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Mamata botched up water deal?

By blocking the Teesta water agreement with Bangladesh, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee may not have protected any interest of the state. Jayanth Jacob reports

delhi Updated: Sep 11, 2011 02:08 IST

By blocking the Teesta water agreement with Bangladesh, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee may not have protected any interest of the state.


The disruption of the agreement means a World Bank (WB) loan of $1.3 billion to build irrigation system in the state won't come through, and the state has no capacity to absorb any more water.

"Currently, the state uses only 25% of Teesta water and the rest flows to Bangladesh and the sea. Without huge investments in canals, West Bengal can't make use of Teesta water," a senior official told Hindustan Times.

The Teesta river barrage project at Gozaldoba, construction for which began in 1976, is yet to be complete. Once completed, the project will serve an irrigated area of 9,22,000 hectares.

But so far it only caters to 58,000 hectares, another official said. Mamata wanted 75% of the flow at Gozaldoba, which Bangladesh had agreed upon, as per the 50-50 sharing formula in the draft agreement.

To measure the flow, there have not been any calculations on absolute figures, contrary to media reports.

Twenty-five percent water was to flow downstream to Gozalbada and another 25% would be added through regeneration by the time Teesta reaches Dalia barrage in Lalmonirhat district in Bangladesh. Mamata also wanted an explicit reference to this in the agreement, leading to the last-minute visit of NSA SS Menon to Dhaka. Sources said Bangladesh even agreed to this.

"The nitty-gritty of how we manage the final water flow are not reflected in the text of any international agreement. In this case, there was a last-minute tweaking to get it reflected in the agreement because of Banerjee's demand," he said. Still, Mamata chose not to go with the Prime Minister, halting the agreement altogether.

Nothing could outweigh Mamata's position carved in political considerations of North Bengal, besides her unhappiness with the Centre.

The 'contours' of the interim water-sharing pact for fifteen years, which was to be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Dhaka visit, had been discussed thoroughly with Mamata, a senior government official said.

He added that if Bangladesh, the lower-riparian state, complained, then the WB loan won't come.