Text of MoU on interim water sharing of Kushiyara River finalised

Bangladesh and India have finalised the text of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on interim water sharing of Kushiyara River ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's proposed visit in September first week.

The two countries also welcomed finalisation of the design and location of water intake point on the Feni river to meet the drinking water needs of Sabroom town in Tripura as per the October 2019 Bangladesh-India MoU on this subject.

At the 38th ministerial level Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) meeting held in New Delhi on August 25, the two countries discussed "issues related to water-sharing treaties" of various rivers, including Teesta and Ganga. The meeting was held after a gap of twelve years. The last meeting was held in 2010.

State Minister for Water Resources Zaheed Farooque led the 17-member Bangladesh delegation at the JRC meeting while India's Jal Shakti (Water Resources) Minister Gajendra Singh Shakhawat led the Indian delegation.

AKM Enamul Hoque Shameem, deputy minister for Water Resources was also part of the Bangladesh delegation.

The meeting assumed significance as it was held after a long gap, though the technical interactions under the framework of JRC have continued in the intervening period.

Bangladesh side requested for conclusion of the long pending Teesta water sharing treaty at an early date. The Indian side assured of their utmost efforts in concluding the agreement.

Bangladesh state minister requested his Indian counterpart for his support in signing the MoU for withdrawal of water by Bangladesh and India from the common stretch of Kushiyara river at an early date. The Indian minister assured that the issue is under their consideration.

Both sides agreed to conduct the feasibility study for optimum utilization of water received by Bangladesh under the provision of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, 1996.

India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers, of which seven rivers have been identified earlier for developing the framework of water sharing agreements on priority.

During the meeting, it has been agreed to widen this area of ongoing cooperation by including eight more rivers for data exchange. The matter will be further discussed at the technical level committee of JRC. The JRC meeting was preceded by water resources secretary-level interaction.

The Joint Rivers Commission of Bangladesh and India was constituted in 1972 as a bilateral mechanism to address issues of mutual interest on common / border / transboundary rivers.

The discussions during this bilateral meeting were held on a number of ongoing bilateral issues of mutual interest including river water sharing of common rivers, sharing of flood data, addressing river pollution, conducting joint studies on sedimentation management, river bank protection works etc.

One of the important areas of cooperation, where India has been assisting Bangladesh, is sharing of real time flood data. India has recently extended the period of flood data sharing beyond 15th October to help Bangladesh address unforeseen flood events.

The JRC meeting discussed the whole gamut of the issues related to the common rivers between the two countries specially the Ganges, Teesta, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla, Dudhkumar and Kushiyara.

Apart from this, exchange of flood related data and information, river bank protection works, common basin management, and also Indian River Interlinking Project were discussed in detail.

The JRC meeting agreed to undertake some more common rivers for exchange of data and information towards preparation of the draft framework of interim water sharing agreement.

Earlier at the seventh round of the Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting held in New Delhi this year, Bangladesh and India agreed to work closely together to further deepen and strengthen cooperation in the areas of common rivers and water resources management.

No Comment on FM's Recent Remarks

The government of India has no comment on the recent remarks made by the Bangladesh foreign minister, noting that there is a debate about its accuracy.

"I understand there is a debate actually about the accuracy of those reports (by media)," Arindam Bagchi, official spokesperson at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters in a weekly briefing in New Delhi on August 25.

He said the matter has also been clarified by the Bangladesh authorities. "I have nothing to say on that (FM's remarks)."

Earlier, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said, "I did not say anything related to the allegation brought against me. I have talked about stability. I said about stability in the global context where instability is prevailing."

"So, stability is the most important. We want stability in this region, too. We don't want any instability. If we can do this, it will be meaningful in this Golden Chapter of our relations," he told reporters explaining what he wanted to say in Chattogram at a programme on Thursday night.

Regarding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's proposed visit to India next month, the MEA spokesperson said he does not have anything to say at this moment as high level visits are announced at the right time.

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