A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on withdrawal of water from the upstream of the Kushiyara River is expected to be signed in the upcoming India visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Bangladesh and India have initially reached a consensus over the issue at the secretary-level meeting of the joint river commission (JRC) on Tuesday and it is likely to be finalised at a ministerial meeting at Delhi on Thursday.
The authorities have already started preparing for the MoU signing between the two neighbouring nations.
According to diplomatic sources, the secretary-level meeting discussed issues related to cooperation in sharing water of common rivers. Later, the both sides reached an initial consensus over sharing water of Kushiyara River. They also reviewed the agenda of the ministerial meeting slated for Thursday.
Water Resources Secretary Kabir Bin Anwar led the Bangladesh delegation at the meeting while his Indian counterpart Pankaj Kumar represented his country.
The ministerial-level meeting is being held after over a decade. State Minister for Water Resources Zahid Faruk will lead the Bangladesh delegation at the 38th ministerial meeting while India’s Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat will represent his nation.
Sources said the ministerial meeting may discuss the issue of water sharing from the Teesta River ahead of the India trip of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The issue is likely to gain pace through the meeting.
Besides, the agreement on withdrawal of water from the Kushiyara River and the announcement for a joint study on the utilisation of the Ganges water are expected to be finalised.
The JRC ministerial-meeting is also expected to discuss the agreements of Manu, Dharla, Khowai, Gomti and Dudhkumar rivers, which have been among the topics over the last few years.
The Ganges water sharing agreement will expire in 2026, but the water of the shared river could not be utilized fully. A joint survey is supposed to be done in this regard. The JRC meeting may take a decision so that the survey can be announced after the meeting of prime ministers.
According to the JRC, Bangladesh wants to use the Kushiyara river water to cultivate crops in 5,000 acres of land in Sylhet. Water will be extracted from the river and irrigated to the croplands through three canals. But it requires formal consent from India to extract water from the common river.
The diplomatic sources at both countries said India has recently shed light on the issue of water management of the common rivers. India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar, at an international conference on rivers in Guwahati, mentioned the issue of coordinated action for water management of 54 common rivers.
The last ministerial-level meeting was held in March 2010. The meeting was supposed to finalise an interim agreement on sharing water of the Teesta River, but it did not happen due to some issues.
A draft of the interim agreement was formulated later in 2011, but the deal was not signed between Bangladesh and India as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee strongly opposed it.
There is no possibility to sign the agreement on sharing water of the Feni river despite keen interest from the Indian side. This deal was almost finalised in 2011, but Bangladesh refrained from signing the deal due to disagreement on Teesta water sharing.