Bangladesh and India will hold water-resources secretary level meetings in Delhi tomorrow ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh on March 26 to March 27.
Bangladesh Water Resources Ministry Secretary Kabir Bin Anwar and Indian Water Secretary Pankaj Kumar will lead respective sides of the meeting.
“Our water secretary is already in Delhi for the water-secretary level meeting. Water sharing issues of six rivers among other things will be discussed,” Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told reporters at an event at the Foreign Service Academy today.
Dhaka and Delhi began water sharing talks on six small rivers — Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar – in August 2019 after the two countries failed to sign Teesta water sharing deal due to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s last-minute opposition in 2011.
This has been an issue of friction in bilateral relations between two countries but India says state government approval is a precondition as per the country’s constitution for such deals on common rivers.
Not only Teesta, he said, the two governments are working on water sharing of six other rivers. The two countries have 54 rivers in common but the treaty on water sharing was signed only on two rivers — the Ganges in 1996 and the Feni River in 2019.
Following the water-secretary level meeting of the two countries, technical committees held a meeting in January this year and also shared data on water flow.
The two sides also spoke of collecting data on the amount of water used by the two countries from each of the rivers, Malik Fida A Khan, a member of the committee and executive director at the Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), had told this correspondent.
Malik Fida said once the data on water usage by the two countries is shared, they can develop a water sharing framework agreement.
A member of the delegation at the water-secretary level meeting told this correspondent Bangladesh wants basin-wide river management, which requires sharing of data on environmental flow of the rivers, joint studies, dredging etc.
The official said Bangladesh also wants to withdraw 153 cusec water from the Rahimpur Canal for an irrigation project. Bangladesh wants a joint study on the optimum use of the Ganges water.
“We will discuss these issues in the meeting,” he added.