Thursday, February 23, 2012

Manmohan-mamata Talks : Farakka dominates, Teesta ignored

Paschimbanga Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday focused on the leakages in the Farakka barrage, which, she claimed, had led to an excess water flow to Bangladesh. 

However, a brief discussion took place between them on the sharing of water of the Teesta River with Bangladesh.

Mamata was asked about the report of the one-man commission she had formed to conduct a study on the availability of water in the Teesta round the year, particularly during the lean season. She replied that the commission was working on the matter and that she would inform the centre of the report after its submission.
The Paschimbanga government is likely to firm up its stance on the proposed Teesta treaty after receiving the report of the Kalyan Rudra commission. 

On the Farakka barrage issue, Mamata at the meeting demanded a high-level inquiry into the leakages from two sluice gates. 

Manmohan told her that the Ministry of Water Resources was working on plugging the leakages and that the task was likely to be completed by March, according to an official statement. 

Emerging from the meeting with Manmohan at his official residence in New Delhi, Mamata told newsmen that the prime minister had assured her of an inquiry into the leakage issue. 

She said a team from West Bengal led by Power Minister Manish Gupta in June last year discovered the leakages. 

"My government had asked the central government to take care of the problem." Eight months have passed but no action has been taken to repair the leakages, Mamata added.

The chief minister also said that under the India-Bangladesh Ganges water-sharing treaty of 1996, Bangladesh is supposed to get 33 percent of the water but due to the leakages in sluice gates 13 and 16, 88 percent of the water is flowing into Bangladesh.

The excess water flow to Bangladesh lowered the water level of the Bhagirathi River, because of which ships cannot move in Haldia port of West Bengal now, said Mamata.

Moreover, West Bengal depends on the Bhagirathi River for drinking water and electricity, she pointed out.

Mamata continued that West Bengal's rivers, including the Bhagirathi, were drying up as a result of the leakage of water from the Farakka barrage.

"A thermal power plant is about to shut down due to the water crisis," she said adding that a disaster is imminent because of the crisis.

Mamata said the team of West Bengal government after its visit to the Farakka barrage had submitted a report saying the leakage of water was "man-made". 

Since the barrage is a property of the central government, it was its duty to address the problem, the chief minister said.