The Financial Express

BD-India water sharing talks Thursday

Dhaka to focus on six common rivers

Mir Mostafizur Rahaman | Published: August 07, 2019 10:07:24 | Updated: August 07, 2019 19:57:37

Flags of Bangladesh and India are seen cross-pinned in this photo symbolising friendship between the two nations Flags of Bangladesh and India are seen cross-pinned in this photo symbolising friendship between the two nations

As the prospect of inking a deal on the Teesta River water sharing looks bleak, Bangladesh is now concentrating more on reaching a deal on sharing of water of six other rivers -- the Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar, said officials.

This will be a key issue from Dhaka side in the Bangladesh-India secretary-level meeting of the water resources ministries. It is scheduled to be held in the state guest house Meghna in the capital tomorrow (Thursday).

Indian Water Resources Secretary U P Singh will lead his country's delegation in the meeting, which is taking place after a gap of eight years.

"We are eager to finalise our discussion on the water sharing of these six rivers in the meeting," the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) Secretary Kabir Bin Anwar told the FE on Tuesday.

Terming the meeting as an icebreaking event, he said talks on the water sharing of these six rivers will be included in the parley in line with the directives of the prime ministers of both the countries.

The directives were included in the joint statement, issued during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Delhi visit in 2017.

A senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) pointed out that the prospect of signing a deal with India on the Teesta water sharing is gradually fading away. So, concentrating on the rest of the rivers will be a more realistic approach for Bangladesh.

Mr Anwar, meanwhile, said, "The Teesta water still remains the priority for us. However, we should remember that there are 52 other rivers apart from the Ganges and the Teesta. We have to carry forward discussions on those rivers also."

Apart from this, discussion on the Feni River and renewal of the 30-year Ganges Water Sharing Treaty will also take place in the meeting, senior officials of the MoWR and the MoFA told the FE.

As a gesture of goodwill, Bangladesh allowed India to withdraw water from the Feni River for supplying to Bilonia in Tripura without signing any agreement in this regard.

So the urgency of inking an agreement on the river's water sharing is also there, the officials opined.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Anwar said, "I do not want to disclose anything about the Feni River right now. You have to wait for a couple of days."

He further said a framework agreement was signed in the last meeting, which suggests resolving the pending issues through a joint expert committee.

The last meeting between the water resources secretaries was held in January 2011. Earlier, a meeting of the water resources ministers of the two countries was held in New Delhi in March 2010 under the Joint River Commission.

During the last secretary-level meeting, both sides agreed to start discussion on renewal of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, which will expire in 2026.

The meeting on Wednesday will also discuss the issue, the officials added.

Bangladesh and India share at least 54 trans-boundary rivers. But, water sharing agreement on one river - the Ganges - was signed in 1996.

A draft of the deal on the Teesta water sharing was finalised, and it was scheduled to be signed during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Sing's Dhaka visit in 2011.

But it could not be done until now due to opposition coming from the West Bengal government.


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