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Friday, 24 February 2012

Steep decline in Teesta water flow


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Subject: Steep decline in Teesta water flow

The Daily Star, Dhaka
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Front Page

Steep decline in Teesta water flow

Staff Correspondent
The volume of water in Teesta irrigation canal has dropped down to 450 cusec while that of the Teesta River below 1,000 cusec as India, the upstream country, is apart from withdrawing, diverting the water.
Water board officials said the volume of water in Teesta drops steeply in December-March as India holds almost all the water during that period.
According to the officials of Bangladesh Water Development Board, Bangladesh needs 3,500 cusec of water during the lean period in February-March.
"We cannot open the sluice gates of the irrigation canal everyday as the water might flow down to the Teesta River hampering the irrigation gravely," said an engineer of Teesta Irrigation Project.
Bangladesh constructed the Teesta Barrage in 1990 to supply water for irrigation to about 6.32 lakh hectares of land in Nilphamari, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Joypurhat, Gaibandha and Bogra districts.
"We need more water if we want to run the irrigation project," said Atikul Islam, superintendent engineer of the Teesta Barrage.
Around 3,000 acres of char land in the Teesta has been lying unused for years since farmers do not have enough water to grow rice and other crops, said sources in the Department of Agriculture Extension, Rangpur.
The water level in Teesta has been going down by around two feet a year in the northern region of the country due to excessive use of ground water for irrigation, the sources said.
Many Boro farmers are hence switching to tobacco cultivation since they do not get enough water to grow Boro rice in February and March. This trend is adversely affecting the country's food production on which The Daily Star and other newspapers published reports.
Tobacco cultivation, which needs less water but poses serious hazard to human health and ecology, has almost doubled in the northern districts in the last couple of years.
According to Water Development Board records, water flow in the Teesta used to be at least 4,000 cusec in February before India built the Gazoldoba Barrage in the 1980's and started to divert Teesta water for irrigation and to the Mahananda River.
The river has a history of an average flow of at best 2,80,000 cusec and at least 10,000 cusec at Dalia, upstream of the Teesta barrage in Bangladesh.
Due to increasing withdrawal in the upstream, this flow has come down to about 1,000 cusec to even 500 cusec in the dry season.
According to experts and Internet findings, India's irrigation plan with the Teesta is massive, covering about 9.22 lakh hectare of land in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Malda districts.
It is also known that India diverted its water towards the Teesta Irrigation Project areas and has been releasing huge quantity of water towards Bihar through the Mahananda and Mechi rivers.
In his article published in The Daily Star, Hydrologist M Imammul Haque mentioned that the water India diverts and releases in the Mahananda does not reach Chapainawabganj but flows toward the Mechi River, upstream of the Farakka Barrage.