The idea of irrigation from the Tista was conceived some time in 1935. A preliminary feasibility report of the project was prepared in 1960 by Haigh Zinn and Associates in collaboration with Associated Consulting Engineers. The consultants proposed a barrage on the river at Goddimari for diverting water into the canals for irrigation. Another report was prepared by Binnie and Partners during 1968-70 with a proposal for the barrage to be sited at Dalia. For about 10 years it remained confined to investigation, studies and survey. In the meantime India constructed a barrage across the Tista at Gazoldoba which is about 100 km upstream of the proposed barrage site in Bangladesh. Engineers of the bangladesh water development board and experts of BUET (Bangladesh University Of Engineering and Technology) jointly reviewed the previous reports and prepared a detailed engineering design. A fresh survey and field investigation was also conducted. Finally the actual construction of the barrage commenced in 1979 at Duani, which lies on the left bank. The barrage was completed in August 1990 with a 110m long Canal Head Regulator to control flow of water into the irrigation canal. Also a silt trap to control entry of sediment in the canal, a 610m long flood bypass for release of flood water in excess of the discharge capacity of the barrage, and a 2,470m long closure dam to divert flow through the barrage were constructed. A flood embankment of about 80 km has also been built to provide flood protection to the adjoining areas.
The gross benefited area of the project is 750,000 ha, of which 540,000 ha is irrigable. The project area spreads over seven districts in greater rangpur, dinajpur and bogra. The irrigation canals and water distribution network were developed in two phases. Phase-I has a command area of 182,00 ha with a net irrigable area of 132,000 ha. The remaining area was developed under Phase-II. Irrigation was first provided in 1993. At 1990 prices, the project cost was Tk 8,574 million, making the development cost lowest compared to other irrigation projects in the country. Its cost is about Tk 27,000 per ha as against Tk 111,000 per ha in the Meghna-Dhonagoda Project. The Tista Barrage is the largest irrigation project in the country. It is about four times the size of the ganges-kobadak irrigation project, 12 times that of the Chandpur Project and 40 times that of the Meghna-Dhonagoda Project. In addition to increased agricultural production the project has contributed to fisheries development through its canal system, recreation, and improved communication. The embankments along canals serve as all-weather village roads.