In a major development, Bangladesh has requested China to fund five new projects having an estimated outlay over US$ 1.65 billion, replacing five existing projects worth over $5.26 billion against which two countries had signed aMoU during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016.
The list of five proposed new projects includes the much-talked-about 'Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration' project, for which Bangladesh has sought funding worth $725.09 million, according to sources in the Ministry of Finance.
Bangladesh had previously sent a primary proposal, seeking $983 million fund last year for the Teesta project, to be implemented by the Ministry of Water Resources.
When the FE had broken the news about Bangladesh's request for fund for the Teesta project in June last year, it evoked huge interest in the diplomatic circle, especially in India. Many Indian analysts criticised the proposal, considering it a move to invite China in its backyard. A leading Indian daily put the news headlined 'Dhaka's Chinese Chequers on Teesta put Delhi on back foot'.
Chinese Ambassador Li Jiming recently said China was interested in Teesta River restoration project after examining its detailed feasibility study.
Chinese involvement in the project would be 'seriously considered' once Bangladesh submitted a feasibility report, he said, adding that the Bangladesh government was yet to formally propose China to take part in the project.
"I think it is the legitimate right of Bangladeshi people to take this kind of project within the lower reach of a shared river," he said responding to a question by the FE.
"If the project is taken in the upper reaches, you would have to consult opinions of the countries from the lower reaches. But as you are taking it in the lower reaches, I don't think there are any sensitive issues," he added.
In the latest proposal, Bangladesh seeks fund for the Teesta project, replacing the Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane highway project, for which the country previously sought $2,110 million.
Relevant circles here tend to think that the delay in signing the deal on water sharing of the Teesta River prompted Bangladesh to implement the project seeking Chinese fund.
Bangladesh finalised a draft in 2011 for signing the deal during the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Dhaka visit. But it could not be inked due to the last minute opposition from the West Bengal government.
Bangladesh plans to build over 100 km embankments along both sides of the river, from upstream of the Teesta barrage near the border with India to the confluence with the Brahmaputra.
Meanwhile, according to the latest proposal, Bangladesh sought $120 million for Dasherkandi STP catchment project, $210 million for Sheikh Hasina Institute of Information Technology and Hi-tech Park project, $250 million for 12 vessels and tankers for transporting oil, and $354 million for Construction of hi-tech bridge on rural roads project. Bangladesh said these projects would replace the five projects, which would be excluded from the list of 27 projects, for which the MoU - 'Investment and Production Capacity Cooperation between China and Bangladesh' - was signed between the two countries in 2016.
The projects which will be excluded from the list are - Extension of Barapukuria coal-mine project worth $256.41 million, Gazaria 350-MW coal-fired power plant worth $433 million, Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane highway project worth $2,110 million, Jute mill modernization project worth $280 million, and Prepaid metering project worth $521 million.