Skip to content
Scinats LOgo

Teesta River Dispute: India-Bangladesh Transboundary Problem.

19 Apr, 2021 | Kaudinya Arpan |

Teesta River Dispute: India-Bangladesh Transboundary Problem.

Teesta River

Teesta River Dispute Summary:

Teesta River dispute is summarised as follows.

  1. Ganga Water Treaty was signed between India and Bangladesh in 1996 regarding fair and equitable distribution of Ganga Water from the Farraka Barrage.
  2. Bangladesh has sought the distribution of Teesta Water on similar grounds. There was an attempt at an interim deal in 2011 but it failed.
  3. It is one of the ongoing transboundary problems in sharing of water resources.  

About Teesta River.

Teesta River originates from the Glaciers of Sikkim, two being Teesta Khangse and Zemu followed by Cholamu Lake. The tributaries of Teesta like Rangeet are also originated from the state of Sikkim. The Teesta river is also one of the Major Tributaries of the Brahmaputra, also known as Jamuna in Bangladesh. However, there is an ongoing dispute between India and Bangladesh regarding the distribution of the water of the Teesta River.


Here are other facts about the Teesta River.

  1. Teesta river is one of the tributaries of the River Brahmaputra.
  2. The flood plains of the River Teesta covers about 14% of the total cropped area of Bangladesh.
  3.  Around, 73% of the population of Bangladesh gets livelihood opportunities from this River.
  4. Teesta River is the lifeline of Sikkim and North Bengal.
  5. Many Indian districts are directly dependent on the waters of Teesta, they are Kurigram, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, East Sikkim, North Sikkim, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, and Jalpaiguri
Origin of Teesta Water Dispute, the equitable share
Teesta River in Bangladesh

Overall Context of the Teesta River Dispute.

For a long time, there has been dispute on sharing of water of the Teesta River between India and Bangladesh. However, the tensions can be escalated because there has been a discussion of a $1 billion loan from China to be taken by Bangladesh for management and restoration of the river Teesta since last year.

India and China in recent times had disputes over the boundary issues and the face-offs at Galway Valley. The diplomatic relations between these two nations are uncertain. While considering the relations between China and Bangladesh, this has been growing for some time. From China being the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh to the biggest arms supplier. Also, China has declared zero duty on 97% of imports

from Bangladesh in 2020.

What are the governments doing to resolve the Teesta Water Dispute?

There have been Negotiations on sharing of the water resource since 1983 between the two nations. Subsequently, a treaty was signed in 1996 for the Ganga Water, named the Ganga Water Treaty of 1996. In this treaty, an equitable share of Ganga was distributed from the Farraka Barrage. On the grounds of this treaty, Bangladesh has sought fair distribution of the waters of the Teesta River. The table below shows the distribution of Ganga Waters based on availability during seasons.

Bangladesh demands same in case of Teesta River.

Farakka, Source: Google Earth

The salient feature of the Ganga Water Treaty is as follows.

(Source link in the caption)

Availability at Farakka (Approx.)Share of IndiaShare of Bangladesh
2,000,000 Litres/Second or less (70,000 Cusecs or less)50%50%
2,000,000 – 2,123,763 Litres/Second
(70,000-75,000 Cusecs)
Balance of the water flow35,000 Cusecs
2,123,763 Liters/ second and Above
(75,000 cusecs or more)
40,000 cusecsBalance of the water flow

Table: Sharing of Water as per Ganga Water Treaty

However, in the year 2011, an interim deal was discussed in which India was supposed to get 42.5 percent of the Teesta water and Bangladesh, 37.5 percent. There was strong opposition from the Bangladesh side so the deals were unsigned. On the grounds of the Ganga Water Treaty, the deal is supposed to be compromised on 50-50 sharing.

There have been various visits by the Indian Prime Minister to Bangladesh but the dispute has not been resolved yet. However, if West Bengal agrees to give consent, there can be a better deal in the Future. Interestingly, this is one of the most important transboundary issues related to sharing of natural resources. The river is very much important for both nations.