Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: India and Bangladesh have made a “significant movement forward” during their two-day talks on sharing of Teesta river waters, with an understanding that they would finalise an agreement within a year.

Both sides exchanged draft documents during the ministerial-level 37th Joint River Commission (JRC) talks that concluded here on Friday.

The meeting, held after a gap of five years, came after the countries agreed, during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit here in January, to conclude the Teesta sharing talks at the earliest.

Bangladesh proposed a draft interim agreement, while India suggested a ‘statement of principles,' including on the modalities and methodology of sharing waters during the dry season.

The JRC is headed by Bangladesh Water Resources Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen and his Indian counterpart, Pawan Kumar Bansal. West Bengal Water Resources Minister Subhash Naskar participated in the talks. Tripura was represented by its chief engineer T.K. Lodh. Four rivers that were discussed — the Manu, the Muhuri, the Khowai and the Gumti, flow through Tripura. The Dharla and the Dudkumar flow through West Bengal.

According to Mr. Bansal, India and Bangladesh have mandated that the Water Resources Secretaries “take up the issue from here.” The next JRC would be held “at the earliest.” The Water Resources Secretaries would examine the drafts “towards an expeditious conclusion of an interim agreement on the Teesta,” a statement said.

An official-level meeting would probably be held as early as in May, Water Resources Secretary Umesh Narayan Panjiar told The Hindu here. The discussions were comprehensive and included issues relating to other common rivers also, drinking water supply and minor lift irrigation schemes on the Feni and Muhuri rivers and implementation of the 1996 Ganga Water-Sharing Treaty, the statement said. The talks covered protection of banks and repairs to embankments, and cooperation in flood forecasting and warning arrangements, flood management measures, including dredging of the Ichhamati river, the Tipaimukh dam project and India's river-linking project.

According to officials, India has agreed to share flood projection data on a continuous basis and enhance the lead time to more than 57 hours for flood warnings. New Delhi also agreed to convene a trilateral meeting, with Dhaka and Kathmandu, on the Farakka barrage.