Every year the Teesta River causes miseries to the people of north-western districts of Bangladesh. Our honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina adopted the 'Teesta Project' three years back in order to resolve the Teesta water problem. She requested Chinese President Xi Jinping to modernise our Teesta river management through a multi-purpose project just as China did in the case of the Hwang Ho and Yono rivers, turning the curse into blessings.
What shall be done under the Teesta Project
Under the Teesta Project, massive drainage work will be done along the 115 miles the Teesta runs inside the Bangladesh border. Through this, the depth of the mid-river bed will be considerably enhanced. Through massive drainage work many a river on the two sides of the Teesta will be restored and river training will be done. Huge cultivable land in the process will be brought under regular cultivation. A 115-kilometre four-lane road will be constructed alongside both banks of the river. At various points, a number of barrage-cum-roads will be constructed to improve the communication system of the two banks of the mighty river. Alongside, big reservoirs will be constructed to conserve huge surplus water that flows through the river every monsoon season which will be used to develop irrigation systems on both banks of the river to irrigate crop fields during the dry season. Industrial zones will be created on both banks of the Teesta. Attractive urbanization facilities will be developed to initiate an industrial revolution in the northern region of the country leading to huge job creation and the region will turn into an industrial city and an economic hub of the country.
Once implemented, the huge Teesta Barrage Project will be able to bring about an epoch-making change in the life of the people of the most poverty-stricken north-western districts of the country.
Repeated flooding in the Teesta during monsoon months causes immense sufferings to the people of the northern districts and the north-western region of the country every year. On the other hand, during the dry season the people live like they are in a desert land for want of water. This happens due to withdrawal of water upstream at Gojoldoba in West Bengal.
The Teesta Barrage Project will have to be implemented in the interest of our nation, even if the Teesta water sharing treaty is signed with India. As a result of signing the Teesta Water Pact we may get some water in the dry season but there will be no guarantee that there will be no flooding during the monsoon months. So it is necessary to implement the Teesta Project in the interest of the country in general and increasing the facilities for our people and raising their income in particular.
The initial cost of the Teesta barrage project entitled: Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project has been estimated at Tk 80 billion (8,000 crore). The project is scheduled to be implemented with complete Chinese financial aid. China has already given a green signal to the Bangladesh authorities. Now, it's just our turn to decide on the matter. We hope our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will press ahead with implementation of the project in the greater interest of the nation just as she has been implementing the Padma Project ignoring objections from different quarters.
The Teesta basin people in the northern region of the country are delighted that a project like the Teesta barrage is going to be implemented. In a former letter recently Bangladesh asked China to grant project funding on easy terms. As the Teesta basin people got to know it, an ambience of happiness started prevailing there on both banks starting from Dalia point in Nilphamari district up to Sundorgonj in Gaibandha district. Once the Teesta project is implemented, the fate of 200 million people will change to a great extent. The char (reclaimed island) people are relishing the prospect for their self-reliance economically. It has been learnt that following Bangladesh's formal letter seeking funding on easy terms for the project, the Chinese and Bangladesh diplomatic quarters have engaged in talks. In implementing the project, the Bangladesh side is giving the top priority just as the Chinese side is ready to provide necessary funding on easy terms.
The work on project formulation and river observation had been going on for last two years by the China Power & China River Yellow. The Teesta Project will be modern, attractive and time-befitting. The main components of the project will include:
1. River dredging: 108 kilometres
2. 173 km river bank safeguard construction on both sides
3. Dredging of isles (small islands)
4. Construction of satellite cities on both banks
5. Recovery of agricultural/cultivable land by means of removing sand
6. Preservation of asset worth BDT 113,000 crore (BDT1,130 billion)
In addition, crops worth BDT 20,000 crore (BDT 200 billion will be grown/produced per annum, utilizing the facilities of the project. Due to dredging the Teesta river bed's depth will increase by 10 metres. As a result, the Teesta will never flood its neighbouring villages, markets, bazars and rural business hubs. On the other hand, it will not dry up during the dry season. There will be arrangements available for navigation on the river through conservation of necessary water round the year. A river port as well as police station, coast guard and army camps will be established for the purpose of maintaining the law and order situation.
Under the project, different facilities including satellite cities will be established on both banks of the river like the Chinese Suqian city in northern Jiangsu Province. Furthermore, there will be arrangements for river dredging and river training, river erosion control system, modern irrigation system, fisheries project and, finally, tourism centres will also be established. These will lead to creation of 700,000- 1,000,000 (seven-ten lakh) jobs for people. Thus the long-awaited project will bring about a big change in the life of the people in five north-western districts of the country, namely Nilphamari, Rangpur, Lalmonirhat, Kurigram and Gaibandha. Three Chinese delegations working in these five Teesta basin districts advised to include the above-mentioned components in the project. The project will also include as follows:
1. 220-meter guide embankment along the two sides of the river
2. There will be marine drives on two sides of the embankment like a sea coast so that the tourists can go on a long drive to enjoy the beauty of nature as well as for learning
3. There will be arrangements for transportation of goods using this road
4. Hotels, motels, restaurants and tourism sites will be developed on both sides of the river
5. Planned modern cities, towns and ports will be developed
6. The Teesta Basin will turn into a beautiful city like the Chinese Suqian city in northern Jiangsu Province.
The Executive Engineer of Lalmonirhat Water Development Board Md Mizanur Rahman said that the Ministry of Water Resources in a letter informed his office that the Government of Bangladesh formulated planning, drawing and design towards implementation of the Teesta Master Plan.
Abul Quasem Haider is Founder Chairman of Eastern University, Australian School and Abul Quasem Haider Mohilla College, Sandwip, Chattogram, Former Senate Member, University of Dhaka