Future course of action on Teesta river issue after getting response from India: Bangladesh
Teesta river flowing. Credit: Facebook

Dhaka: Bangladesh on Thursday said it is waiting for India’s response to the diplomatic note it sent New Delhi last week on the West Bengal government’s proposed projects on the Teesta river.

The West Bengal government has decided to dig two new canals to divert the Teesta waters for irrigation purposes in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts, which Bangladesh claims have caused the river to reduce its flow.

“We are yet to get any reply (to the note verbale). Our next course of action will be decided after getting a reply (from New Delhi),” Bangladesh’s foreign ministry spokesperson Seheli Sabrin told reporters.

The Bangladesh foreign office said Dhaka will determine its course of action to resolve the issue after getting a response from New Delhi.

Sabrin said Dhaka remained engaged with New Delhi for a long time to sign the long-awaited Teesta water-sharing treaty.

When asked whether Dhaka had raised this issue of water sharing of transboundary rivers at the ongoing UN water conference in New York, Sabrin said Bangladesh highlighted its national policies on sustainable development at the meeting.

In Kolkata, Sabina Yeasmin, Minister of State for Irrigation and Waterways of the West Bengal government when contacted by PTI, said the canals were dug primarily to help agriculture in the surrounding areas and were part of an old project.

“This is an old project which was stuck due to some land-acquisition-related problems and a lack of funds from the central government. We have solved the land-related problems and sent a report to the centre,” Yeasmin said on March 16 when Bangladesh raised the issue.

“These canals are being dug to help local agriculture. If we receive any complaint from the Centre, we will share the scientific reasoning for the project with Delhi. But we must remember that the water sharing treaty is a matter between two countries, the state government has nothing to do with it,” Yeasmin told PTI.

Other officials pointed out that the run of the river micro hydel projects can hardly affect the flow of any river.

Bangladesh and India were set to ink the Teesta Agreement during former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in 2011, but West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee precluded her from his entourage at the last minute opposing the treaty, frustrating the deal and largely upsetting the Indian premier’s much-hyped tour at that time.

Banerjee later repeatedly assured Bangladesh that she would help resolve the long pending issue of sharing water from the Teesta River, saying she was keen to respond to “Bangladesh’s expectations”.

Since the 2011 setback, Bangladesh sought to settle the issue virtually raising it in every single bilateral meeting at political and official levels and Delhi repeatedly said the central government was seeking to reach an “internal consensus” on the matter with West Bengal.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier criticised Banerjee for her “unfortunate” stance against the water-sharing deal.

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Earlier, the two countries had signed a landmark 30-year agreement on the sharing of water in the Ganges, removing a protracted irritant in bilateral ties during Hasina’s previous tenure as premier in 1997 while Deve Gowda was her counterpart in New Delhi and Jyoti Basu was the West Bengal chief minister.

The deal ensured the minimum water flow in the Ganges River during the dry season.

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