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Untimely Teesta flood disaster - Dhaka should not sit idle: IFC

Water 2021-11-01, 3:03pm


The Teesta originates in the Himalayas

Dhaka, Nov 01: Untimely flood disaster along the Teesta in Bangladesh has caused extensive damage to property of lakhs of people along its two banks. Thousands of dwelling houses and homesteads have been washed away in riverbank erosion. Standing crops on lakhs of acres of land have been damaged while roads and embankments have been eroded snapping road-link among the districts of the greater Rangpur region.

Leaders of the International Farakka Committee (IFC) said in a statement on Saturday, the disaster has been caused by the discharge of flood water through the Gajal Doba Barrage floodgates following excessive rainfall along the upper catchment of the Teesta in Sikkim. Embankments at about 17 places in upper Teesta were damaged in the wake of the flood. But the Bangladesh authorities were not alerted before releasing the water. Only two weeks before, the Teesta in Bangladesh was a dry barren land as all water was diverted from Gajal Doba Barrage in West Bengal.

Teesta in Bangladesh is a dead river during the dry season. Despite repeated assurances no treaty has been signed for the management of the river’s water. People now can walk on foot from one bank of the river to the other. Only seepage from the Gajal Doba barrage flows into Bangladesh. In the wet season the river causes disastrous floods. According to one account five waves of flood came down the Teesta in 2021. But disastrous flood as late as October was never experienced before.

Last week’s flood disaster has caused extensive loss to at least 80 thousand families, according to a preliminary estimate. The damaged properties include ripe paddy, onion, garlic, maize, animal fodder, homesteads, clothes, preserved winter garment and household crockery and utensils. Bangladesh must do something to bail out three crore people of the Teesta basin from this helpless situation, protect their life and property and maintain its environmental balance. It cannot sit idle in the face of people’s miseries. In this context we consider the initiative taken by the government to implement a Teesta Master Plan with Chinese help as proper and timely. Although this project is no substitute for keeping the river alive by ensuring its natural flow, it is expected to help reduce the damages caused by floods and help improve the lot of the people of the region through coordinated development activities. The river will get a new life when time will come to restore its natural flow.

IFC leaders suggest, the Teesta Master Plan can been expanded to cover other rivers – Atrai, Korotoa and Punarbhaba including Chalan Beel which lie in the old Teesta Basin – to ensure overall socio-economic development of the Northwestern region of Bangladesh. This will help recharge groundwater and keep all the tubewells functional throughout the year.

The signatories to the statement were – Atiqur Rahman Salu, chairman, Sayed Tipu Sultan, secretary general, IFC, New York; Prof. Jasim Uddin Ahmad, President, Dr. SI Khan, Senior Vice-President, Syed Irfanul Bari, general secretary of IFC Bangladesh and Mostafa Kamal Majumder, coordinator of IFC.