Teesta River Dispute
Bangladesh is discussing an almost $1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teestariver. The project is aimed at managing the river basin efficiently, controlling floods, and tackling the water crisis in summers.
● India and Bangladesh have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over water-sharing in the Teesta.
● Bangladesh’s discussions with China come at a time when India is particularly wary about China following the standoff in Ladakh.
● India and Bangladesh were on the verge of signing a water-sharing pact in September 2011, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was going to visit Bangladesh. But, West Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee objected to it, and the deal was scuttled.
● After NarendraModi came to power in 2014, he visited Dhaka in June 2015 — accompanied by Mamata Banerjee — and told Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina that he was confident they could reach a “fair solution” on the Teesta through cooperation between central and state governments.
● Five years later, the Teesta issue remains unresolved.
Highlights: Teesta River Dispute
Sikkim has constructed some hydro-power projects across the Teesta, but these do not cause any impact on the flow downstream.
However, there are two irrigation projects on the Teesta, a barrage at Gajoldoba in West Bengal and another at Dalia in Bangladesh, which draw water from the river to meet irrigation needs. The dispute about Teesta waters arose mainly because of the shortage of water during the dry months.
Since 1972, Bangladesh has been insisting that a 50 per cent share of Teesta waters be made available to the lower riparian country to meet its requirement.
India has been examining many parameters for arriving at a workable solution. A possible option considered was that — since the regeneration of flow in the river channel between the Gajoldoba and Dalia barrages is about 25 per cent, which would be available at the downstream barrage — the additional 25 per cent demanded by Bangladesh could be released by West Bengal from the upstream barrage.
However, West Bengal did not want to commit to releasing water from the upstream barrage. Thus, the water-sharing arrangement got embroiled in domestic hydro-politics, stalling further action to find an acceptable solution to the dispute.
Analytica: Growing China-Bangladesh relations
✔ China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the foremost source of imports.
✔ Recently, China declared zero duty on 97% of imports from Bangladesh.
✔ China has promised around $30 billion worth of financial assistance to Bangladesh.
✔ Additionally, Bangladesh’s strong defence ties with China make the situation complicated. China is the biggest arms supplier to Bangladesh. Recently, Bangladesh purchased two Ming class submarines from China.
✔ In the wake of the Ladakh standoff, India has become more sensitive to Chinese defence inroads into Bangladesh.
✔ While the Teesta project is important and urgent from India’s point of view, it will be difficult to address it before the West Bengal elections due next year.
✔ Now, the test will be if India can implement all its assurances to Bangladesh such as visa issue, TablighiJamaat issue, border killings, etc.in a time-bound manner.
✔ Or else, the latent anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh — which has been revived after India’s CAA -NRC push — threatens to damage Dhaka-New Delhi ties.