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Prime Minister has to explain what we gained

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07th-Oct-2019       
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WITH Dhaka eagerly waiting for the signing of the Teesta Water-Sharing Deal, Bangladesh and India signed a MoU allowing India to take 1.82 cusec water from the Feni River. The agreement was signed following a meeting between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi.
The deal on the Feni River comes amid Dhaka's frustration over not signing of the Teesta Deal, which was scheduled to be inked during the then Indian PM Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka in 2011. It was not possible due to opposition from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Water of the Teesta is crucial for Bangladesh's northern region where farmers depend heavily on underground water for irrigation during the lean season.
Hasina yesterday said the people of Bangladesh were awaiting eagerly for the signing and implementation of the Framework of Interim Agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters, as agreed upon by both governments in 2011. The Indian PM said his government was working with all Indian stakeholders for conclusion of the agreement at the soonest possible time.
Experts opine that Bangladesh can agree to the withdrawal of 1.82 cusec water from the Feni River, but it needs to see when the water is withdrawn and how much water is left in the river during the lean season. Sharing water of 54 common rivers between India and Bangladesh is crucial. However, a treaty on water sharing of only one river, the Ganges, was signed in 1996.
The dispute is regarding the sharing of the river waters. When West Bengal government began constructing barrages on the river in 70s, mainly for irrigation purposes, the Bangladesh government started opposing this. Their point was that the major rice producing areas of Bangladesh lie in the Teesta and Brahmaputra River basin. Once barrages are constructed it would lead to scarcity of water for irrigation and low rice production.
In 1983, India and Bangladesh agreed on ad-hoc sharing of water as India- 39% Bangladesh- 36% Un-allocated -25% However Bangladesh is now asking for equitable distribution of water.
The West Bengal government (Mamata Banerjee) makes the point that it will dry out the northern West Bengal, if any less water is allocated to India. Obviously both the nations are in need of the water. It has been over 36 years since the ad hoc sharing basis was agreed on and yet we could not conclude any new agreement. It is highly unlikely that any Chief Minister of West Bengal will commit political suicide and agree to more, no matter who comes to power. The average West Bengal citizen does not care about the rights of lower riparian states like Bangladesh -- to them water for their farmers gets paramountcy.


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