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With the water-sharing issue of the river Teesta remaining uncertain, Bangladesh and India are now discussing agreements for sharing the water of six other common rivers.

These rivers are Muhuri, Khoai, Dharla, Dudhkumar, Monu and Gumti.

Bangladesh feels that several issues need to be resolved in this regard, including the how many years the term of the agreements will be, the proportion of water to be shared between the two countries and where the water will be measured.

India has agreed with the points raised by Bangladesh pertaining to signing the water sharing agreements.

The issue was given due importance in the two countries’ Joint Rivers Commission virtual talks which ended on Wednesday. This was revealed by certain members of the Bangladesh JRC delegation.

On the last day of the two-day virtual meeting, the discussions included the need to sign an agreement to ensure proper benefits from the Ganges treaty by means of a joint survey and also about basin-based cooperation in accordance to the 2011 agreement regarding water management of common rivers.

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Bangladesh stressed three issues in the signing of agreements on the six shared rivers. These include the spots where the water will be measured, fixing the proportion of water to be shared based on the normal flow of the river, and how many years the terms of the agreements will be.
Bangladesh delegation member Malik Fida A Khan

Speaking over cell phone to Prothom Alo on Wednesday, JRC member and head of the Bangladesh delegation Md Mahmudur Rahman said that further information was required regarding the six common rivers.

In order to reach agreements on the six rivers, the two countries have already shared data on the rivers covering the period from January 1996 to December 1998, he added.

Mahmudur Rahman also said this date mostly pertains to the spots where the water of the rivers is measured. However, this data is not adequate for a draft water-sharing agreement. It is essential to know if waters of these rivers have been withdrawn upstream. Bangladesh had asked for this information. And Bangladesh will inform India about whatever information it has about water withdrawal.

Sources present at the virtual meeting said that after the Teesta agreement was washed away before it could be signed, Bangladesh has insisted on the inclusion of the states through which these six common rivers flow. These six rivers flow through West Bengal, Assam and Tripura before flowing into Bangladesh.

A member of the Bangladesh delegation and acting executive director of the Centre for Environmental and Geographical Information Services (CEGIS) Malik Fida A Khan told Prothom Alo that Bangladesh stressed three issues in the signing of agreements on the six shared rivers. These include the spots where the water will be measured, fixing the proportion of water to be shared based on the normal flow of the river, and how many years the terms of the agreements will be. India has also said that these factors are important for the agreements.

During the virtual conference in December with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, prime minister Sheikh Hasina had stressed upon speedily finalising the framework of the agreements to be signed between the two countries regarding the six common rivers Muhuri, Khoai, Dharla, Dudhkumar, Monu and Gumti.

The JRC virtual meet also discussed basin-based water management for the common rivers. The two countries gave assurance of early flood warnings, silt management and such issues.

Another member of the Bangladesh delegation at the JRC meet said that the two countries had discussed a joint survey of the Padma-Ganges barrage to ensure proper benefits from the Ganges water-sharing treaty.

This will be the first time that the two neighbours will carry out a survey on the use of water in light of the Ganges treaty.

The two countries have already exchanged drafts of the survey’s scope of work with each other.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English Ayesha Kabir.

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