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India and Bangladesh have a great relationship spanning more than four decades. High time the longstanding issue of Teesta river water distribution is permanently resolved.

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India – Bangladesh relations : Teesta and beyond



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  1. A core bilateral issue : The Teesta river water sharing is an issue that makes headlines every-time there is any high-level bilateral /talk visit between India and Bangladesh. India had helped East Pakistan secure independence (and emerge as Bangladesh) when it was brutally assaulted by West Pakistan in late 1970, and 1971.  (Operation Blitz, Operation Searclight)
  2. Sheikh Hasina’s 2017 visit to India : PM Sheikh Hasina visited India from 7 to 10 April, 2017. A total of 22 agreements were made on various issues of cooperation, including defence, nuclear energy, cyber security, media, outer space, passenger and cruise services and judicial sector during her visit. India offered a $ 4.5 billion development assistance line of credit  and an additional $ 500 m line of credit specifically for defence procurement.
  3. Teesta water issue : The Teesta water issue is hot again! PM Modi has assured a resolution of the long-standing unresolved issue soon. This river originates in Sikkim and flows through West Bengal as well as Bangladesh. Of its total 414 kilometres length, 150 km are in Sikkim,
    123 in West Bengal, and the remaining 140 or so, in Bangladesh. Its flow is crucial for Bangladesh from December to March when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusec from 5,000 cusec. India claims a share of 55% of the river's water. The river is Bangladesh's fourth largest trans-boundary river for irrigation and fishing. The Teesta's floodplain covers 2,750 sq km in Bangladesh. Of the river's catchment - an area of land where water collects - 83 % is in India and 17 % is in Bangladesh.
  4. Yeh dil mange more! Bangladesh wants a higher share than it gets now. Currently, its share is lower than that of India's. Bangladesh wants 50% of the Teesta's waters between December and May every year, because that's when the water flow to the country drops drastically. The historical flow of the river at Rangpur is 5,000 cusecs, but Bangladesh is getting only 500 cusecs of water now. This has affected farmers whose standing crops are withering away and also fishermen who are facing loss of livelihood. More than one lakh hectares of land across five districts in Bangladesh are severely affected by withdrawals of the Teesta's waters in India.
  5. 3 decades of Teesta negotiations : Negotiations on how to share the water have been going on since 1983.
    > In 1983, India-Bangladesh concluded an ad-hoc agreement - India 39%, B'desh 36%
    > In 1984, Joint-river commission recommended India 42.5 %, B'desh 37.5%
    > In 1998, B'desh started its "Teesta Barrage" irrigation project  (3 cropping seasons per year)
    >  A 2011 interim deal - that was supposed to last 15 years - gave India 42.5 % of the Teesta's waters and gave Bangladesh 37.5 %.
    West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Bannerjee, opposed this deal so it was shelved and remains unsigned.
  6. Hydropower conflicts : Hydropower on the Teesta is another point of conflict. There are at least 26 projects on the river mostly in Sikkim, aimed at producing some 50,000 MW. West Bengal’s contention is that when it needs a certain quantity of water to maintain the Kolkata Port and for farmers, water is released from Teesta and Farakka barrages to Bangladesh sacrificing the state's interest.
  7. West Bengal’s suggestion : The West Bengal CM proposed sharing the waters of other rivers, like the Torsa river. As north Bengal is completely dependent on the Teesta, rivers like the Torsa, which are closer to the border of India and Bangladesh, are good options. Torsa river has connectivity with Bangladesh's Padma river. The West Bengal CM proposed that the two countries set up a commission to ascertain the level of water flowing through the Torsa and the quantum of water that can be shared.
  8. Deep Dive : Read our Bodhi Saars on Regional Conflicts etc., here. View the video analyses hereCheck master resources on Rivers of India and the World, here.
  9. Do check out exams-focussed Confidence Booster series of learning resources, here! Do develop your command on English words, visit Vocabular Booster here
  10. Download Resources : Also, download various water sharing disputes related content from Bodhi Resource page here 
  11. Some images for data and facts are presented below, for your reference. Studying them will give you a deep understanding of the root causes of farmers' distress, and why waivers cannot solve the same.

India - Bangladesh - old friends!


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Har Har Gange!


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The Farakka Barrage on Bhagirathi river

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This needs to be wrapped up fast!


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Bodhi Saar: India – Bangladesh relations : Teesta and beyond
India – Bangladesh relations : Teesta and beyond
India and Bangladesh have a great relationship spanning more than four decades. High time the longstanding issue of Teesta river water distribution is permanently resolved.
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