Dhaka, Delhi agree on water deal

Monday, January 10, 2011

DHAKA - Bangladesh and India Monday said they have “removed all differences” and agreed on a framework regarding a 15-year interim water-sharing treaty of two common rivers - Teesta and Feni - during the dry season.

Delegations participating in a joint meeting said the agreement will be signed during a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh later this year.

The announcement came at a joint news briefing following day-long secretary-level talks of the Joint River Commission (JRC) on sharing the water of common rivers.

“We have agreed on a framework. But, we still need to do the fine tuning,” said Dhruv Vijai Singh, secretary to India’s ministry of water resources, who led the Indian delegation.

“We have worked hard to remove the differences,” he said, adding that the governments of both the countries are committed to settle all outstanding issues, the Daily Star quoted him as saying.

He said they stressed economic development of both the nations.

The details of the agreement will be settled in the minister-level meeting, the delegation said, without giving any potential date for the talks.

“Only the job of fine tuning of the treaty is remaining,” said Sheikh Mohammed Wahiduzzaman, secretary to Bangladesh’s water resources ministry, the chief of the country’s delegation.

“Hopefully, we would not have to sit in the secretary-level any more over this agreement,” he said.

The joint statement read: “The two sides also discussed to formulate a work plan on sharing the waters of other common rivers including Dharla, Dudhkumar, Manu, Khowai, Gumti and Muhuri between India and Bangladesh.”

Though the two neighbouring countries share a total of 54 rivers, Bangladesh is currently having only a treaty of sharing of water of the Ganges, signed in 1996.

The water of the Teesta is very crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the leanest period from December to March. Sometimes in December and January, the water flow comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.

The delegations have been discussing the issue for over two decades in a bid to settle it.

A Ganga Water Treaty was signed in 1996 during the earlier tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina whose visit to New Delhi in January 2010 stepped up the pace of all-round cooperation.

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