Chronological trends in maximum and minimum water flows of the Teesta River, Bangladesh, and its implications
Mondal, Sanaul H.
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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 that discharge through Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal in the south. The upstream courses of these rivers traverse India, China, Nepal and Bhutan. Transboundary flows are the important sources of water resources in Bangladesh. Among the 57 transboundary rivers, the Teesta is the fourth major river in Bangladesh after the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna and Bangladesh occupies about 2071 km2. The Teesta River floodplain in Bangladesh accounts for 14% of the total cropped area and 9.15 million people of the country. The objective of this study was to investigate trends in both maximum and minimum water flow at Kaunia and Dalia stations for the Teesta River and the coping strategies developed by the communities to adjust with uncertain flood situations. The flow characteristics of the Teesta were analysed by calculating monthly maximum and minimum water levels and discharges from 1985 to 2006. Discharge of the Teesta over the last 22 years has been decreasing. Extreme low-flow conditions were likely to occur more frequently after the implementation of the Gozoldoba Barrage by India. However, a very sharp decrease in peak flows was also observed albeit unexpected high discharge in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1997, 1999 and 2004 with some in between April and October. Onrush of water causes frequent flash floods, whereas decreasing flow leaves the areas dependent on the Teesta vulnerable to droughts. Both these extreme situations had a negative impact on the lives and livelihoods of people dependent on the Teesta. Over the years, people have developed several risk mitigation strategies to adjust with both natural and anthropogenic flood situations. This article proposed the concept of ‘MAXIN (maximum and minimum) flows’ for river water justice for riparian land.