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Knocking on Delhi won't help solve Teesta crisis: Imtiaz

By UNB, DHAKA
23rd-Mar-2014       
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Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, an expert of international affairs, on Saturday observed that no Delhi-centric contact by Dhaka can help resolve the Bangladesh-India dispute over the sharing of Teesta River water.
The next central government of India is likely to be formed with the support of some state governments, and knocking on Delhi will no longer bear nay fruit in resolving the longstanding crisis over Teesta water, he said while addressing a roundtable.
The roundtable, styled 'Equal Access to Floodplain, Haor and River', was organised by Actionaid at Cirdap, marking the World Water Day 2014.
Prof Imtiaz, also a teacher of Dhaka University's International Relations, said the next central government in India is likely to heavily rely on support from any of the state governments-it may be the one to be led by Mamata Banerjee, or Jayalalitha Jayaram or Arvind Kejriwal.
He also noted that the extensive hydropower generation by Sikkim on Teesta's upstream is also a crucial issue that must be addressed to have any ultimate solution for Bangladesh.
In Sikkim, they have taken up 29 hydropower projects on the upstream of Teesta, leading to huge withdrawal of water, he said adding, even Mamata is raising this point to their central government.
Mamata is demanding that before ensuring the much-talked-about 50 percent of share of Teesta water to Bangladesh, she needs the information about the amount of water West Bengal is getting after the withdrawal in Sikkim, he added.
"Bangladeshi policymakers are totally on the wrong track over the Teesta water sharing issue. They are not hitting the point of hydropower projects," said the Dhaka University teacher.
"The policymakers should keep in mind that Delhi-centric moves won't do anything in the days ahead," he added.
Imtiaz also criticised the governments of Bangladesh for giving false assurances to the people about ensuring the 50 percent share of Teesta water.
"Why should I say that it'll be resolved today, or in three months, when the matter is still very uncertain?" he questioned referring to the high-sounding words coming from ministers in the government on several occasions in the past.
Speaking on the occasion, executive director of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers' Association (Bela) Syeda Rizwana Hasan noted that the main weakness in the government's policy to resolve the crisis of water sharing with neighbouring India is the factor that the people of the country had not been consulted yet.
The dispute over Teesta water sharing is more political than legal, but the government did not go into any consultation with the people concerned, she added.
Rizwana Hasan also demanded public disclosure of all the decisions taken in the meetings of Joint River Commission between the two countries.
"NGOs (non-government organisations) in India are telling us that the Indian authorities have been carried away with thanks from our sides (during the JRC meetings)," she said.
Former director general of Bangladesh Haor Development Board (BHDB) M Inamul Haq said besides pursuing a basin-wise management of shared-rivers between the neighbouring countries to ensure the historical flow of the water, the government should also take initiatives to curb the grabbing of river lands which is affecting the river system to a great extent.
The poor people's right to water is also being violated by the leasing out of large water bodies to politically influential people for business purpose, he said.
Rizwana also echoed Inamul Haq in this regard, saying that 'water must be considered a fundamental human right'.
Although the preamble of the draft of the Bangladesh Water Act 2013 had the statement proclaiming water as the fundamental human right, the statement was surprisingly deleted when the law was passed by the house, she added.
Speaking at the roundtable as the chief guest, State Minister for Water Resources Muhammad Nazrul Islam said no law is permanent and that the government will take necessary actions to review the act to declare water a fundamental human right.
He also admitted that people have the right to know about the decisions reached in international negotiations, but avoided saying anything specific about steps from his side for the disclosure of the information.
The roundtable was moderated by Actionaid country director Farah Kabir.

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