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Teesta river dispute

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Teesta river dispute:


India and Bangladesh have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over water-sharing in the Teesta. 

Adding to the existing tensions, Bangladesh is now discussing an almost $1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teesta river.

Why India is concerned and worried?

Bangladesh’s discussions with China come at a time when India is particularly wary about China following the standoff in Ladakh.

How have relations between Bangladesh and China been developing?

  • China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the foremost source of imports.
  • Recently, China 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 is the biggest arms supplier to Bangladesh.

About Teesta river:

  • Teesta river is a tributary of the Brahmaputra (known as Jamuna in Bangladesh), flowing through India and Bangladesh.
  • It originates in the Himalayas near Chunthang, Sikkimand flows to the south through West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.
  • The Teesta Barrage dam helps to provide irrigation for the plains between the upper Padma and the Jamuna.

Efforts to resolve the dispute:

Negotiations on how to share the water have been going on since 1983.

  • A 2011 interim deal – that was supposed to last 15 years – gave India 42.5 percent of the Teesta’s waters and gave Bangladesh 37.5 percent. Bengal opposed this deal so it was shelved and remains unsigned.

Bangladesh sought a fair and equitable distribution of Teesta waters from India, on the lines of the Ganga Water Treaty 1996.

  • The treaty is an agreement to share surface waters at the Farakka Barrage near their mutual border.

In 2015, the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Dhaka generated expectations to take forward the issue but it still remains unresolved.
However, In India, individual states have significant influence over transboundary agreements, impeding the policymaking process.

  • West Bengalis one of the key stakeholders of the Teesta agreement and is yet to endorse the deal.

Importance of Teesta River:

For Bangladesh:

  • Its flood plain covers about 14% of the total cropped area of Bangladesh and provides direct livelihood opportunities to approximately 73% of its population.

For West Bengal:

  • Teesta is the lifeline of North Bengal and almost half a dozen of districts of West Bengal are dependent on the waters of Teesta.



Prelims Link:

  1. Teesta river- origin, tributaries and states through which it passes.
  2. Where is Farakka barrage?
  3. About the Ganga Water Treaty 1996.
  4. Rivers flowing between India and Bangladesh.
  5. Tributaries of Brahmaputra river.

Mains Link:

Write a brief note on the geography of Teesta River and the reasons why sharing of its water between India and Bangladesh has become a dispute.

Sources: Indian Express.