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Teesta treaty UPSC NOTE

 Background of Recent Developments:

  • During a recent state visit to India by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that a technical team would soon visit Bangladesh to discuss the conservation and management of the Teesta river.

  • This announcement reignited speculation about the long-pending Teesta water sharing treaty between India and Bangladesh, an agreement that has been unresolved for over a decade.

India’s Official Stand:

  • Prime Minister Modi’s comment focused on the management of water flows within the Teesta rather than water sharing.

  • Following this, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra clarified that the leaders’ discussion was more about managing water flows than directly addressing water sharing.

  • West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee strongly opposed the Centre’s position, emphasizing that any discussion on the Teesta should involve the state.

Reasons for West Bengal’s Opposition:

  • Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed concern that sharing Teesta water with Bangladesh would severely impact lakhs of people in north Bengal.

  • Banerjee has consistently opposed the proposed water-sharing agreement. 

  • In 2017, Banerjee proposed alternatives, suggesting the sharing of waters from other rivers such as Torsa, Manshai, Sankosh, and Dhansai instead of Teesta.

Historical Context and Bilateral Relations:

  • India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers, making river water sharing a critical bilateral issue.

  • In 1996, India and Bangladesh signed the Ganga water sharing treaty post Farakka Barrage construction

  • The Teesta water sharing issue emerged in the 2010s.

  • In 2011, India and Bangladesh were close to signing a Teesta water-sharing agreement, but Chief Minister Banerjee withdrew support, stalling the agreement.

The 2011 Teesta Water Sharing Proposal:

  • The 2011 proposal allocated 42.5% of Teesta’s water to India and 37.5% to Bangladesh from December to March.

  • Teesta is a tributary of the Brahmaputra, originating from the Tso Lhamo Lake in north Sikkim, flowing 150 km in Sikkim and 123 km in West Bengal before entering Bangladesh, covering an additional 140 km before joining the Bay of Bengal.

  • The Teesta floodplain in Bangladesh covers 2,750 square kilometers, supporting 8.5% of its population and 14% of its crop production. 

  • However, 83% of Teesta’s catchment area is in India.

Political Considerations and Challenges:

  • Hydro-electric projects in Sikkim and the Teesta Barrage Project in West Bengal have caused erratic river flows in Bangladesh, leading to floods or water scarcity.

  • India’s technical team visit to discuss Teesta conservation in Bangladesh comes amid China’s proposal for major dredging and infrastructure work on the river, which Bangladesh has stalled since 2020.

Bangladesh’s Response and Future Prospects:

  • Prime Minister Hasina announced Bangladesh’s acceptance of India’s proposal to develop the Teesta River basin.

  • Chief Minister Banerjee raised concerns about the Teesta’s health post-hydropower projects, deforestation, and climate change impacts.

  • Banerjee questioned the Ministry of Jal Shakti’s lack of action in restoring the Teesta’s original form on the Indian side while proposing bilateral cooperation for restoration in Bangladesh.

Environmental and Legal Considerations:

  • Environmental activists have highlighted the ecological impacts of hydro-electric projects on the Teesta.

  • In October 2023, a glacial lake outburst triggered floods in the Teesta basin, killing hundreds and destroying the Teesta III hydroelectric dam.

  • International laws, including The Helsinki Rules (1966) on the Uses of Waters of International Rivers, mandate transboundary river water sharing.

  • Article 253 of the Indian Constitution authorizes the government to enter into transboundary river water-related treaties.

Concerns Over the Ganga Treaty:

  • The Ganga water sharing treaty with Bangladesh, set for renewal in 2026, completes 30 years.

  • Mamata Banerjee has noted that water sharing with Bangladesh has altered the Ganga’s morphology, causing river erosion and displacement in West Bengal.

  • Reduced silt load in the Hooghly River has impacted the Sundarban delta’s nourishment.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Teesta treaty UPSC NOTE
Teesta treaty UPSC NOTE
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