Government vs Mamata Banerjee Over Bangladesh Talks On Ganga, Teesta Waters

Government sources called Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's claim "false", saying in July last year, the Centre had asked the Bengal government to send a nominee to the committee meant to conduct an internal review of the 1996 Ganga water treaty.

Mamata Banerjee wrote such "unilateral deliberations and discussions" are not acceptable.


West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, objecting to the talks on water sharing between the Centre and Bangladesh -- a session the state was not invited to attend. Turning down the Centre's proposal for sharing of Teesta water and the renewal of the 1996 Ganga Water Treaty, expected to lapse in 2026, she wrote, "Such unilateral deliberations and discussions without consultation and the opinion of the state government is neither acceptable nor desirable".

Government sources, though, called the Chief Minister's claim "false', saying in July last year, the Centre had asked the Bengal government to send a nominee to the committee meant to conduct an internal review of the 1996 water treaty. A month later, the state nominated the Chief Engineer (Design & Research), Irrigation and Waterways Directorate. On April 5 this year, Bengal's Joint Secretary in the Irrigation and Waterways Department, conveyed the state's total demand for the next 30 years, sources said.

The latest round India-Bangladesh discussion on renewing the Ganga water treaty and sharing of Teesta waters took place over the weekend, when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned to Delhi -- days after she came to attend the oath ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his historic third term.

"I came to understand that the Government of India is in the process of renewing the India-Bangladesh Farakka Treaty (1996) which is to expire in 2026. It is a treaty which delineates of sharing of water between. Bangladesh and India and as you are aware it, has huge implications for the people of West Bengal," Mamata Banerjee wrote.

The people of Bengal, she added, would be the "worst sufferers" of such treaties.

The letter outlined the areas in which the treaty has impeded Bengal -- from the erosion in the Bhagirathi that cost lives and livelihood to the difficulties faced by the Kolkata port.

"The state of West Bengal has cooperated with Bangladesh on several issues in the past," Ms Banerjee added, pointing to the exchange of India-Bangladesh enclaves, Indo-Bangladesh Railway Line and bus services. "However, water is very precious and is the lifeline of the people. We cannot compromise on such a sensitive issue which has severe and adverse implication for  the people," she added.

Citing the proposed sharing the waters of Teesta, a river in north Bengal, she said the health of Teesta on the Indian side has "suffered" much already due to the construction of several hydropower projects in Sikkim and deforestation in the river's upper catchment area, and now there is not enough water to share.

"It seems that in the meeting, Government of India has proposed a bilateral cooperation between India and Bangladesh for restoration of Teesta in Bangladesh. I am surprised by the fact that no concrete steps have been taken by the ministry of Jal Shakti to restore the river in its original form and health on the India side," she wrote.

"Due to the reasons stated above, water flow in Teesta has gone down over the years and it is estimated that if any water is shared with Bangladesh, lakhs of people in north Bengal will get severely impacted… therefore it is not feasible to share Teesta water with Bangladesh," she added.