Md. Nurul Islam1, Md. Ashfaque Azam2 and Dr. Q R Islam2
1 Integrated Water Resources Management Unit
2 Consultants, Second Small Scale Water Resources Development Sector Project,
Local Government Engineering Department, LGED Headquarters, RDEC Building (Level-6), Agargaon,
Shere Bangla Nagar, Dhaka-1207, Bangladesh.
E-mail: nislam48@yahoo.com; nislam@lged.org,
Teesta is the fourth major trans-boundary river in Bangladesh. Upstream inflow in this river provides key
support to agricultural production in the Teesta River floodplain (TRF) in the northwest region of the
country. Bangladesh constructed a barrage on the Teesta River in 1990 to provide irrigation water for crop
production in the Teesta Barrage Project (TBP) area. India has also constructed a barrage on this river
upstream. TBP started operation with limited conveyance infrastructure in 1993. The project was planned for
implementation in two phases. The phase 1 has been completed in 1998. A case study in the TBP area
suggests that irrigation water supply considerably raises farm incomes. This has increased irrigation water
demands. However, unilateral withdrawal of water in India upstream, limits irrigation water availability in
the TBP area. Therefore, water sharing with India is crucial in achieving food security and sustainable
livelihood in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh shares a common border with India in the west, north and east and with Myanmar in the southeast.
These borders cut across 57 rivers which discharge through Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal in the south
(Mukhlesuzzaman 2003 and WARPO 2000). The upstream courses of these rivers traverse India, China,
Nepal and Bhutan. This international dimension is a crucial factor affecting the management of the local river
systems. Trans-boundary flows, which enter Bangladesh from remote catchments extending short distance
to thousands of kilometers upstream, are the important source of water resources. Among the trans-boundary
rivers, Teesta is the fourth major river in Bangladesh after Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Teesta River
water provides key support to crop production in the extreme northwest region of Bangladesh. Bangladesh
has constructed a barrage on the Teesta River in Lalmonirhat district to provide irrigation water in the TBP
area from the river through a canal network. India has also constructed a barrage on this river at Gozaldoba
upstream. The present study examines the benefit of Teesta River water sharing in Bangladesh.
Teesta River
Teesta River was the principal tributary of the Karatoya-Atrai-Jamunaswari river system in the eastern part of
India until late eighteenth century (BWDB 1999). The river originates in the glaciers of the Himalayas in
Sikkim. It flows about 172 km in mountainous region before emerging into the alluvial plains of north Bengal
in India. The river crosses 97 km in Indian plains before it enters into the extreme northwest region of
Bangladesh. It flows about 124 km in Bangladesh and joins Brahmaputra River. The river changed its course
and is now recognized as an unstable, wandering and young river of the country. The present channel within
Bangladesh is about 177 km and width varies from 300 to 550 m. Bangladesh occupies about 2071 km2 or
17% of the total Teesta catchment area.
Teesta River Floodplain
The TRF in Bangladesh accounts for 14% of the total cropped area and 8.5% of the population in the country
(BBS 2001). About 63% of the total cropped area in the TRF is irrigated as compared to the national average
of 42% irrigated cropped land. On average, each unit of this irrigated cropped land supports 1.82 crops per
year as compared with national average of 1.75 crops per year. This indicates a direct association between
irrigation water availability and land use. About 64% of the total households in the TRF are farms, of which
78% are marginal or small, owning less than 1.0 ha of cultivated land (Census of Agriculture 1996). The
northwestern region, which includes the TRF, is considered to be the most drought-prone area of the country
(Murshid 1987). This region along the left bank of the Ganges River is termed as ‘dry zone’ (Brammer 1997).
The mean annual rainfall, which ranges from 1250 mm to 2000 mm, in this area is much lower compared
with 1600 mm to more than 5000 mm in the other regions of the country.
Teesta Barrage Project
Bangladesh constructed a barrage in 1990 on the Teesta River at Dalia in Lalmonirhat district to provide
irrigation water in three crop seasons from the river through canal networks in the TBP area. The major
physical components of the TBP comprise a 615 m barrage, a 110 m canal head regulator, 708 km irrigation
canal networks, 380 km drainage channels and 80 km flood embankment. The TBP was designed to provide
irrigation water, flood protection and drainage facilities for 749 000 ha of cultivated land. The project was
planned to be completed in two phases. Phase 1 was completed in June 1998 (Figure 1). The main
conveyance system completed under this phase includes 307 km main canals, 1450 km secondary canals,
2735 km tertiary canals and 8000 field outlets.


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