Delhi’s response on Teesta flow lacks data

Dhaka wants immediate JRC meeting

Staff Correspondent

New Delhi has informed Dhaka that ‘the flow of water in the Teesta river as a whole has fallen, not just in Bangladesh,’ but it has provided no data, responding to Dhaka’s concern over the record fall in the trans-boundary river flow, said officials.
Indian High Commission in Dhaka sent a ‘note verbal’ to the foreign ministry on April 10 saying, ‘The information provided by the government of Bangladesh has been taken serious note of and is being reviewed by all concerned authorities/technical agencies in India.’
The document, however, neither mentioned any measures against Bangladesh’s concern nor did it say anything about the Joint Rivers Commission meeting, the officials said.
Copies of the document were forwarded to the water resources ministry and the commission’s member from Bangladesh on April 17 by the foreign ministry, the officials said.
‘We have received a note verbal — a short reply to our concern over the low flow in the river Teesta…What we want now is to hold the overdue meeting of the commission without further delay,’ state minister for water resources Muhammad Nazrul Islam told New Age on Tuesday.
He said that Dhaka was making all efforts to sign the Teesta water sharing deal with New Delhi.
Dhaka has long been pushing for the signing of the Teesta water sharing deal to guarantee its rightful share of the water with India, while India has apparently been delaying the process and showing reluctance to the holding of the commission meeting.
The commission meeting has not been held in the last four years although it is supposed to meet at least twice a year to resolve bilaterally the issues of common rivers shared by Bangladesh and India, the commission officials in Dhaka observed.
Asked for comment, the commission’s Bangladesh member Mir Sajjad Hossain said, ‘The Teesta water sharing agreement should be signed without any further delay.’
The Joint Rivers Commission Bangladesh in February informed New Delhi that the Teesta flow had reduced to 507 cusecs against the historical average availability of 5,149 cusecs during the second 10-day period of the month, threatening the ‘agro-socio-economic conditions’ in the country’s northern part.
The February 16 letter sought appropriate measures from India so that the lower riparian ‘Bangladesh may receive equitable and reasonable quantum of water at its Teesta Barrage site at Dalia to fulfil the requirement of the Teesta Project of Bangladesh and also maintain ecology of the river.’
Over seven lakh hectares of farmland in the country’s northern districts depends on the Teesta water for irrigation during the lean season under the project.
The cross-border river has almost dried up due to ‘unilateral withdrawal’ of water in the upstream by India, seriously affecting lives and livelihoods of the people in northern districts including Lalmonirhat, Rangpur, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Bogra, said water development board officials.
The lowest ever flow in February-March has already played havoc with environment, fisheries and agriculture in the northern districts, the officials mentioned.

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