What is Teesta Water Dispute?

Teesta Water dispute is a dispute on Teesta river sharing agreement between India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh wanted equitable distribution of Teesta water with India on the lines of Ganga Water Treaty of 1996, but nothing materialised. This article lucidly explains the background behind Teesta Water Dispute, origin and tributaries of the river.

Latest context on Testa River Dispute – 

  • Bangladesh is likely to receive an almost USD 1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teesta river. The management and restoration project is aimed at managing the river basin efficiently, controlling floods and tackling the water crisis in Bangladesh in the summers.
    • The Teesta river water conflict is one of the most contentious issues between India and Bangladesh and the discussion comes amidst the ongoing India-China standoff in Ladakh.
    • Highlights of the relation between china and Bangladesh-
      • China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the foremost source of imports. In 2019, the trade between the two countries was USD 18 billion.
      • Recently, it declared zero duty on 97% of imports from Bangladesh. The concession flowed from China’s duty-free, quota-free programme for the Least Developed Countries.
      • China has promised around USD 30 billion worth of financial assistance to Bangladesh.
      • China is the biggest arms supplier to Bangladesh. As a result, Bangladesh forces are equipped with Chinese arms including tanks, missile launchers, fighter aircraft and several weapons systems.
Highlights of India Bangladesh Relations

  1. Both enjoy a robust relationship. Bangladesh’s crackdown against anti-India outfits has helped the Indian government maintain peace in the eastern and Northeast states.
  2. India also grants 15 to 20 lakh visas every year to Bangladesh nationals for medical treatment, tourism, work and just entertainment.
  3. Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. In 2018-19, India’s exports and imports with Bangladesh stood at USD 9.21 billion and USD 1.04 billion respectively.
  4. Bangladesh has been a key partner for India in the Neighbourhood First Policy. Know about India’s Foreign Policy on the given link.
  5. Both have cooperated on pandemic-related moves. Bangladesh supported India’s call for a regional (SAARC) emergency fund for fighting Covid-19 and declared a contribution of USD 1.5 million in March 2020. Check out the details on the South Asian Association for Regional Corporation- SAARC on the linked page. 
  6. The first trial run for trans-shipment of Indian cargo through Bangladesh to Northeast states under a pact on the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports took place in July 2020.
  7. However, the proposed countrywide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and CAA 2019 have irritated the relations. further details on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 are given on the linked page. 

Know in detail about India – Bangladesh Relation on the given link. 

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About The Teesta River Dispute

  1. Teesta is a 414 km long river flowing from India to the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh. Almost half a dozen districts in West Bengal is dependent on this river.
  2. Teesta river provides livelihood to approximately 73% of Bangladesh population as per a report furnished by Asia Foundation in 2013.
  3. In 1983 a deal was proposed for equitable sharing but the implementation hit a roadblock. The mean annual flow of the river is 60 billion cubic metres. A significant amount of it flows during the monsoon season i.e. between June to September. During lean season i.e. from October to May, the flow is only 500 million cubic metres per month.
  4. In the month from December to March, Bangladesh wants 50% of the water supply, whereas India has claimed a share of 55%.
  5. In 2011, the agreement did not fructify due to objections from West Bengal Chief Minister. As per the constitution of India, Water is a state subject and approval of all the stakeholders is required for the deal to go ahead.
  6. In 2019 External Affairs Minister of India had a meeting with his Bangladesh counterparts and they were still unable to reach a consensus on the water-sharing agreement.

What is the Origin of the Teesta River?

It originates from Tso Lhamo lake in Sikkim. This lake is at an altitude of 5,330 metres. This lake is 118 km from Darjeeling. As per some sources, in addition to Tso Lhamo, even Teesta Khangse Glacier is the source of origin of Teesta river. It is located at an altitude of approximately 7000 metres.

Is Teesta River a Tributary of Brahmaputra River?

Teesta River is a tributary of Brahmaputra river. Brahmaputra river is called Jamuna River in Bangladesh. Teesta River crosses Rangpur region of Bangladesh and joins the Jamuna river at Chilmari, after flowing for a distance of 320 Km.

Which is the Major Tributary of Teesta River?

Rangeet River is the major tributary of Teesta River. Rangeet river is the largest river in Sikkim. Rangeet river joins Teesta river at a place known as Tribeni.

Aspirants can go through the following relevant links to prepare comprehensively for the upcoming UPSC Civil services exams-

The Major Indian River Systems Indo-Bangladesh Connectivity & Economic Partnership Ashuganj Port
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Commonwealth of Nations World Trade Organization (WTO)
China Opens Dam on Brahmaputra River Indus Waters Treaty Inter-State Water Disputes Tribunal 
National Water Framework Bill, India – 2016 White Shipping Agreement: Importance, Definition South China Sea Dispute
Ken Betwa River Linking – Project Details Interlinking of Rivers – National River Linking Project  UNCLOS: UN’s Convention on Law of the Sea
United Nations World Water Development Report India-China Relations National Waterways in India

Multiple Choice Question

Consider the following statements

  1. In India, the Teesta river flows through the Darjeeling district and the cities of Rangpo, Jalpaiguri and Mekhliganj. It joins the Jamuna River at Fulchhari in Bangladesh.
  2. The Brahmaputra-Jamuna is a classic example of a braided river and is highly susceptible to channel migration and avulsion. It is characterised by a network of interlacing channels with numerous sandbars enclosed between them. The sandbars, known in Bengali as chars, do not occupy a permanent position.
  3. The Brahmaputra, called the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet, Siang/Dihang River in Arunachal Pradesh and Luit, Dilao in Assam, is a transboundary river that flows through Tibet, India and Bangladesh. It is the ninth largest river in the world by discharge and the 15th longest.
  4. Lake Manasarovar or Manas Sarovar is a high altitude freshwater lake fed by the Kailash Glaciers near Mount Kailash in Burang County, Ngari Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, China.

Choose the correct answer from the below given-options

A) Only statements 1, 2 and 3 are true.

B) Only statements 2, 3 and 4 are true.

C) None of the above-given statements is true.

D) All the above-given statements are true.

Answer: D

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