International Farakka Committee on Saturday demanded the implementation of the Teesta Master Plan to protect three crore people living in its basin in Bangladesh from heavy flood and river banks erosion. Atiqur Rahman Salu, chairman of IFC, voiced the demand in an opinion exchange meeting at the Abdus Salam Hall of the National Press Club. The IFC chairman said this while the promise for signing a treaty on the Teesta is lingering on for 12 years, in the dry season flow of the river is being diverted unilaterally from the Gazal Doba Barrage in West Bengal, India for more than two decades. No change to this unfortunate plight of the Teesta is in sight, he said adding, “We therefore believe that the government of Bangladesh should urgently take sustainable measures to minimize the adverse effects of drought-flood vagaries to the people of Teesta Basin in Bangladesh’. Dr. S.I. Khan, senior vice-president, IFC Bangladesh, Mostafa Kamal Majumder, coordinator and Ataur Rahman Ata, joint secretary of IFC and Rafiqul Islam Azad, former president of Dhaka Reporters’ Unity were present at the opinion exchange and answered questions of journalists. Atiqur Rahman Salu said no treaty has been signed on the Teesta although the two countries were supposed to do so in 2011. The Irony is that even in this rainy season Nilphamari, Kurigram and Gaibandha districts have experienced several waves of flood and riverbank erosion. Read: FM Momen rues long delay in Teesta deal with India He said devastating floods in the rainy season and dry rivers and drought in the dry season have brought environmental disasters to Bangladesh. “Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to go on a visit to India soon. It is our belief that she would discuss with the Indian Prime Minister in clear terms the plight of world’s largest delta Bangladesh that has originated from the common rivers,” he said. He also said this is urgent because being cut off from the common rivers the lush green environment of the country is getting destroyed day by day, damaging agriculture, breeding and feeding grounds of indigenous fish, and industry. People are losing livelihoods and becoming displaced. The IFC chairman noted that China has come up with an idea to implement a Teesta management and restoration master plan with nearly $1 billion in loan (about 10,000 crore Taka). The Power Construction Corporation or Power China wants to implement the master plan. Work on this project was supposed to begin in 2021, but has not started yet. He said, “ If water was available there was no need of alternative thinking. Given the present uncertain situation it’s not wise to sit idle. When the urge to restore the flow of the river from upstream will come under the dictates of nature the Bangladesh part of the Teesta will get a new lease of life.” IFC recommended that the Teesta Master plan can be expanded to cover Karatoa, Punarbhaba, and Atrai in the old Teesta basin. This will ensure overall development of the Northwestern part of Bangladesh. This master plan is no substitute for basin-based integrated management of the river to keep it alive, he said adding that it can help improve the lot of the people of the Teesta basin by protecting them from the annual floods and bank erosions.
The residents along the Teesta River are passing their days in fear of possible flood as the Teesta River was flowing above its danger level on Monday. The Teesta River was flowing 25 cm above its danger level around 6 pm on Monday due to onrush of water from the upstream, creating panic among the local residents. Also read: Teesta banks erosion: Over 50 houses washed away in 45 days Executive Engineer of Water Development Board, Nilphamari Dalia Division, Md Asafuddoulla said the char areas along the Teesta river have been inundated due to the rise in water level. Also read: Teesta swells in Lalmonirhat, forces opening of 44 barrage gates However, all the gates of the Teesa Barrage were kept open due tackle the situation.
The government is trying to implement mega projects in the Teesta to permanently prevent the erosion of the Teesta River and prevent floods, said State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman. The minister also said the design and project profile has been completed. The state minister made the remarks while inspecting the flood-affected areas of Teesta river at Gatiyasham area of Rajarhat in Kurigram on Friday morning. The state minister said, "It is uncertain when it will be completed. However, if the project is completed, the people of Teesta will not have any more misery." He added that heavy rains and onrushing waters have caused flash floods in four districts including Kurigram. The government is working to alleviate the plight of those affected by the floods and erosion. Each of the four districts has been allotted 50 MT of rice, Tk 5 lakh, 4,000 packets of dry food, Tk 2 lakh more for cattle food and 100 bundles of corrugated iron sheets. Arrangements will be made for the rehabilitation of each family affected by floods and river erosion, he said. At least 1017 families in three unions of Rajarhat were affected by Teesta erosion. Later, relief materials including 10 kg of rice, 1 kg of chira and half a kg of pulses and oil were distributed among the affected families at Sarishabari Government Primary School ground. Kurigram-2 MP Panir Uddin Ahmed, Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Md Mohsin, Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Rezaul Karim, Superintendent of Police Syeda Jannat Ara and District Council Chairman Zafar Ali were present at the event among others.
Floods triggered by onrush of upstream water and heavy rains have inundated low-lying areas in different upazilas of Kurigram district, leaving more than 2000 people marooned. Teesta River was flowing 20cm above danger level at Kaunia point of Kurigram on Thursday. As many as 2000 people in Gharial Danga and Vidyananda Unions of Rajarhat upazila in the district have been marooned as a result. Read: Red alert issued as Teesta flows 60 cm above danger level Besides, floodwater damaged Aman paddy and vegetables in the district. Putul Rani, a resident of Namavrat village said,” Despite having supplies in stock, I can’t cook anything as there is waist high water everywhere in my house.” “This is a terrible way to live,” she said. Read: Teesta flowing above danger level, all 44 barrage gates opened Hanif Ali of the same village said over the phone,” My entire home has been submerged.” “My family members have barely eaten since yesterday. We need immediate help.” Rajarhat Upazila Nirbahi Officer Noor Tasnim said 10 metric tons of food assistance was provided to the flood affected people Thursday morning and more will follow.
Not only the Teesta, but the Gangadhar river has also turned turbulent in Kurigram. Over the past few weeks, the raging river has swallowed large swathes of land in Nageshwari, rendering several families homeless. Jalepara, Ramdatta and Raghurvita villages are the worst affected. This monsoon season alone, 50 families have lost their homes and livelihoods due to land erosion by the Gangadhar river. Read Fight the Flood: Safety measures to take before, during, after floods in Bangladesh Every year, the river is swollen by seasonal rains and the erosion mainly takes place after the water from the monsoon subsides and the brittle soil on the banks collapses. Despite the erosion eating into the village roads and farm lands, local residents claim, no effective measures have been taken by the authorities yet, and they now live under the fear of losing their lives too. Many homeless people have now taken shelter at Raghurvita Government Primary School. Chandra and Bhanuram Biswas of Jalepara are among the unfortunate ones. Read: Teesta turns turbulent in Kurigram; leaves 100 families homeless "Every time, the river swallows our homes, we are forced to start from the beginning. This time, we have lost everything -- house, belongings and some money we had saved for the rainy day," the duo said. Kaledanga Jame Mosque, Ramdatta Jame Mosque, Ramdatta Mahila Hafeza Madrasa, Krishnapur Nurani Hafezia Madrasa, and the only paved road in Krishnapur now stand threatened by the Gangadhar. Akmal Hossain, a public representative, told UNB that the Water Development Board didn't take any visible steps this monsoon to prevent the problem that has been prevailing for years now. Read: Floods, landslides hit Rohingya camps hard: UNHCR Officials of the Water Development Board, however, said that a project for protecting the riverbank from erosion has already been sent to the higher authorities for approval. "The proposal was sent to the headquarters two years ago, but we are still waiting for an approval. We need a permanent solution to the problem. Temporary steps won’t be effective unless an embankment is constructed,” said sub-divisional engineer Omar Faruk Md Mokhtar Hossain.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday reiterated Bangladesh’s long-pending request for concluding the interim agreement on the sharing of water of the Teesta River with Bangladesh's fair share to alleviate sufferings of millions. It is necessary that Bangladesh receives its fair share of the Teesta water, the draft agreement of which has already been agreed upon by both governments in January 2011 to alleviate the sufferings and save the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on the Teesta River basin, she underscored. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s sincere commitment and continued efforts to conclude this agreement, in consultation with the relevant stakeholders. “There’s positive approach (from Indian side) but a date has not been fixed when it will be delivered. They can’t spell out that it’ll happen within a week,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters at a briefing at Sonargaon Hotel.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said ground-level cooperation is needed to check all those incidents happening along the India-Bangladesh border. The Indian Prime Minister came up with the remark when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina requested him to look after the matter properly so that the sad border incidents could be reduced to a zero level. The border incidents between the two neighbouring countries were discussed during the bilateral meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office. PM’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting. “Ground-level cooperation will help check this kind of incident,” PM’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim quoted the Indian Prime Minister as saying. Water sharing Talking about the water-sharing of common rivers, including that of the Teesta River, Sheikh Hasina said the decision of signing the Teesta water-sharing treaty was taken jointly nine years back. “But it’s yet to be implemented," she said adding that the people living in the vicinity of the Teesta River have been suffering a lot. In reply, the Indian Prime Minister said, "We’re committed to a reasonable solution to sharing of water of all the rivers." Regarding the Rohingya issue, Sheikh Hasina expected more active role of India regarding the repatriation of over one million Rohingyas. She mentioned that the Rohingyas should be repatriated as soon as possible for preventing their involvement in drug business and terrorist activities. “The sooner the better,” she said. Also read: Dhaka-Delhi to accelerate momentum; eye next 50 years diversified ties In reply, Narendra Modi said Indian wants sustainable return of the refugees. Thanks for vaccine Sheikh Hasina thanked the Indian government for sending Covid-19 vaccine to Bangladesh and said this reflects India’s ‘neighbour first’ policy. She said the first commercial consignment of Covid-19 vaccine has been used and hoped that the rest of the consignments will be delivered soon. Sheikh Hasina also thanked the Indian Prime Minister for giving 1.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine as gift. The Indian Prime Minister said that his country gifted another consignment of 1.2 million Covid-19 vaccine and 109 life-saving ambulances. Meaningful cooperation Sheikh Hasina said that Bangladesh and India are the biggest producers and users countries. “So we must need to cooperate more meaningfully for this sector,” she said. She invited foreign direct investment in state-run jute mills under the public-private partnership. In this context, she said that indiscriminately anti-dumping duties imposition is creating unnecessary conflict between our cooperation. She drew the attention of the Indian Prime Minister for quick solution. The Prime Minister said that Bangladesh is keen to effectively use the Indian lines of credit. She put emphasis on axing ineffective projects from the list under the Indian line of credit. Also read: Dhaka, Delhi ink five MoUs to boost cooperation She asked her Indian counterpart to take steps to quickly disburse line of credit so that the projects could be implemented swiftly. Modi put emphasis on increased contacts between entrepreneurs of the two countries. The Indian prime minister also expressed his desire to be a partner to launch the Bangabandhu-2 satellite. Enhanced connectivity Sheikh Hasina said that the introduction of Moitree Setu between Bangladesh and India has added a new dimension to cooperation in the communication sector. She said that Indian state Tripura can use Chattogram Airport alongside Chattogram and Mongla ports. Stating some routes to connect Bangladesh with Nepal and Bhutan, Sheikh Hasina expected consideration from India. She said that if the motor vehicles agreement among Bangladesh, India and Nepal is signed, all three countries will be benefitted. Also read: Bangladesh, India for progress of whole world: Modi Important milestone They also reviewed bilateral relations between the two countries marking the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, the Press Secretary said. During the meeting, the Prime Minister termed 50 years of diplomatic ties between Bangladesh and India as an important milestone. Sheikh Hasina extended her thanks to Narendra Modi for accepting positively the proposal of Bangladesh for naming “Mujibnagar-Nadia Road” as Shadhinata Sharok. During the meeting, the Indian Prime Minister put emphasis on expediting the ongoing projects between Bangladesh and India. Besides, Narendra Modi said, India is going to establish “Bangabandhu Chair” at Delhi University in memory of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
International Farakka Committee (IFC), an environmental and water rights watch group, has said that agreements on basinwide water management of the natural common rivers is now a demand of the time.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday reiterated Delhi’s commitment and continued effort to complete the Interim Water Sharing arrangement for the Teesta River at the Bangladesh-India virtual summit and assured that India would support effective and timely delivery of Covid-19 vaccines.