Dhaka, Delhi conclude water talks amid optimism

Further talks needed on sharing of the Teesta river waters

DHAKA: Bangladesh and India have agreed to resolve outstanding issues relating to water sharing and decided that they will jointly start work for the protection of banks of the common rivers.

The consensus came at the end of the two-day crucial water talks at the Secretary level here on Tuesday.

Water Resources Secretary Umesh Narayan Panjiar told journalists that the dredging of the Isamati river would start on February 1. On the Teesta deal, he said the talks narrowed the gap but further talks were needed.

“The meeting, recognising the suffering of the people of both sides in the face of scarcity of lean season flows of the Teesta river, discussed at length and expressed that the sharing of the Teesta waters between India and Bangladesh should be concluded expeditiously,” the two sides said in a joint statement.

The talks were held in the hope of crafting an accord for Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sign in Delhi later next week.

The Bangladesh side was headed by Water Resources Secretary Shaikh Mohammed Wahid-uz-Zaman while Mr. Panjiar headed a seven-member Indian delegation. “We arrived at a situation which will benefit the people of the two countries,” Mr. Zaman told journalists.

Mr. Panjiar said: “We have narrowed down differences of approach between the two countries, which will contribute to the sharing of Teesta waters.”

Dhaka has been pressing New Delhi for decades for a deal on the common river Teesta, on which Bangladesh has its largest irrigation project covering 7,50,000 hectares in the greater Rangpur region.

The joint press statement said talks between the two countries would continue on the Teesta river.

The two countries also agreed to continue dialogue on the modalities for withdrawal of water from the Feni river by both sides for the minor lift irrigation schemes.

The meeting also agreed that water may be withdrawn from the Feni for drinking supply scheme for the Subroom town, which would be put into operation immediately after joint verification.

The meeting agreed to commence pending river bank protection works along the common rivers from early February. It also took note of new lists of proposed bank protection works and embankments along the common or border rivers, and directed the members of the Joint Rivers Commission to finalise the same for implementation.

Mr. Panjiar invited Mr. Zaman to visit Indian institutions relating to water resources with a view towards enabling participation from Bangladesh in the training programmes.

Mr. Panjiar later paid a courtesy call on Bangladesh Minister for Water Resources Ramesh Chandra Sen. Welcoming the Indian delegation, the Minister expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the talks and expressed hope that all outstanding issues relating to the common rivers would be solved expeditiously through discussions.


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