By Roomana Hukil
Research Officer, IReS, IPCS
25 February 2013
Recent talks of optimism over the Teesta accord by Indian Foreign Secretary, Ranjan Mathai and Minister of External Affairs, Salman Khurshid have defused a striking political assertion of bringing a cut to the impending decade-long water deal between both countries. With the cross-border exchange of premier visits nearing this year, a greater expectation garners public attention and raises the question of the underlying profound inadequacies. As technical data on the Dalia and Gazaldoba barrages on the Teesta River is presently examined in Kolkata, this article highlights the palpable expectations of both countries in regard to the Teesta water sharing arrangement. It simultaneously draws attention to the propelling shortfalls that surface as major bottlenecks in addressing these concerns given the histological accounts. What do the Indo-Bangla governments anticipate from each other in terms of sanctioning the Teesta river agreement? What are the impelling factors that provide rationale to their core essential position on the issue?
In view of boosting its agricultural production and providing protection to the 21 million people who live along the river basin, Bangladesh expects an equitable 50 percent distribution of the remainder 25 percent portion with India over the Teesta River. Failing to fulfil this proportionate requirement, the recipients along the river basin will be worse affected. More so, the Dalia barrage that was constructed along the Teesta River, in an attempt to revive cultivable land during the dry season, has been adversely impinged upon. This is due to the erroneous construction of the Gazaldoba barrage by the upper riparian state on its part of the Teesta River. Ever since the Dalia barrage project has come to a point of closure, Bangladesh anticipates remedy as against the acute water shortage it faces in the downstream areas during the dry season, primarily the northwest. Amounting to a severe concern as it is amongst the utmost drought prone regions of Bangladesh during the lean season (January-February), the Teesta Barrage Project (TBP) case study suggests that the present flow in the Teesta River is extremely scarce to meet the present irrigation demands, as fluctuations in the river flow affect the provision of water in the TBP area.
India and Bangladesh share 57 transboundary rivers but only have an agreement for one. Since 1974, Bangladesh has perceived India as having failed to deliver and act upon the promising ‘big brother’ it presupposes in the region. India substantiated the standpoint by violating the clauses of the Ganges Water treaty and supplies excess water during floods and a reduced amount during the dry season, which ultimately triggers draughts. Disagreements over Tipai Mukh dam, Teesta River, and river-linking projects for trade and transit add to the already situated tensions between the two countries.