Daily Hot Topic
Topic : Teesta River Dispute
GS-2 Mains  : IR
Revision Notes

Context: A technical team from India will visit Bangladesh to discuss Teesta river conservation and management.



  • India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers, but only two have water-sharing treaties (Ganga & Kushiyara).
  • Teesta, a crucial river for both nations, remains a point of contention.

The Teesta Issue:

  • Importance for India: Lifeline for several districts in North Bengal.
  • Bangladesh’s Claim: Seeks “equitable” water distribution similar to the Ganga Water Treaty (1996).
  • 2011 Proposed Agreement: Allocated 37.5% water to Bangladesh and 42.5% to India.
  • Stalemate: West Bengal government opposed the proposal fearing harm to its agricultural interests.

Water Sharing Challenges:

  • Uneven Flow: Teesta has a high flow during the wet season (June-Sept) but a scant flow during the dry season (Oct-May).
  • Gazaldoba Barrage Dispute: Bangladesh claims West Bengal’s barrage diverts excessive water.
  • Per Capita Water Availability: Bangladesh argues for a share despite having higher per capita water availability.

Teesta River Details:

  • Tributary of Brahmaputra, originates in Sikkim, flows through West Bengal and Bangladesh.
  • Fourth largest trans-boundary river for Bangladesh, crucial for its population and agriculture.
  • 83% of Teesta’s catchment area lies in India.

Political Considerations:

  • Bangladesh’s Concerns: Delay in Teesta agreement, dams in Sikkim, and Teesta Barrage project impacting water flow.
  • China’s Proposal (2020): Major dredging work, reservoirs, and embankments on the Teesta (currently on hold).

Environmental Concerns:

  • Impact of hydropower projects in Sikkim, deforestation, and climate change on Teesta’s health.
  • 2023 Glacial Lake Outburst Flood: Caused destruction and loss of life in the Teesta basin.

Legal Framework:

  • Helsinki Rules (1966): International law mandates sharing water from transboundary rivers.
  • Indian Constitution (Article 253): Empowers the government to form transboundary water treaties.

Way Forward:

  • Water sharing agreement considering both nations’ needs using modern water-use efficiency techniques.
  • Addressing West Bengal’s concerns about potential irrigation loss due to the treaty.

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