Teesta River Project: Impact of China and India's proposals on Bangladesh's future

Teesta River Project: Impact of China and India's proposals on Bangladesh's future

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Under such circumstances, it is a great irony that the Indian Foreign Secretary has come up with a proposal to finance the Teesta-related project instead of increasing its flow. Implementing this project by taking loans from China or India will not be good for Bangladesh in the long run.

It has to be kept in mind that the scope for indiscriminate borrowing to implement dubious projects has ended for Bangladesh. As it is, Bangladesh's accumulated foreign debt has reached approximately US$1 billion (US$100 crore) and the annual repayment liability of foreign loans is approximately US$5 billion.

In the next few years, when the burden of other project loans including Rooppur will increase, this liability will increase further and a crisis may arise. Bangladesh has already borrowed about US$5 billion from the IMF to repay foreign debt. Media reports say that efforts are also being made to borrow from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank etc. In a situation of “taking a loan to take a loan”, the sooner the dubious PowerChina project is terminated, the better.

So what is the way forward for Bangladesh? There are two ways.

First, to ensure that India gives Bangladesh its due rights over the Teesta River. If Indians really want the welfare of Bangladesh regarding Teesta then it should stop drawing water from Teesta through Gajoldoba Barrage during dry season. The central government of India claims that it cannot do anything because West Bengal does not agree. There is very little scope for the truth behind such excuses to come out. There are 15 more constructed, under construction and planned structures, including the Gajoldoba Barrage, to impound and divert water in the upper reaches of the Teesta – and all of them are central government projects of India.

Flash floods for Bangladesh are another consequence of the Gajoldoba and other barrages built on the Teesta. Anyway, there is a danger of sudden floods in Teesta. Now the people operating the Gajoldoba Barrage open the gates of the barrage as per their convenience, resulting in sudden floods in the Teesta Basin of Bangladesh. Last year there were flash floods about seven times. To the people of Bangladesh's Teesta Basin, India's approach may sound like, “We will drown you with floods, scorch you with drought.”

With the 1997 UN Convention on the Use of International Watercourses ratified by a sufficient number of countries, the Convention has entered into force. The convention clearly states the rules and regulations that countries must follow regarding the use of common rivers. This convention projects rights to downstream countries. Bangladesh should ratify this convention and ask India to ratify it also.

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