India yet to tackle Mamata factor | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 14, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 14, 2012

Teesta River-sharing Deal

India yet to tackle Mamata factor

The prospects of an interim agreement on Teesta water sharing look grim though Bangladesh and India exchanged data on the river's water flow three days ago.
The deal could get through only if Indian officials can convince Paschimbanga Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in line with the data that Bangladesh provided to India on February 10.
“We exchanged data on the Teesta river at a meeting in Kolkata. Now Indian officials will sit with Mamata Banerjee and will try to convince her,” said Mir Sazzad Hossain, member of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), Bangladesh.
“No date has been set for next talks,” he said.
India has given Bangladesh data on water flow at the Gazoldoba barrage point while Bangladesh has provided India with data on water available at the Dhalia point during the lean period, said a government high-up wishing anonymity.
Earlier, Bangladesh sent letters to the Indian authorities in December for holding further talks and exchanging data on the Teesta.
“We do not have any idea when the deal could get through,” Altaf Ali, secretary at Bangladesh's water resources ministry, told The Daily Star last month.
During Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Bangladesh visit last September, the scheduled Teesta waters deal was put a brake to hours before signing because of opposition to it by Mamata Banerjee.
According to Indian media reports, she objected spiritedly to the quantity of Teesta water that the Indian central government had decided to give Bangladesh.
However, since the postponement, the Indian prime minister, foreign minister, security advisers and other government figures have assured Bangladesh several times of an inking of the Teesta deal “shortly.”
On October 22, Mamata Banerjee was quoted in the Indian media as saying, “Some people created confusion on (Teesta water issue)... we maintain the best relations with Bangladesh and I hope India and Bangladesh will work together."
The Paschimbanga government on November 15 formed a committee headed by river expert Kalyan Rudra to find an acceptable solution to the Teesta waters issue. The committee was scheduled to submit its report by December 2011. But it reportedly fell behind and sought more time.
“They [India] postponed it after finalising everything. Now they are conducting their own study. India may come up with a fresh offer at the next talks. Then we have to review it before making any decision,” said a water resources ministry official, seeking anonymity.
In December, Bangladesh asked India for statistics on Teesta water available at the upper point of the Gazoldoba barrage to determine the quantity of water before it is diverted to Bihar through the Mahananda river.
India sought a similar form of statistics on the Teesta river at the Dhalia point in Bangladesh.
Now India is withdrawing 75 percent water of the Teesta river, which originates in Tibet and enters Bangladesh through Bhutan, Sikkim and Jalpaiguri.
The river's flow on the Bangladesh side falls drastically during the dry season because of the dams built in India.
Millions of people in northern Bangladesh depend on the Teesta for irrigation of about 632, 000 hectares of cropland in the dry season.
The much-talked-about Teesta deal has remained pending for more than two decades.
The two countries finally agreed to strike an interim deal on Teesta water sharing last year after many unsuccessful attempts to reach a consensus on the issue.
Two Indian officials visited Dhaka in January to discuss and monitor the flow of the Ganges river.
“The agenda for the meeting was a monitoring of the Ganges. The Teesta issue was not on the list,” said JRC member Mir Sazzad.
Bangladesh and India now have a water-sharing treaty only on the Ganges, out of 54 international rivers flowing to Bangladesh through India.
The Indian authorities have allegedly blocked and diverted the waters of 43 of 54 international rivers, depriving millions of Bangladeshis of their rightful share of the waters.
Bangladesh is also holding talks with India on sharing the waters of some other rivers. Among the rivers are the Dudhkumar, Manu, Khowai, Gumti and Muhuri rivers to meet its future water demands.

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