Indo-Bangladesh water dispute 

India Bangladesh water disputesBy Qudsia Farhat 

India has long running water disputes with most of its neighbours but its most serious ones are with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The latter was a creation of India, which wanted to spite Pakistan as well create a satellite it could subjugate. Unfortunately, the proud nation of Bengalis is not willing to accept dictations from any external sources.

India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers between them as well as water disputes on sharing the scarce resource of water. Efforts were made as early as 1972 to resolve the issues through a Joint River Commission but problems prevail.

River Teesta originates from Sikkim, meandering through the northern part of West Bengal in India before entering Bangladesh. In 1983, an ad-hoc water sharing agreement was reached between India and Bangladesh, whereby both countries were allocated 39% and 36% of the water flow respectively. The bilateral treaty was expanded, proposing an equal allocation of the Teesta River but the deal met with serious impediments when the then newly elected Chief Minister of West Bengal, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, refused to approve the treaty, fearing that the loss of higher volume of water to the lower riparian would cause problems in the northern region of state, especially during drier months.

The crisis has deepened because the lives of countless people from West Bengal and Bangladesh, dependent upon the river for survival, are at stake. The issue was likely to be resolved in September 2011 when India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was due to sign a pact with his Bangladeshi counterpart regarding access and use of the Teesta River, but he reneged, succumbing to pressure from the rigid mindset and obstinate attitude of Indian leadership. In May 2012, during a visit to India, the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister, Ms. Dipu Moni, warned that bilateral relations would be complicated if India fails to deliver on the Teesta water-sharing agreement.


Unfortunately Hasina Wajid led Awami League government of Bangladesh failed to persuade India to negotiate the water sharing settlement of Teesta River at bilateral level.  It would not be wrong to state that Hasina Wajid has sold Bangladesh to India just to remain in power. Consequently unilateral drawing-out of water from Teesta River in the upstream by India has badly affected more than 20 of its tributaries; many of them are drying up, in the northern part of Bangladesh.

Environmentalists opine that due to fall in water flow, these rivers have developed silts and are drying up. Hence, native farmers are being deprived of irrigation water, causing adverse impact on various crops and fruit trees. The Bangladesh farmers have been protesting against Indian intransigence for having shamelessly robbed them of their water share from Teesta River. Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) jointly launched a three-day march towards Teesta Barrage on 22nd April 2014 after holding a rally in front of Jatiya Press Club. Similarly Bangladesh National Party (BNP), the main opposition party of Bangladesh, also protested against Teesta River water sharing issue calling it a failure of Awami League Government. BNP planned a long march for two days starting from party headquarters at Naya Paltan in the city on 22 April 2014, holding a rally at Rangpur, after an overnight stay at Rangpur, resuming the long march towards the barrage, followed by a protest rally at Dalia point of Teesta Barrage on 23 April 2014. The protestors demanded due share of Teesta River water from India.

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Regrettably Indian locals along Indo-Bangladesh border maltreat Bangladeshi nationals by humiliating, torturing and killing them. On 6th April 2014 three Bangladeshi nationals were killed by locals in Tripura while another was killed by locals in Meghalaya on 8th April 2014. On such continuous killings, public sentiment in Bangladesh started getting harsh against India. Hence, Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially protested to India. This move was only for playing to the gallery and simmer down the local sentiments in Bangladesh, otherwise Hasina led Awami League Government has been subservient to India.

With the change of guard in Indian corridors of power and Congress making way for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), hopes have risen for achieving an early resolution of the long pending dispute over river Teesta and Mahananda water sharing between the two countries. But these are likely to be short lived, since the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Singh Modi, a rabid Muslim hater, is not likely to rule in favour of Bangladesh. During the run up to the elections, Modi had made vitriolic speeches in Assam, where a number of Bangladeshi settlers have settled. Modi declared that they will all have to go back despite the fact some of them have been there for over three decades. In response to Modi’s challenge, local Assamese set upon the Muslim Bengali refugees, killing their men, raping their women and looting and destroying their property.
Indian tactics are to divert Teesta River water towards its dry region with a view to convert Bangladesh agriculture land into desert. India is repeating the tactics that it has used against Pakistan. In order to keep Indian Teesta Barrage Irrigation Project running, Indian authorities prefer blocking the lion’s share of the water flow from Teesta, making Bangladesh dry. Because of this, the Rangpur region alone has lost over 7,50,000 hectares of farmland. Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission members state that it was obligatory for India to maintain the 40-year average flow of water that has allegedly not been maintained. As a result, Bangladeshi waterways have shrunk from about 24,000 km in 1971 to the present length of 3,800 km only. According to North Bengal Flood Control Commission officials, India wants 50% of Teesta water leaving 40% for Bangladesh and 10% for the river itself. But Bangladesh is in favour of making the ratio as 40%, 40% and 20%
Anti India feelings in Bangladesh are at the rise due to Teesta River water sharing issue and cold blooded murder of Bengali nationals by Indian public in connivance with the Local Government.