Mamata Banerjee’s opposition to water sharing appears to be the biggest stumbling block to reaching an agreement on the Teesta River, while Bangladesh and India have been negotiating the elusive deal for close to two decades now.
On Saturday, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rekindled hope for the early signing of the pact yet again after meeting his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata proposed that Bangladesh should use the waters of five common rivers – Torsa, Dharala, Jaldhaka, Dhansiri and Mansiri – to meet its need.
“… We can think of a Torsa water sharing formula and requested the Centre and the Bangladesh government … to find ways on how to share the Torsa River water,” news18.com quoted her as saying.
She was speaking to reporters in New Delhi after meeting Hasina at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visits the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka on February 21, 2015 to pay respect to the martyrs of 1952 Language Movement SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN
The people in her state will suffer if the Teesta water has to be shared with Bangladesh as the river has already become dry, the chief minister reasoned.
“The fact is there is no water in Teesta. Due to water scarcity the NTPC power plant has been closed. Not only Bangladesh, even we are too facing irrigation problems,” news18.com reports.
Mamata said she had no ill intention of not sharing water with Bangladesh and proposed that the two countries set up a joint river commission to ascertain the level of water flowing through the Torsa River and the quantum of water that can be shared, reports the Times of India.
She also found the sharing of Torsa water to be a practical solution to resolving irrigation problems.
Earlier, the adamant West Bengal chief minister had put a veto on the Teesta deal in September 2011, when the then India prime minister Manmohan Singh visited Dhaka. Though Mamata was supposed to accompany Manmohan for signing the treaty, she refused to come to Dhaka raising her objection to the treaty at the last leg of the visit, for which it could not be inked at the time.
Mamata had also made her mind clear to Modi that she could not affect the interest of West Bengal while sharing the Teesta water, as it is the main lifeline in north Bengal. She said farmers of her state would be affected adversely if the river’s water level reduced.
Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the lean period from December to March when water flow temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.