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Kushiyara River Treaty


For the first time in 26 years, India and Bangladesh agreed to share the waters of a significant transboundary river, the Kushiyara, while negotiations over a long-delayed agreement to share the Teesta River’s waters, which are politically sensitive are still ongoing.


GS II: India & Its Neighborhood – Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Kushiyara agreement?
  2. How will Bangladesh use the water?
  3. Why is the water from the Kushiyara so important for Rahimpur Canal?
  4. Teesta River water sharing issue

What is the Kushiyara agreement?

  • Over the last century, the flow of the Barak river has changed in such a way that the bulk of the river’s water flows into Kushiyara while the rest goes into Surma.
  • The agreement is aimed at addressing part of the problem that the changing nature of the river has posed before Bangladesh as it unleashes floods during the monsoon and goes dry during the winter when demand of water goes up because of a crop cycle in Sylhet.
Details of the agreement:
  • Under this MoU, Bangladesh will be able to withdraw 153 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water from the Kushiyara out of the approximately 2,500 cusecs of water that is there in the river during the winter season.
Benefits to Bangladesh from the supply:
  • Approximately 10,000 hectares of land and millions of people will benefit from the water that will flow through a network of canals in Sylhet benefiting the farmers involved in Boro rice, which is basically the rice cultivated during the dry season of December to February and harvested in early summer.
    • Bangladesh has been complaining that the Boro rice cultivation in the region had been suffering as India did not allow it to withdraw the required water from the Kushiyara.
  • The agreement addresses Bangladesh’s concern over water supply along the river, during the winter months but flood control in the basin of Kushiyara is expected to require much more work.

How will Bangladesh use the water?

  • The water of Kushiyara will be channelled through the Rahimpur Canal project in Sylhet.
  • The Rahimpur Canal project in Zakiganj upazila or subdivision of Sylhet was built to help the farmers access Kushiyara’s water but the facility used to remain dry during the lean season without serving the purpose for which it was built.
  • The eight km long canal is the only supplier of water from the Kushiyara to the region and Bangladesh has built a pump house and other facilities for withdrawal of water that can now be utilised.

Why is the water from the Kushiyara so important for Rahimpur Canal?

  • The water of the Kushiyara has been used for centuries in Sylhet’s subdivisions like the Zakiganj, Kanaighat and Beanibazar areas.
  • But Bangladesh has witnessed that the flow and volume of water in the canal has reduced during the lean season.
  • The utility of the river and the canal during the lean/winter season had gone down, affecting cultivation of rice as well as a wide variety of vegetables for which Sylhet is famous.
  • The additional water of Kushiyara through the Rahimpur Canal therefore is the only way to ensure steady supply of water for irrigation of agriculture fields and orchards of the subdivisions of Sylhet.
India’s objection to the Rahimpur Canal
  • India objected to the clearing and dredging of canal.
  • It claimed that the dyke and other infrastructure interfered in border security as Kushiyara itself forms part of the border between the two sides.
  • However, the agreement indicates that the economic benefits possible from the river outweighed the security

Teesta River water sharing issue:

  • Teesta River originates from the Pahunri (or Teesta Kangse) glacier in Sikkim, flows through the northern parts of West Bengal before entering Bangladesh. It merges with the Brahmaputra River (or Jamuna in Bangladesh). The river is a major source of irrigation to the paddy growing greater Rangpur region of Bangladesh.
    • In 1983, an ad hoc arrangement on sharing water was made, according to which Bangladesh got 36% and India 39% of the waters, while the remaining 25% remained unallocated. The transient agreement could not be implemented.
    • Bangladesh has sought an equitable distribution of Teesta waters, on the lines of Ganga Water Treaty of 1996.
    • In 2011 India and Bangladesh finalized an arrangement, by which India would get 42.5% and Bangladesh 37.5% while remaining 20% would flow unhindered in order to maintain a minimum water flow of the river. This agreement was not signed due to opposition from chief minister of West Bengal.
What are the hurdles to the Teesta agreement?
  • The Kushiyara agreement is relatively smaller in scale in comparison to Teesta that involves West Bengal, which has problems with the proposal.
  • The Kushiyara agreement did not require a nod from any of the States like Assam from which the Barak emerges and branches into Kushiyara and Surma.

-Source: The Hindu

June 2024