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24 October, 2018 00:00 00 AM

No ministerial-level JRC meeting in 8 years

No ministerial-level JRC meeting in 8 years

Apart from the Teesta river agreement, which is yet to be inked, other disputes regarding common rivers with India still remain unresolved as no ministerial-level meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC)  has been held over the past eight years. The 37th JRC ministerial-level meeting took place in New Delhi in March 2010 while the 38th meeting was scheduled to be held in Dhaka in 2011. Sources in the water resources ministry say there is no possibility of any such meeting at this moment as national polls are drawing near in both Bangladesh and India.

According to the sources, the water-related issues would remain unresolved until a new government assumes charge in New Delhi after completion of the next parliamentary elections there. Meanwhile, farmlands and crops adjacent to the river Titas are being destroyed and polluted due to the discharge of untreated sewerage water into Bangladesh territory from Tripura through the Jhanjhi river, JRC sources told The Independent yesterday.

The issue was discussed at a technical-level JRC meeting, and the Indian side promised to discharge the polluted water after proper treatment in an effluent treatment plant (ETP). But they failed to keep their promises, the sources added.

Besides, despite the finalisation of all formalities after a survey, the Indian side refused to sign the final agreement on a two-km stretch of the undemarcated Mahurirchar land, saying the demarcation was flawed, said the JRC sources .  

According to them, India demanded a fresh survey of the Muhurirchar land, although the survey by both Bangladesh and Indian officials had been completed.

The sources said the unwillingness of state governments, particularly that of West Bengal, poses the biggest problem for the Indian side in resolving the Teesta water and land boundary issues.

There are 54 common rivers between Bangladesh and India. Of the 54 rivers, India had signed only one treaty in 1996 for the water of the Ganges. The disputes regarding the sharing of the waters of the Teesta, Dharala,

Dudhkumar, Monu, Khowai, Gomti and Muhuri rivers are yet to be resolved at the JRC level.

According to ministry sources, the Indian government declined to sign the Ganges Barrage Treaty, saying that the upstream people and land would be affected by the barrage construction.

Bangladesh has sent a note verbale to India in December last year, seeking technical and financial assistance so that it can do a study to ensure the optimum use of Ganges water after the agreement on the Ganges Barrage failed to materialise, the JRC sources said.

The Indian government was yet to reply to the Bangladesh’s note verbale, added the sources.

As per provision, four ministerial-level JRC meetings must be held each year, JRC director Mahmudur Rahman told this correspondent. “Draft agreements on water-sharing of the Teesta and Feni rivers are ready, and they will be implemented only after being signed by senior officials of India,” he said in reply to a query.

According to Rahman, the ministry has been trying to hold at least a secretary-level JRC meeting through the foreign ministry so that it could identify the unresolved disputes. “We’ve repeatedly reminded the Indian side about the matter through the foreign ministry, but have not received any response yet,” he added.

Sources said it has become difficult to protect river banks from erosion along the border in Rajshahi, Chapainwabganj, Rangpur, Kurigram and Sylhet districts. The problem has to be taken up at the JRC level, they added.

As per the Mujib-Indira treaty of 1974, the midstream of the rivers forms the border between the two countries. But as the rivers have shifted their courses inside Bangladesh territory, Bangladeshis are being deprived of their cultivable land, which has fallen on the Indian side following river erosion, according to sources in the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB).

The rivers constituting the border often changed their course due to erosion inside Bangladesh territory, creating problems for the people living along the frontiers.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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