India’s diversion of the Teesta waters without any sharing arrangement with co-riparian Bangladesh is unacceptable ethically and legally, water expert Professor Ainun Nishat observed on Thursday.
He argued that India’s unilateral withdrawal of waters of the Teesta river is not supported by international law, neither is such practice covered by Indian law.
“The 1958 law on trans-boundary water uses or inter-state water uses (of India) doesn’t support this sort of diversion of waters,” Dr Ainun Nishat, advisor at Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research, BRAC University, told the 7th International Water Conference on ‘Teesta River Basin: Overcoming the Challenges’.
The three-day virtual conference, organised by ActionAid Bangladesh, began on Thursday. It will continue till January 22.
Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, identified the issue of lack of willingness and mindset of top leaders to sit together on Teesta river water allocation.
Also UNESCO chair on International Water Cooperation, he called for showing strong leadership in both India and Bangladesh to come to an agreement to resolve the Teesta issue.
“The Teesta basin is confined to only India and Bangladesh. So, the issue has to be solved by both the countries,” Professor Nishat insisted and recommended that Bangladesh and India should sit for annual hydrological assessment to resolve the water allocation of Teesta river.
Manzoor Hasan, Chair of Executive Board of ActionAid Bangladesh and also Executive Director at Centre for Peace and Justice, BRAC University, said this conference is a timely initiative to draw attention of national and international communities and stakeholders to come to an agreement on the Teesta river waters.
“(Teesta) The river is no longer a river. People now can literally walk across the river in dry season,” said Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of International Relations at University of Dhaka, in his presentation.
He pointed out that the dams on the Teesta are posing a threat to biodiversity and livelihoods of thousands of people.
Former minister Hasanul Haq Inu called for a solution to the Teesta issue and referred to the ‘Save Teesta movement’ that is going on in the northern region.
“Even Indian people suffer during the monsoon and dry season,” he said emphasising that water management should contain ‘political thinking’.
“We focus on water democracy, innovation and created connections between the scientific body, grassroots, and development practitioners,” ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir said in her opening remarks.
She mentioned that Teesta is a major source of water for agriculture, fishing, and food system. “Therefore, it is crucial to protect the river through sustainable and long-term solutions,” she added.
Iftekhar Iqbal, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at University Brunei Darussalam, underlined the importance of the government’s 200-300 years of plan for managing the Teesta river and mitigating the sufferings of the people on the riverbank.