Vedic mythology tells you that Teesta originated from Parvati. But geographically, the river originates in Chitamu Lake in the Sikkim Himalayas. Her name changed a few times before she finally decided like a coy mistress to meet the Ganges in Bangladesh.
She was the source of life- water for the drought-prone northern parts of the Bengal delta. A few rivers even owe their existence to her. Teesta is the result of the accumulated flows of the Karotoya, Atrai and Punarbhaba rivers. Actually, the Bangla name Teesta comes from Tri-Srota or three flows.
Due to India’s withdrawal of water from the Teesta River, the part of the river that flows through Bangladesh has dried up. Due to lack of water flow, the ecosystem of the Teesta River is in peril. India has built an irrigation barrage on the Indian portion of the Teesta River at Jalpaiguri. This is creating a major water diversion which has caused the Panchagarh’s Teesta barrage irrigation area to dry up. The river bed is now filling up with piles of sand.
The whole northern part of Bangladesh is in a critical state due to one-sided water withdrawal of India. Both the countries, being good neighbors have had many meetings regarding the issue but none have proved to be fruitful. The ecosystem and biodiversity are suffering due to delays in resolving the water sharing issue. According to sources from the Department of Agricultural Extension, due to the irrigation-dependent boro paddy cultivation, the demand for Teesta water has seen an extensive increase. Thousands of fated farmers in the north of the country rely on irrigation of the flow of upstream water. In the current season, Teesta river waters’ flow is 5000 cusecs.
Despite floods, heavy hailstorms, and other climate challenges, three districts in the Rangpur division have managed to yield a bumper crop of Boro this season, as part of the Teesta barrage irrigation project.
According to sources from the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), cropland of about 40,000 hectares was irrigated in the project command area — which should yield approximately 2,095,230 tonnes of rice priced at a minimum of Tk119 crore. Because of insufficient water upstream, 40,000 hectares of land were irrigated in the project command area.
The irrigation cost for a hectare of land, with an electric irrigation pump machine is Tk10,500. The irrigation pump operates with diesel costs of Tk14,000 per hectare, but in the project command area of the Teesta barrage, irrigation costs only Tk1,200 per hectare. Farmers were able to harvest 25-29 maunds of rice per bigha(0.2529 hectares). They also saved electricity and diesel worth Tk550 crore.
The Teesta Barrage irrigation project began to provide support for the Monga- affected northerners of Bangladesh but the whole water sharing deal remains unsigned till today.
Text by Saleh Rabbi & Marjiya Baktyer Ahmed
Photography By Din M Shibly