1st June 2019
Safiar Rahman, General Secretary
Save Teesta, Save the River Committee
7 September 2020
Shafiar Rahman, General Secretary
Save Teesta, Save the River Committee

People adjacent of Teesta River are dreaming a city like Switzerland and Singapore while the government has taken a mega plan to develop the Teesta Region with financial assistance of about eight thousands crore taka of Chinese government. “The beach-like marine drives would be built in the both side of the river Teesta, so that tourist and people go long drive smoothly, hotel-motel and power plant would be built”, leaders of the movement committee on `Save the Teesta, Save the River’ said. On 8 September 2020, on a consultative meeting, the leaders of the committee has also expressed their gratitude to the Prime Minister for hearing their long times demand.

Read more:
Dammed river, dead river: A case study on Teesta
Package Deal Between Bangladesh and India
Houses are disappearing in front of eye…
Dilemma Barrages of India and Bangladesh and people suffering
‘Flooding has become very likely in Teesta basin after India opened 18 gates at the Gajoldoba Barrage on Tuesday,’ WDB executive engineer Rabiul Islam told New Age correspondent in Lalmonirhat. Frequent opening and closure of gates of the barrages built upstream Teesta across the border in India have turned the river ever-more unpredictable, causing huge destruction to life and property in northern Bangladesh every year. (10 September 2020)

LOOKING THE TEESTA HISTORY

The Teesta River originates at TsoLamo, India and flows through the states of Sikkim and West Bengal in India and the Rangpur division in Bangladesh before pouring into the Brahmaputra River at Chilmari, Bangladesh. The Teesta is one of the 54 rivers that enter Bangladesh from upstream India before flowing into the Bay of Bengal.

There was an agreement between the two countries on the exchange of data to prepare a framework for interim sharing agreements for six rivers – Manu, Muhuri, Khowai and Gomati of Tripura and Dharla of Bangladesh and Dudhkumar of West Bengal. But the crucial issue of water sharing of the Teesta could not be resolved for the last nine years due to stiff opposition from the West Bengal government.

The river of Teesta is 315 km in length, of which 113 km flow though Bangladesh. The Teesta is 0.70 km to 5.5 km wide in its Bangladesh part, its average width being 3.1 km. Land of both banks of the river disappears every monsoon due to tidal surges and river erosion. Besides, the river has no water in the dry seassion. Every ear, the government takes some measures to provide relief to the local people, but there have been no results of such measures yet, said an official of Bangladesh Water Development Board.

Against this backdrop, the Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration project has been undertaken. Even so, a shortage of funds has been a barrier to its implementation, notes the Bangladesh Water Development Board. The Bangladesh Water Development Board signed a memorandum of understanding in September 2016 with the Power Construction Corporation of China or Powerchina to conduct a technical assessment, make detailed designs, and undertake the construction work of the project. The MOU is also supposed to help the Bangladesh government get a loan from China. 

Powerchina submitted a master plan relating to the Sustainable River Management project in Bangladesh, following which a feasibility study report that included estimates was prepared. The cost of the proposed project is about $983.27 million. Of the amount, China will provide $853.05 million as a loan. Apart from the reclaimed land, about 1,400 lakh cubic metres of the river will be dredged, and a 224.30 km dam will be built and repaired. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sought Chinese assistance on her visit to Beijing July, 2019 for the implementation of the Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration project. Chinese President Xi Jinping had assured Hasina of his support. In the industrial park on the site of the project, there will be garment factories, textile mills, fertilizer factories, agricultural products processing plants, feed factories and a warehouse.  When implemented, the project will boost the economy of the area through creating new jobs. The poor people and women of the area will be privy to at least 30 percent of the non-technical work relating to the project. Agricultural produce from the land will be transported for sale to cities like Dhaka and Chattogram. The project plan also includes a satellite town to be built within Rangpur Division. 

“We will now prepare a project proposal based on the feasibility study and we have written to the Economic Relations Division of the finance ministry for funds,” said Bangladesh Water Development Board Managing Director AM Aminul Haque. “We will start work after receiving the funds and expect to complete it by 2024.”

The Daily Star wrote, With years of diplomatic negotiations with India over the Teesta river’s management leading to no visible output, the Ministry of Water Resources is now seeking to get it done by China, that too with a loan from the latter. In a letter to the Economic Relations Division (ERD) last month, the ministry sought a $983.27 million loan from China to implement a “Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project”.

There are three to four hydro-electricity projects on Teesta in Sikkim, India where the river originates and two irrigation projects in West Bengal, according to Syed Muazzem Ali, a former Bangladesh high commissioner to India. A dam constructed on the Indian side causes the water flow to reduce downstream in winter, leading to a water crisis for two months on the Bangladesh side, said Md Kabir Bin Anwar, senior secretary to the ministry.

However, a 2017 BBC report seemingly warned of “debt-trap diplomacy”. It reported a large group of researchers outside China having compiled a major database detailing virtually all of China’s aid to recipient countries. Citing more than 5,000 projects found across 140 countries, it revealed that China and the US rivalled each other in terms of how much they offer to other countries. At least a quarter of the money given out under the traditional definition of aid by Western industrialised nations represents a direct grant, not a loan that needs to be repaid. That aid is given with the main goal of developing the economic development and welfare of recipient countries. In contrast, only 21 per cent of the money that China gives to other countries can be considered as traditional aid. The “lion’s share” of that money is given in commercial loans that have to be repaid to Beijing with interest. The team’s other major finding: when China gives out traditional aid, the recipient countries reap impressive economic rewards. For a long period, there were suspicions that Chinese aid projects were only set up to benefit China; infrastructure projects built by imported Chinese workers, for instance, that did little to improve the lives of people on the ground. However, this research showed that China is just as capable of managing development aid projects as Western donors.The researchers showed that both Beijing and Washington tend to offer money to countries which support them at the United Nations. But for China, economics plays a key role: Beijing is often focused on promoting Chinese exports or market-rate loans where China wants to get the loan repaid with interest. Moreover, though these Chinese loans are attractive for fewer strings being attached, in the case of Bangladesh there have been conditions for appointing Chinese contractors. Several Chinese companies were interested in implementing this project but the Chinese government was yet to give a green signal, said Md Shahriar Kader Siddiky, joint secretary (Asia wing) to the ERD. The ministry needs to fill up a Chinese application form seeking the loan, he said. “We will send the documents to the Chinese embassy for including the project under applications seeking Chinese funds.”

All the world is full of sufferings, It is also full of overcoming

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