Bangladesh has adopted a mega project for the management of the Teesta River, with China primarily agreeing to fund it.
The country is likely to receive nearly $1 billion in assistance from China for an irrigation project on the Teesta. The project will help the river maintain optimal levels during the drought season.
However, though China has initially agreed to fund the Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project, it is yet to give the final go-ahead for it.
Efforts are underway to arrive at a final decision, Economic Relations Department (ERD) officials said.
Despite several requests, the ERD did not receive the preliminary development project proposal (PDPP) from the Ministry of Water Resources, according to an ERD source. "But China will decide on the funding based on this proposal. For this reason, the final approval of the Chinese fund is being delayed."
An inter-ministerial meeting has been scheduled for August 25 on the approval and implementation process of China-funded projects.
The ERD hopes to get updated information on the preliminary development project proposal at that time, said sources.
ERD Joint Secretary Shahriar Kader Siddiky said Chinese government agencies have shown keen interest in the project. However, the Chinese government is yet to give the final nod to the project. "The ERD is trying its best to get the approval."
According to a primary estimate of the Bangladesh Water Development Board, a loan of $983.27 million will be required to implement the Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project.
Of the amount, $853.05 million is supposed to be funded from Chinese loan and the rest from the Bangladesh government's fund.
The Bangladesh Water Development Board will implement the project.
In September 2016, the Water Development Board signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Power Construction Corporation of China to conduct a technical assessment, make detailed designs and undertake the construction of the project.
The MoU was also supposed to help Bangladesh procure a loan from China.
The government expects to reclaim 170.87 square kilometres of land from the Teesta by dredging its main channel. At the same time, it plans to build dams on a needs-based approach.
The land that is planned to be reclaimed is worth $1,570.84 million, while the value of properties that the newly built dams will save is estimated at $1,346.02 million.
The total benefit accruing from the project will be $2,916.89 million.
A number of developmental works – such as the setting up of an economic zone, townships, power plants and expansion of farming – will be possible on the reclaimed land, according to a feasibility study conducted by the Water Development Board.
In the industrial park on the project site, there will be garment factories, textile mills, fertiliser factories, agricultural products processing plants, feed factories and a warehouse.
The Teesta River originates in the Himalayas and flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal before entering Bangladesh, where it flows into the Brahmaputra.
The river is 315 kilometres in length, of which 113 kilometres flow through Bangladesh.
The Teesta is 0.70 kilometre to 5.5 kilometres wide in its Bangladesh part, while its average width is 3.1 kilometres.
It may be recalled that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sought Chinese assistance on her visit to Beijing in July last year for the implementation of the Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration project.
At the time, Chinese President Xi Jinping had assured Sheikh Hasina of his support for the project.