Dr. Ainun Nishat has said Bangladesh and India should sit for annual hydrological assessment to resolve the water allocation of the Teesta river.
"The basin of River Teesta is confined between India and Bangladesh. It has to be solved by both countries," said Professor Emeritus, and advisor of Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research, BRAC University.
He also stated that India unilaterally is withdrawing water from the Teesta which is not acceptable ethically and also not acceptable under any international law, even under Indian law.
The 1958 law on transboundary water uses or inter state water uses also do not support this sort of diversion of water, said the expert.
Dr Nishat was speaking as the chair at the three-day-long virtual 7th International Water Conference 2022 titled "Teesta River Basin: Overcoming the Challenges"
The three-day conference organied by ActionAid Bangladesh began on Thursday.
Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed said the river is no longer a river and people now can literally walk across it in dry season.
"Local people of India also flagging issue that the dams on Teesta imposing threat to the biodiversity and the livelihood of thousands of people including violation of Indigenous rights to land,” said the Professor at Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, in his keynote presentation.
The conference will continue till January 22 under the theme ‘Teesta River Basin: Overcoming the Challenges’.
The first day of the conference focused on the thematic issue- History, Morphology and Spatiotemporal Changes of Teesta and Surrounding Rivers.
The purpose of this year's conference is to draw the attention of the international community, and national level policy makers through the collection and discussion of data on the morphology, ethnographic issues and territorial disputes of the Teesta River in order to find a solution to this problem.
The three-day-long conference will serve as a major platform for public-private authorities, NGOs, donor agencies, project implementing agencies, civil society, academics, water experts, environmentalists, and grassroots people to come together and discuss about the Teesta River.
Farah Kabir, Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh said ActionAid Bangladesh believes in people’s empowerment.
"We focus on water democracy, innovation and created connections between the scientific body, grassroots, and development practitioners," she said.
Farah said Teesta is a major source of water for agriculture, fishing, and food system. "Water and river governance, regional disputes, climate change and extreme climate crisis are consecutively impacting people’s rights. Therefore, it is crucial to protect the river through sustainable and long-term solutions."
Barrister Manzoor Hasan OBE ,Chair of the Executive Board of ActionAid International Bangladesh Society and Executive Director, Centre for Peace and Justice, BRAC University, said, “Water sharing of Teesta River is an important bilateral issue. Water commons means that water is no one’s property. Provision of water is fundamental of human rights. It is the basis for all of us to survive in this world.”
He also mentioned that this water conference is a timely initiative to draw attention of national and international community and relevant stakeholders to come to an agreement about the allocation of Teesta river.
While addressing as a special guest, former information minister Hasanul Haq Inu called for a solution of the Teesta River water allocation issue.
“Save Teesta movement is going on in North Bengal. Even Indian people also suffering in monsoon and dry season. Water management should have a dealing of political thinking,” he added.
During the discussion, Dr. Rohan D’Souza, Professor, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University, shared his view saying that not to compromise others’ rights in terms of river water including the transboundary river like Teesta.
Ashok Swain, Professor and Head, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, UNESCO Chair on International Water Cooperation identified the issues of lack of willingness and mindset of top leaders to sit together on Teesta river water allocation.
He urged for strong leadership in both India and Bangladesh to come to an agreement to resolve the issue.
Iftekhar Iqbal, Associate Professor, History and International Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Universiti Brunei Darussalam put emphasis on the government’s two hundred to three hundred years long term plan about the Teesta river that can mitigate the suffering of the people on the riverbank.
ActionAid Bangladesh has been working for a long time to ensure the importance of water resources, fair allocation of water and rights of river.
The International Water Conference has been held since 2016 with the objective of spreading people's awareness about water resources and its management, developing innovative ideas about water, encouraging various types of dialogue, forming alliances to work together on water and encouraging cross-border activities.
In continuation of this, this year's conference is being organised considering the existing crisis and potential ways of solutions in the river Teesta.