Bangladesh to verify reports of withdrawal of Teesta waters by West Bengal

The move follows a report in an Indian newspaper stating West Bengal seeks to dig two canals to withdraw water from Teesta

Published : 16 March 2023, 05:04 PM
Updated : 16 March 2023, 05:04 PM

Bangladesh government will write to India to officially confirm media reports over West Bengal state government’s plans to dig two canals to withdraw water from Teesta River.

State Minister for Water Resources Zahid Faruk on Thursday said the move followed Bangladeshi media reports citing an Indian newspaper.

“We got the information from the media and are not sure about the reliability of the news,” he added.

Faruk declined to make further remarks on the matter until receiving a response from India.

On Mar 4, Telegraph India reported that the West Bengal irrigation department took possession of around 1,000 acres of land to dig two more canals under the Teesta Barrage Project to “channelise water for agricultural purposes”.

The report added: “The Bengal government’s decision to dig new canals under the Teesta Barrage project after a gap of over 20 years is set to raise Dhaka’s hackles. New Delhi and Dhaka couldn’t clinch a pact to share the Teesta waters because of objections raised by Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in 2011.

“A political observer pointed out that by extending the reach of the Teesta project, Mamata is trying to prove that north Bengal needs water from the river,” it read.

Speaking after a meeting at the United Nations’ Water conference, Faruk said a draft of the letter was already prepared. “I will sign it today after taking a look.”

On whether Bangladesh would express worries in the letter, Faruk said it was a move to confirm the reports and the letter would be sent from the Joint River Commission.

“We always say that we are on good terms with our friendly neighbour. If nothing happens, we have options. But we can’t really tell you what our option is.”

In September 2011, the neighbouring countries came to a consensus about the distribution of Teesta water in a ministerial meeting during then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka.

Although the treaty was supposed to be signed during that trip, it was shelved due to Mamata’s opposition.

The issue gained fresh traction when Narendra Modi and BJP came into power, but Mamata stood by her view.

Faruk said India’s water resources minister was invited over for the next meeting of JRC in February. India then “pledged orally” to send over its emissary this month.

On whether the meeting would take place before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visits New Delhi in September, Faruk said they were “hoping” that would happen.

Responding to whether Bangladesh protested the withdrawal of Teesta waters, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Seheli Sabrin on Thursday said the Ministry of Water Resources and JRC are discussing the matter.

“We are cautiously observing the situation and assessing the truth of the news. We will try to resolve any emerging issues through discussion taking into account the good relations between Bangladesh and India.”

“We will discuss it with all who are involved and prepare a proposal to ask the Indian counterpart about the matter. After that, we will take the necessary steps.”