Leaders of the International Farakka Committee (IFC) have extended their support to the government's initiative to implement the Teesta Master Plan with Chinese support, saying it is a proper and timely move.
Expressing their grave concerns over the recent flooding, the IFC said an untimely flood disaster along the Teesta in Bangladesh has caused extensive damages to the property of lakhs of people along its two banks.
Thousands of dwelling houses and homesteads have been washed away with riverbank erosion.
Standing crops on lakhs of acres of land have been damaged while roads and embankments have been eroded snapping road-links among the districts of the greater Rangpur region.
"In this context, we consider the initiative taken by the government to implement a Teesta master plan with the help of China is a proper and timely one," the statement said.
"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," it said.
The committee said the disaster has been caused by the discharge of floodwater through the Gajoldoba Barrage floodgates following excessive rainfall along the upper catchment of the Teesta in Sikkim.
Embankments at about 17 places in the upper Teesta were damaged by the floods. 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 Gajoldoba Barrage in West Bengal, added the statement.
The Teesta River 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, according to the statement.
Only seepage from the Gajal Doba barrage flows into Bangladesh. During the monsoon, the river causes disastrous floods, the statement pointed out.
According to one account, five waves of flood came down the Teesta in 2021 but a disastrous flood as late as October was never experienced before.
The statement said last week's flood disaster has caused extensive losses to at least 80,000 families, according to a preliminary estimate. The damaged property include ripe paddy, onion, garlic, maize, animal fodder, homesteads, clothes, preserved winter garment and household crockery and utensils.
Bangladesh must do something to pull out three crore people of the Teesta basin from this helpless situation, protect their lives and property and maintain its environmental balance. Bangladesh cannot sit idle in the face of people's miseries, the statement added.
The committee leaders suggest the Teesta Master Plan can be 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 tube-wells 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.