West Bengal’s moves to divert more water from Teesta16 March 2023 Editorial Desk
Bangladesh has expressed its deep concern to India over the projects taken by the West Bengal state government to construct two canals and three hydropower plants reducing the water volume in the transboundary River Teesta. Apart from it, Bangladesh also sought India's detailed project plan that was taken by the state government.
Amid the ongoing tussle over the water sharing of the transboundary Teesta River, one of the major rivers to invigorate the vast land of the northern part of Bangladesh, the West Bengal government unilaterally has attempted to divert the water by taking several projects ignoring Bangladesh's long standing demand. The matter is very concerning for Bangladesh. We have already prepared a letter of concern regarding the projects to send to India through Bangladesh's Foreign Ministry.
Dhaka has been waiting for decades for a treaty on the equal sharing of the Teesta's waters. A treaty was ready to be signed in 2011 but got stuck at the last moment because of staunch opposition from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The construction of barrages, hydroelectric dams, and other structural interventions upstream of the river heavily obstruct the normal flow of water towards Bangladesh. India often exploits these structures to withdraw water in the dry months (generally from March to May) for irrigation, energy production and economic uses. It not only creates tremendous stress on surface water resources in the northern districts of Bangladesh, but also causes a significant decrease in groundwater recharge, resulting in soil moisture depletion.
The decision comes as a shock to Dhaka which just came to learn that two new canals were being dug under the Teesta Barrage project to withdraw more water for irrigation in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar. Two of the three planned Darjeeling projects are likely to reduce the volume of water in the Teesta that is available for irrigation, particularly during the December-April lean period when the demand for irrigation water goes up in Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh, experts feared that the two new canals planned under the Teesta Barrage project might worsen the situation in the north, where arbitrary water withdrawal and release through the Gajoldoba barrage trigger frequent flash floods and dry spells. The foreign minister is busy defending the regime by making funny comments, while serious national interest is off his plate.