The signing of instruments on the sharing of water of the Teesta and six other rivers will not be discussed during the visit of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi as he will be here for celebrations of the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence, water secretary Kabir Bin Anwar said on Wednesday in Dhaka on his return from India.
He was in India for secretary-level talks between the two countries which were held on Tuesday.
The water secretary said, with reference to the statement made by his India counterpart Pankaj Kumar, that the state government in India’s West Bengal is also involved in the country’s domestic mechanism on signing the deal.
The Indian government iterated its commitment to take steps to resolve the impasse on signing the deal after the completion of elections in West Bengal.
A framework on signing the Teesta deal was finalised, Kabir Bin Anwar said, adding that the two sides decided to conduct a joint survey for determining the natural flow before taking decisions on sharing the rest of the flows of the river. ‘We should protect the river first,’ he said.
In the water secretary-level meeting, Bangladesh has protested against the unilateral withdrawal of water at the upstream of the River Mohananda flowing through the two countries mentioning that the flows of the river in Bangladesh have reduced due to the withdrawal of water in West Bengal of India, according to a delegation member.
Bangladesh requested India to resolve the problems regarding the withdrawal of the Mahananda water.
The Bangladesh side also requested the Indian authorities to reduce effluent flowing through C&B Canal and the River Janji from India, polluting the River Titas in and around Brahmanbaria district, according to a press release of the water resources ministry.
Bangladesh also once again sought Indian concurrence for the excavation of the remaining portion of the intake channel, Rahimpurkhal, of the upper Surma- Kushiyara project for facilitating irrigation of 5,000 acres of land in the Sylhet region.
In the meeting, Kabir Bin Anwar once again stressed the need for the signing of the interim water sharing agreement of the Teesta as had been agreed by both the countries in 2011 and also for the benefit of millions of people of both the countries.
A 50:50 water-sharing formula, including a provision for keeping 20 per cent water of the Teesta as environmental flow, had been agreed between India and Bangladesh at the level of water secretaries a decade ago.
He also sought to expedite efforts by the two courtiers on accumulating data for signing a framework agreement on the sharing of waters of six trans-boundary rivers — the Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar — and conducting feasibility study jointly by India and Bangladesh for the optimum utilisation of the water received by Bangladesh under the provisions of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, 1996.
The meeting further discussed the implementation of the memorandum of understanding on the withdrawal of water from the River Feni for drinking water supply scheme for the Sabroom town of Tripura in India.
The Indian side iterated the request for firming up draft agreement for the sharing of water of River Feni and resolving the problems of reduced flow during the lean season in rivers, including the Atrai, Punarbhaba and Tangon, as well as pollution in the Mathabanga-Churni in Indian West Bengal allegedly due to effluents released from sugar mills in Bangladesh.
Kabir Bin Anwar also called on Indian water resources minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and invited him to visit Bangladesh soon for the 38th meeting of the Joint River Commission at the earliest, preferably in the year 2021.
Bangladesh high commissioner to India Muhammad Imran also attended the meetings.
Modi will visit Bangladesh on March 26 and 27.
Describing the discussions in the meeting as ‘substantive,’ the Indian High Commission in Dhaka said that both the sides agreed to expand cooperation across an entire gamut of water resources issues, including a framework for sharing of river waters, mitigation of pollution, riverbank protection, flood management and basin management, according to a press release.
Bangladesh and India share at least 54 common rivers and the two countries have an agreement on sharing of the water of the River Ganges signed in 1996.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Foreign affairs