Why Mamata Banerjee stalled Teesta water-sharing in 2011

Why Mamata Banerjee stalled Teesta water-sharing in 2011

PM Modi's upcoming Dhaka visit for June 6-7 is turning out to be a gala event for India and Bangladesh. He sees this visit as an opportunity to establish peace and stability between the two countries. However, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is going by hard realities.

She has made it precise in West Bengal's State Secretariat, Nabanna that her destination to Bangladesh would begin on June 5. She would be present with the Indian PM for attending the inauguration-ceremony of the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala bus route service and signing up of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA). She would return on June 6, a day before Modi's return on June 7.

According to PMO sources, a large part of land boundary belongs to West Bengal. Thus, Mamata's company deserves lot of priorities. According to diplomatic sources, Bangladesh would undoubtedly raise the Teesta water-sharing issue during the Modi-Hasina meeting. However, the agreement would not get formal nod. Modi would not even lay special mention on the issue in a joint declaration. Practically speaking, the Teesta water-sharing issue would be restricted to discussions as of now.

On the other hand, there is still conflict revolving around 54 rivers apart from Ganga and Teesta. Assurance on review of these issues might be given to Bangladesh on India's behalf by Modi. These matters would be brought under the ambit of the Joint River Commission as per sources are concerned. Nevertheless, initiatives would be taken by the Indian PM to sort out and unravel the Teesta water-sharing issue.

But the question still strikes everyone's mind as to why is Mamata Banerjee so reluctant to give her nod to signing up of the Teesta water-sharing agreement. What is prompting her to come in the way of such an agreement which would definitely cement the bonhomie and amity between India and Bangladesh?

During the incumbency of former Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh, a formula for solving the water-sharing issue was propounded. According to the formula, during drought a uniform 50% of Teesta's water would be apportioned between India and Bangladesh. However, Mamata disagreed. She opined that water is practically absent in Teesta during the aforesaid season. Bangladesh already gets access to water during monsoon owing to the law of nature. Therefore, problems are mostly visible during drought.

On the other hand, hydroelectric dams are constructed along Teesta flowing through Sikkim. Mamata objects that too. However, Sikkim claims not to have obstructed the flow of Teesta's water by constructing these dams. Again, Mamata says that it is the duty of the Centre to look into those claims made by Sikkim.

According to sources, huge amount of loans would be available from the World Bank for renovation of the river and increasing its flow provided the water-sharing agreement gets signed. 58,000 hectares of land in India are irrigated by Teesta's water. Once renovation of the river attains completion, water would be able to be supplied to 9 lakh hectares of land.

These realities need to be considered by both the countries. Otherwise, Teesta water-sharing agreement may never be on the cards.

Shilajit Kar Bhowmik

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