Teesta Project: A Large Chinese Investment Project on the Way to Implementation

Teesta project
Image: Teesta River by Prato9x, CC BY-SA 2.0

India hasn’t been agreeing to share just share of Teesta water with us since many years. From Indian side assurance has always been given that they were going to sign the long awaited Teesta water sharing pact/treaty with Bangladesh. At the point of 50 years of independence of Bangladesh, the issue of depriving Bangladesh of her just share in Teesta water is being highly and seriously discussed among all quarters. In the present times, the Teesta water sharing issue is being tumultuously focused on the social media in such way that it is simultaneously hurting the youth community just as it is creating an awakening among them.

Our government could well realize since last few years that either India won’t share Teesta water with Bangladesh or practise dilly-dally. That’s why our honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina adopted a project entitled: ‘Teesta Project’ three years from now in order to find an alternative to resolve the Teesta water sharing issue. Three years back Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina requested Chinese President Shi Jing Ping to modernize our Teesta river management through multi-purpose projects which every year brings curse and various plights for the people of North-western districts of Bangladesh just as China turned Hwang Ho and Yono rivers worldwide well-known as the curse/ sorrow of China into blessing for China.

What shall be done under the Teesta Project
Under the Teesta Project, massive drainage work will be done along 115 miles that the Teesta runs inside Bangladesh border. Through this, the depth of the mid river bed will be considerably reduced. Alongside, through massive drainage work many a river on the two sides of the Teesta will be recovered through river training. Huge cultivable land will be recovered in the process which will be brought under regular cultivation under huge projects. 115 kilometer 4-lane road will be constructed alongside both banks of the river. At various points, a number of barrage-cum-roads will be constructed to improve the communication system of the two banks of the mighty river. Alongside, big reservoirs will be constructed to conserve huge surplus water that flows through the river every monsoon season which will be used to develop irrigation system on both banks to irrigate crop fields during dry season. Huge industrial zones will be created on both banks of the Teesta. Attractive urbanization facilities will be developed to initiate an industrial revolution in the northern region of the country leading to huge job creation and the region will turn into an industrial city and an economic zone of the country.

Once implemented the huge Teesta Barrage Project will be able to bring about an epoch making change in the life of the people of the most poverty-stricken north-western districts of the country. The high-ups in the government including Ministers and Secretaries have created high hopes in us by expressing optimism regarding the project.

It is being known from different sources that the Indian government has been heavily pressurizing Bangladesh so that the Teesta Barrage project is never executed. According to India, this project is a threat to the security of their north-eastern region. On this plea they have been directly pressurizing Bangladesh not to implement the project on the ground of its being a potential threat to India.

According to Indian claims, the presence of several thousands of Chinese citizens working at the Teesta Barrage Project very close to India’s chicken neck region of Shiliguri will by no means be beneficial or favorable for India. This is the main reason for their opposition to this great Project of Bangladesh.

On the other hand, India has been assuring Bangladesh that West Bengal Government will sign Teesta Water Sharing Pact with Bangladesh following ensuing general elections when Narendra Modi is expected to form government in West Bengal. And, thereafter, there will be no need for the proposed Teesta Barrage Project. The Indian Foreign Secretary Harshwa Bordhwan Shringla during his last October ‘20 visit to Bangladesh might have attempted to convince our Prime Minister to this effect by offering such type of a proposal. But the Trinmul Congress party has again won the elections in the West Bengal. On the other hand, Indian Ambassador to Bangladesh H.E. Mr Bikrom Doraishwami has claimed at a Diplomatic Correspondents Association Bangladesh (DICAB) meeting on 15 February 2021 in Dhaka that India doesn’t practise ‘Bossing’ (Dadagiri, that is, elder brotherly domination) with Bangladesh. But why, then, they actually oppose Bangladesh’s Teesta Barrage Project? Isn’t this Dadagiri (unlawful bossing)?
How can we term this kind of ominous/ heinous activity? Why should the Chinese technicians working for the proposed Teesta Barrage Project be harmful for India? The Chinese technicians will work in our territory. What can be the reason for Indian objections to this? Besides, the Shiliguri chicken neck corridor is far away from our proposed project. How can the Chinese workers conduct spying activities against India working at a place located at several hundred miles inside Bangladesh from India-Bangladesh border? Following inception of the project at the south-east downstream of the Teesta, the distance of the project area from the India-Bangladesh border area will just continue to increase gradually with the progress of the project toward upstream. In our view, such type of Indian unfair insistence is just nothing but an excellent classic undue bossing- Dadagiri. Following Narendra Modi’s assumption to power in India in 2014, India foiled a Chinese funded deep sea project of Bangladesh at Sonadiya under construction by means of vetoing the same. Fortunately, Bangladesh luckily got the opportunity to construct an alternative deep sea port at MatarBari, Moheshkhali the work of which is at present speedily going on in full swing with Japanese funding. India has never eyed any of Bangladesh’s financial activities with China with a favorable view. India’s position is still remaining the same as before regarding the matter. Further, India also didn’t take the matter easy that Bangladesh purchased two submarines from China.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s India visit 7-10 April 2017 India tried to sign a long-term Defense Pact with Bangladesh. But, Bangladesh was able to technically avoid the issue and preserved the interest of Bangladesh that time. India has been in constant attempt to practice its undue big brotherly bossing in the region (Regional Dadagiri). The strong regional organization of this southern region called SAARC has been functionally ineffective mainly due to Indian non-cooperation. Whereas, there were immense potentials to bring about massive changes in the life of the people of this region through this organization: SAARC.

However, Bangladesh isn’t dependent on India in any respect: economically, politically or socially or the like. Economic development of Bangladesh has never been dependent on India’s mercy and favor. Bangladesh’s economy is no more dependent on others’ favor and kindness, rather, we have lifted us to the level of development and are already on the way to achieve medium income level. Our country is also on the on the way to achieve prosperity in food production as well. Our foreign currency reserve has now exceeded 43 billion dollars. Our national productivity rate is higher than that of India. Bangladesh is ahead of India in all respect even in Covid-19 era. We are also more successful in facing Covid-19 as well.

Annual Indian export to Bangladesh is as enormous as 5 thousand Crore/billion dollars while Bangladesh export to India is as little as only 68 crore dollar! Immigrants from Bangladesh send 4-5 billion dollar per annum in different ways while no remittance comes to Bangladesh from India. Furthermore, there is almost no Indian investment in Bangladesh, so to say.

The Teesta is a big harmful river for us and it’s a river of irresponsible behavior. Repeated flooding in the river during monsoon months causes massive havoc and plights and sufferings for the people of the northern districts and the north-western region of the country has been experiencing massive damages every year. On the other hand, during the dry months people live and survive as if they were in a desert land for want of water. On the upstream of the Teesta at Gojoldoba, West Bengal, India unilaterally withdraws Teesta water completely blocking the flow of the river and the river goes extremely dry during dry season and, so to say, most of the time of the year. India is our best friend. We always remember India as well as we respect and honor them for their active cooperation during our war of liberation. We are thoroughly indebted to them for their role at that time. But, unfortunately, when after the last three decades of multiple talks between India and Bangladesh the India-Bangladesh Teesta Water Sharing Pact was scheduled to be signed in 2019, the Indian side declined on the plea of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta’s non-cooperation. The Pact is yet not signed and no possibility of its being signed is also not in the sight. There is no conflict between Teesta Water sharing Pact with India and our Teesta Barrage Project, the two are totally separate issues. The Teesta Barrage Project will have to be executed in the interest of our nation even if the Teesta Water Sharing Pact is signed with India.

But, India has slowed down our original Teesta Barrage Project by keeping Teesta Water Sharing Pact hanging. What is the mystery behind this? For what reason should we sit idle without implementing our own Teesta Project? It is necessary to implement our Teesta Project in the interest of the country in general and for increasing the facilities of our people’s life and income earning in particular. As a result of signing the Teesta Water Pact we might get some water in dry season but there will be no guarantee to keep ourselves safe from the flood water during monsoon months. On the other hand, there is also no guarantee that we will receive sufficient water during dry season. That’s why Indian should be reminded to sign the pact as soon as possible. According to International Law, it can by no means be acceptable that the pact between two independent countries should remain blocked due to opposition of the State of a country.
The initial cost of the Teesta Barrage project entitled: Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project has been estimated 8 (eight) thousand crore Taka. The project is scheduled to be implemented with completely Chinese financial aid. To this effect, China has already given green signal to the Bangladesh authorities. Now, it’s just our turn to decide on the matter. We hope that our wise Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will go ahead with the implementation of of the Project in the greater interest of the nation just as she has been implementing the Padma Project ignoring objections of all quarters. It is necessary to go ahead with the Project after passing it at ECNEC as soon as possible, for it’s our issue and, certainly, at the end of the day it’s we that have to resolve it. No doubt, it’s we that have to understand our development and our benefit and harms. And Bangladesh has the capacity to realize that. Finally, we hope very soon we would view the visible initiatives of this project.

Wave of delight flows among the Teesta Basin people of the northern region of the country as the report goes that the Great Teesta Project was going to be implemented. In a former letter one month ago Bangladesh asked China to grant project funding on easy terms. As this report was released, the Teesta basin community has been highly cheerful. Eid-like Happy moments sweeping the Teesta basin community on both banks starting from Dalia point of Nilphamary district up to Sundorgonj of Gaibandha district. Once the Great Teesta Project is implemented by China, the wheel of luck of the people of Teesta basin will greatly change. The char (isles) people are so happy with the prospect of their being self-reliant economically. It has been known that following Bangladesh’s formal letter for easy terms funding for the Teesta Project, successful talks/dialogue is being on between the Chinese and Bangladesh diplomatic quarters. In implementing the project, the Bangladesh side is giving high priority just as the Chinese side is ready to provide necessary funding on easy terms.

An inquiry finding says that the Teesta Basin community on both sides of the river have been propagating the report of the ensuing Teesta Project to be implemented soon like the happy news of sighting the Eid crescent moon. Everyone at markets and shopping centers as well as in train and bus and wherever they meet each other they have been propagating the happy news of Teesta Project being on the verge of execution. Some are so joyous that advancing one step farther they were telling that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will remain as history to the people of the northern region of the country for her courage to damn care the undue bossing/dadagiri of Indian government. The result of our government’s strong Friendship to all, enmity with none policy is this development that the Teeta Project is going to be executed. The Project is likely to bring about largescale changes in the luck of 200 million people of the northern districts and that’s why they all feel so happy.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken up the initiatives to implement the Master plan centering round the Mighty Teesta River with a view to permanently make the poverty-stricken northern districts prosperous financially. The cost of the project has been estimated at 8 (eight) thousand and 200 crore Taka (BDT 82 billion). The works of project formulation and river observation have been going on for last two years by Chinese organization China Power & China RiverYellow. The Teesta Project will be modern, attractive and time-fitting. The plights of crores of northern people will be removed by means of dredging the mighty Teesta known/famous as the Crazy River. The main components of the project shall include:

  1. River dredging: 108 kilometer
  2. 173 km river bank safeguard construction on both sides
  3. Dredging of isles (small islands)
  4. Construction of satellite cities on both the banks
  5. Recovery of agricultural/cultivable land by means of removing sand
  6. Preservation of asset worth BDT 1,13,000 crores (BDT1,130 bln)

In addition, crops worth Taka 20,000 crores (BDT 200 bln) will be grown/produced per annum utilising the facilities of the project. In short, once this proposed China funded project is executed, the wheels/ fate of the people of 5 northern districts will change substantially.Once the proposed Teesta project scheduled to be executed by China is implemented there will be no need for Bangladesh to get any additional water from India. Due to dredging the Teesta river bed depth will be increased by 10 (ten) meters. As a result, the Teesta will never submerge its neighbouring villages, markets, bazars and rural business hubs under its flood water. On the other hand, it will not get dry during dry season. There will be arrangements available for navigation on the river through conservation of necessary water round the year. A river port as well as police station, coast guard and army camp will be established for the purpose of maintaining good law and order situation.

It has been gathered that under the project different facilities including planned satellite cities will be established on both banks of the river in the likeness of Chinese Su Kiyan city in Ziang Su Province. Furthermore, there will be arrangements for river dredging and river training, river erosion resistance system, modern irrigation system, fisheries project and, finally, tourism centers will also be established as well as. These will lead to creation of 700,000- 1,000,000 (seven-ten lakh) jobs for people. Thus the long awaited project entitled: Teeta Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project will be implemented to fulfill the long cherished aspiration of the people of 5 (five) poverty-stricken north-western districts of the country including Nilphamary, Rangpur, Lalmonirhat, Kurigram and Gaibandha. Three Chinese delegations are working in these five Teesta Basin districts who have advised to include the above mentioned components in the project. The project will also include the following:

  1. 220 meter guide embankment along the two sides of the river
  2. There will be marine drives on two sides of the embankment in the likeness of sea coast so that the tourists can go on long drive to enjoy the beauty of nature as well as for learning
  3. There will be arrangements for transportation of goods using this road
  4. Hotels, motels, restaurants and tourism cities will be developed on both sides of the river
  5. Planned modern cities, towns and ports will be developed
  6. The Teesta Basin will turn into a beautiful city in the likeness of Su-kiyan city of Ziyang- Su Province of East China.

In this connection, it may be recalled that when Bangladesh started to execute its irrigation project at Dalia point in the northern region called Teesta Irrigation Project, India formulated an irrigation project at Gazaldoba of Kaligonj, 65 (sixty-five) kilometers upstream from Dalia. India has been controlling Teesta river water through this project. Consequently, Teesta Basin suffers from drought and repeated flooding every year. Thousands of river erosion victims have been losing their homes and belongings; whereas, India has been keeping the proposed Teesta water sharing Pact hanging for long. That’s why the present Bangladesh government has adopted the Teesta Project to save the millions of Teesta Basin people from multiple suffering and longstanding plights. Once the Great Teesta project is executed, the economic prosperity of the five north-western districts including Nilphamary, Rangpur, Lalmonirhat, Kurigram and Gaibandha will take permanent shape. People will get job and the public life of the region will have visible changes. The Project will put an end to the piteous days of the northern people, especially the Teesta Basin community.

Concerned sources informed that at the initiatives to implement the great Chinese project, some quarters are spreading evil propaganda against the project. According to them, if this China funded project is implemented then Bangladesh-India relations will get worsened. The government sources have, however, ruled out such concerns saying this is a development project of Bangladesh. All the countries of the world were invited to invest in the project and Chinese government has come forward to invest.

Several months ago when the report spread that the Teesta Project was going to be implemented with Chinese funding, India created barriers. Indian mass-media reported in different ways that Bangladesh will be out of India’s control if such a China funded project is implemented in Bangladesh. Dhaka is now doing what Delhi’s south block commands. But, the Chinese invest will get Bangladesh of India’s control. However, Bangladesh has decided in favor of Chine investment in the project ignoring India’s objections.

The Executive Engineer of Lalmonirhat Water Development Board Md Mizanur Rahman informed that the Ministry of Water Resources, GoB in a letter informed his office that the Government of Bangladesh has formulated planning, drawing and design towards implementation of the Teesta Master Plan. The Water Resources Ministry and the Ministry of Finance analyzed/ reviewed everything and have given final approval. They want to implement this Master Plan within next five years of the present government’s term. In regard to this, Additional Chief Engineer and Chief Engineer of Rangpur Zone Jyoti Prosad Ghosh says, The Teesta Project is a big project of the present government. The Project will be implemented with Chinese funding. Everything in regard to this project is being done from the Water Resources Ministry. As far as my knowledge goes, the Planning Ministry has been maintaining correspondence in regard to the funding of the project.

Abul Quasem Haider
আবুল কাসেম হায়দার

সাবেক সহ সভাপতি এফবিসিসিআই, বিটিএমইএ, বিজিএমইএ , বেসরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় সমিতি, প্রতিষ্ঠতা চেয়ারম্যান ইস্টার্ন ইউনির্ভাসিটি ও ইসলামিক ফাইন্যান্স এন্ড ইনভেস্টমেন্ট লি:, অষ্ট্রেলিয়ান ইন্টারন্যাশনাল স্কুল, আবুল কাসেম হায়দার মহিলা কলেজ সন্দ্বীপ, চট্টগ্রাম, সাবেক সিনেট সদস্য ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়।

তিনি আজীবন সদস্য : এশিয়াটিক সোসাইটী বাংলাদেশ, বাংলা একাডেমী, চট্টগ্রাম সমিতি, সন্দ্বীপ সমিতি ঢাকা ।

লেখক দৈনিক আজকের আওয়াজ ও সাপ্তাহিক প্যানোরামা সম্পাদকের দায়িত্ব পালন করছেন।

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Engr. Mohd. Hasan Uddoula
Engr. Mohd. Hasan Uddoula
10 months ago

Teesta mega project is a very good initiative to eliminate the property of 5 Districts in Rangpur Division. It will increase food productions, create employment opportunities, boost up tourism, New EPZ, Satellite cities and securities. We hope that this project will start soon under the leadership of P.M. Hasina Government on priority. Thanks to all.