Bangladesh and India will hold a water resources secretary-level meeting in Dhaka tomorrow to discuss issues related to the Teesta and 53 other common rivers. This meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) is going to be held after nine years.
Apart from the Teesta river agreement, which is yet to be inked, other disputes regarding 54 common rivers still remain unresolved and Bangladesh is keen to make progress with India in this regard, said sources.
According to water resources ministry sources, both sides will discuss water-related issues, including resolving issues over sharing waters of the much talked about Teesta and Feni Rivers and also Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla, Dudhkumar and other common rivers.
Moreover, issues like construction of river embankment to prevent erosion, two-km stretch of the un-demarcated Mahurirchar land and other unresolved matters will also be discussed at the meeting, said officials.
The sources further said agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on water-related issues will also be discussed, keeping in mind Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in October.
Bangladesh’s water resources secretary Kabir Bin Anwar and his Indian counterpart, Upendra Prasad Singh, will lead the delegations on behalf of their respective countries at the meeting.
According to sources, Bangladesh will place six agendas, while India four at the meeting.
The last water secretary level meeting was held in Dhaka on January 10, 2011.
About 3,000 acres in Majorgaon, Amolshid, Lakshmibazar, Sultanpur, Senapatirchak and Manikpur in Zakiganj upazila are now part of the Indian state of Assam due to erosion by the Kushiyara, while 250 acres in Ballah, Uttarkul, Munshibazar, Rosulpur and Dighli on the banks of ther Surma in Sylhet region have also been washed away to India due to erosion on the Bangladesh side.
The Border River Protection and Development Project that plans protective work alongside the Kushiyara banks has been awaiting approval for long due to reluctance of the Indian authorities, the ministry sources said.
As per the Mujib-Indira treaty of 1974, the midstream of the rivers forms the border between the two countries. But as the rivers have shifted their courses inside Bangladesh territory, Bangladeshis are being deprived of
their cultivable land, which has fallen on the Indian side following erosion, according to sources in the Bangladesh Water Development Board (WDB).
Sources said it has become difficult to protect river banks from erosion along the border in Rajshahi, Chapainwabganj, Rangpur, Kurigram and Sylhet districts. The rivers constituting the border often change their course due to erosion inside Bangladesh territory, creating problems for the people living along the frontiers.
Despite the finalisation of all formalities after a survey, the Indian side has refused to sign the final agreement on a two-km stretch of the undemarcated Mahurirchar land for long, sources said.
“Draft agreements on water-sharing of the Teesta and Feni rivers are ready, and they will be implemented only after being signed by senior officials of India,” KM Anwar Hossain, member of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), told The Independent yesterday.
He said water sharing issues of some common rivers and construction of river protection embankment in Jakiganj will be discussed at the meeting.
On January 10, 2011, Bangladesh and India had arrived at an understanding to work out a framework for an interim agreement on sharing of the Teesta waters for 15 years, after day-long talks between the water resources secretaries of the two countries.
Then Bangladesh water resources secretary, Shaikh Wahid-uz-Zaman, and Indian water resources secretary, Dhruv Vijai Singh, led the delegation teams on behalf of their respective countries.
The last 37th JRC ministerial-level meeting took place in New Delhi in March 2010, while the 38th meeting was scheduled to be held in Dhaka in 2011, but is yet to take place.