Vol. 2, Issue 11 (2016)
Indo-Bangladesh water sharing issues
Author(s): Dr. Aruna R Mital
Abstract: Indo-Bangladesh relationship carries not only strong historical and cultural overtones but both sides also realize the immense benefits of a strong relationship. However, there have been a number of setbacks too. The two countries have a long history of water disputes notably over the sharing of Ganga river waters. India’s diversion of the Ganges from Farakka Barrage to the Bhagirathi Hooghly river system remained for a decade a major sources of discord between the two. To solve the problem, several attempts have been made. In 1977, a five year agreement was signed and two more short term agreements were also concluded in May 1982 and in 1985. Finally, in December 1996, a 30 years treaty on sharing of Ganges waters was concluded which was intended to bring to an end long running differences between the two. It has signaled a shift in bilateral relations between the two countries. Another dispute on water sharing is linked with Teesta River started in 1979 with the beginning of construction of a barrage on the river by Government of West Bengal in India, though efforts were made to settle the dispute in 1983 by an ad-hoc agreement. A Joint River Water Commission in 1984 and a joint committee of experts in 1997 were formed to examine and solve the issue of sharing of river water. A series of meetings were held between 1997-2004 but a little progress was made. Subsequently, a Joint Technical Group (JTG) was formed in 2004 but unfortunately failed to finalise any positive result due to the opposition of Chief Minister of West Bengal. Again in 2011, Prime Minister of India Dr. Man Mohan Singh have dropped the Teesta Accord under the pressure of Ms. Mamta Banerjee, the head of the Trinmool Congress party which was then a single largest coalition partner of UPA Government in India. After the change of Government in India, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi with Ms. Mamta Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal during their visit to Bangladesh in 2015 expressed hope for an early and fair solution to the long pending Teesta Water issue. It is now upto both countries to restore confidence and rebuild bilateral relationship. It would be better to adopt a more feasible approach that would be constituted by an integrated collaborative and sustainable management of all shared rivers.