Joint Rivers Commission

Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) established on 19 March 1972 in Dhaka, pursuant to the joint declaration of the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh signed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Mrs Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India. The JRC started functioning from June 1972 although the Statute of the Indo Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission was signed in Dhaka on 24 November 1972. There is a counterpart JRC for India and is based in New Delhi, India.

According to the statute of JRC, the Commission (JRC) is appointed by the Government and is composed of a Chairman and three Members, two of which are engineers. Government may also appoint experts and advisers as it desires. The Chairmanship of the Commission is held annually in turn by Bangladesh and India. Until January 1978, officials of the two countries were nominated as Chairman for the two sides, thereafter, the Chairmanship of the commission was confined for the Minister for Water Resources. The office of the JRC is supported by a team of engineers, scientists and staff who provide expert services as well as secretariat support. Till 27 June, 2000, JRC office was manned by officials of the Water Investigation Directorate of Bangladesh Water Development Board. From 28 June 2000 JRC is operating as independent organisation under the Ministry of Water Resources.

JRC is responsible for 57 identified border rivers, 54 with India and 3 with Myanmar. JRC holds data on trans-boundary rivers, much of which is considered as restricted information. According to the statute, the functions of JRC are as follows: to maintain liaison between the participating countries in order to ensure the most effective joint efforts in maximising the benefits from common river systems to both the countries; to formulate flood control works and to recommend implementation of joint projects; to formulate detailed proposals on advance flood warnings, flood forecasting and cyclone warnings; to study flood control and irrigation projects so that the water resources of the region can be utilised on an equitable basis for the mutual benefit of the peoples of the two countries; to formulate proposals for carrying out coordinated research on problem of flood control affecting both the countries. The Commission shall also perform such other functions as the two Governments may, by mutual agreement, direct it to do.

Other major responsibilities of JRC include to the following: negotiations with the neighbouring countries on development, management and sharing of water resources of the international/transboundary rivers; holding regular meetings of the JRC, Joint Committee of Experts, Joint Committee on sharing the Ganges waters at Farakka Barrage, Standing Committee and monitoring the meetings of the different Local Level Committees with India; resolution of the problems of trans-boundary rivers through its subsidiary organs like Standing Committee and Local Level Committees; monitoring and implementation of the arrangements for sharing of dry season Ganges waters available at Farakka as stipulated in the 1996 ganges water sharing; work jointly with India on exchange of relevant data and information and formulation of detailed proposals on advance flood warning, flood forecasting and cyclone warning; work jointly with Nepal on exchange of relevant data and information and formulate detailed proposal on advance flood warning, flood forecasting as well as to harness and develop the common water resources for optimum utilisation; work jointly with Bhutan for coordinated research and studies on flood control and water management of the tributaries of the Brahmaputra river.

The Bangladesh counterpart of JRC is also discharging duties as secretariat of Bangladesh National Committees of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) and International Hydrological Programme (IHP).

Activities of JRC The first meetings of JRC, presided by Mr BM Abbas, Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Chairman of JRC with Co-Chairman Mr NGK Murti of India was held at New Delhi on 25-26 June 1972. Over the years the major activities of JRC concentrated on negotiating the sharing of waters of Ganges, Tista and other common rivers, and also sharing and exchange of hydrological data between India and Bangladesh.

On Ganges water The Ganges Water Sharing Agreement between India and Bangladesh for running the feeder canal of Farakka Barrage was declared through the Joint India Bangladesh press release on 18 April 1975, Dhaka and New Delhi. An agreement between the Governments of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Government of India on sharing of the Ganges water at Farakka and on augmenting its flows was signed on 5 November 1977 at Dhaka. The agreement was valid for 5 years. The Indo-Bangladesh Memorandum of Understanding was signed at New Delhi on 7 October 1982. This agreement was valid to 2 years. On 22 November 1985 another Indo-Bangladesh Memorandum of Understanding was signed at New Delhi and the agreement was valid for 3 years.

The most successful achievement of JRC negotiation is the signing of treaty between the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Government of the Republic of India on sharing of the Ganga/Ganges water at Farakka. The treaty commonly known as Ganges Water Sharing Treaty 1996, was signed by HD Deve Gowda, Prime Minister of India and Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh on 12 December 1996 at New Delhi, India. The Treaty is valid for 30 years and is renewable on the basis of mutual consent.

On Tista water In 25th JRC meeting held at Dhaka on 20 July 1983 Bangladesh and India agreed to an adhoc sharing of the Tista water during the dry season. The adhoc sharing was valid upto end of 1985. Later the validity of the adhoc sharing was extended till end of 1987. The agreement was reached in the 29th JRC Meeting held at New Delhi on 11 May 1987. As follow up action of the understanding reached in JRC meetings the tying up of the Tista right-bank embankment at the Indo-Bangladesh border from Kaliganj (Bangladesh) to Jharsingheswar (India) had been successfully completed by June 1998.

Mandated by government Joint Rivers Commission undertook bilateral studies and investigations on flood control and water management with China, Nepal and Bhutan during the period 1988-1991. Upto February 2002 JRC had 34 meetings and the 34th meeting of JRC was held on 12-13 January 2001 at Dhaka. [HS Mozaddad Faruque]

See also farakka barrage; ganges water sharing.