TNN, Kolkata : The sharing of waters of the Teesta River will continue to remain a festering issue between India and Bangladesh. That’s because the Trinamool Congress government, headed by Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal not only remains strongly opposed to the equitable sharing of Teesta waters as envisaged in the draft Teesta Treaty, but plans to increase its intake from the river to irrigate more farmlands in North Bengal. The augmented diversion of water from the river to feeder irrigation canals in North Bengal has reduced the flow of Teesta waters in Bangladesh to just 10% of its ‘historical flow’, sparking severe unrest among farmers and fisherfolk in that country. Sajjad Hossain, head of a delegation from Bangladesh which is here to participate in the 57th Indo-Bangladesh Joint Committee meeting on the Ganges Treaty, told TOI on Tuesday that agitating farmers and fishermen have paralysed the administration in Bangladesh’s northwestern province of Rangpur through which the Teesta flows before joining the Jamuna (the name of Brahmaputra once it enters Bangladesh). “The historical flow of the river at Rangpur is 5,000 cusecs, but we’re getting only 500 cusecs of water now. This has affected farmers whose standing crops are withering away and also fishermen who are facing loss of livelihood. They are agitating against government officials and have paralysed the administrative machinery of the province,” he said. The delegation will take up the issue with Indian officials on the second day of the joint committee meet on Wednesday. But West Bengal, state irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee said, has its own compulsions. “Not enough water is flowing into the Teesta to meet our irrigation needs. We have to increase the area under irrigation in North Bengal to boost agricultural production. We will achieve our target of bringing in 1.5 lakh acres of farmland under irrigation and will set a more ambitious target for next year. So naturally, we’ll need more water from the Teesta. How can we give Bangladesh more water without meeting our own needs? That’s why we are opposed to the Teesta Treaty which would require West Bengal to take much less water from Teesta. We cannot let our own farmers suffer,” reasoned Banerjee. Hossain said in the absence of a water sharing treaty, Bangladesh cannot get its equitable share of water from the Teesta. “Lower riparian states have rights and these are laid down in international laws and conventions,” he added. A member of the Indian delegation, who did not want to be named, conceded that as per international conventions, lower riparian states (Bangladesh in the case of the Teesta, Ganges, Brahmaputra and many other rivers flowing into that country from India) have the right to get an equitable share of river waters. “The Teesta Treaty was drafted accordingly and Bangladesh was happy with it. WB would not have been able to divert as much water from the Teesta as it does now and so the Bengal government opposed the signing of the Treaty,” said this officer of the Government of India’s Water Resources Ministry. At Tuesday’s meet, data on flow of the Ganges at Farakka and at Harding Bridge in Bangladesh was reviewed. “The water flow in the Ganges is good this year and Bangladesh has no problems with the volume of water in the river as it enters that country,” Farakka Barrage Project general manager Saumitra Kumar Haldar, who is leading the Indian delegation, told TOI. But, Hossain said that a long term plan to augment the flow of water in the Ganges during the lean months from March to May needs to be framed. “Bangladesh wants to be included in the Indo-Nepal barrage project at Saptakoshi in Nepal. Water stored at that barrage can be released judiciously in the dry season to augment the flow of the Ganga (into which the Kosi river flows) and this will benefit all the three countries,” Hossain said.