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'Unilateral decisions not acceptable': Mamata to PM Modi over talks on water sharing treaties with Bangladesh

Mamata's letter came after PM Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina agreed to resume technical-level talks on the renewal of the 2016 Ganga Water Sharing Treaty. India will also send a delegation to Bangladesh on Teesta water, something Bengal and Bihar have long opposed.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Kolkata Published on: June 24, 2024 20:00 IST
Mamata Banerjee
Image Source : PTI West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing "strong reservations" over the Centre excluding the state government from discussions with Bangladesh regarding the Teesta water sharing and the 1996 Ganga Water Sharing Treaty. This came after PM Modi held talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, wherein both sides agreed to initiate technical-level talks on the renewal of the treaty.

PM Modi also announced that India will send a delegation to Bangladesh soon for talks on the conservation and management of the Teesta River. Mamata has long opposed the water-sharing pact, and blocked the deal when was scheduled to be signed during former PM Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka in 2011, citing possible water shortage in north Bengal.

An India-Bangladesh Shared Vision document, released after Modi and Hasina held delegation-level talks during the latter's visit to New Delhi, said both sides welcome the formation of a Joint Technical Committee to initiate discussions for the renewal of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty of 1996.

Unilateral decisions not acceptable: Mamata

"I am writing this letter in the context of the recent visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. It seems that water-sharing issues relating to the Ganges and Teesta rivers may have been discussed during the meeting. Such unilateral deliberations and discussions without consultation and the opinion of the state government is neither acceptable nor desirable," said Mamata Banerjee in her three-word letter to the PM, asking him not to hold discussion with the neighbouring country without involving her government.

She further noted that Bengal has a very close relationship with Bangladesh - geographically, culturally and economically. "I love and respect people of Bangladesh and always wish for their well-being... I convey my strong reservation that no discussion on sharing of Teesta water and the Farakka Treaty should be taken up with Bangladesh without the involvement of the state government. The interest of people in West Bengal is paramount, which should not be compromised at any cost," she added.

What is the Ganges Water Treaty?

The Ganges Water Treaty, signed by India and Bangladesh in 1996, is a 30-year treaty due to expire in 2026 and may be renewed by mutual consent. Under the treaty, the upper riparian India and lower riparian Bangladesh agreed to share the water of this transboundary river at Farakka, a dam on the Bhagirathi river around 10 km from Bangladesh border.

West Bengal and Bihar have long objected to the treaty, saying that the Farakka barrage was the primary reason for erosion, siltation and floods in the states. Mamata Banerjee had written to PM Modi in 2022 expressing concern over he continuous erosion along the Ganga in Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia districts.

Bihar has blamed the Farakka barrage for increased siltation on several occasions. In 2016, at a meeting chaired by PM Modi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded removal of the Farakka barrage on river Ganga saying it has more disadvantages than benefits.

TMC criticises Centre over treaties

The Trinamool Congress on Sunday (June 23) slammed the Centre for not consulting West Bengal before taking a decision to start negotiations with Bangladesh for the renewal of the 1996 Ganga Water Sharing Treaty. TMC’s Parliamentary Party Leader in Rajya Sabha, Derek O’Brien, said that West Bengal is a party to the treaty but was not consulted. Farakka-Ganga treaty is being renewed without consulting West Bengal, he said.

"The state is a party to the treaty. Even our dues for the previous treaty have not been cleared. Dredging of the Ganga has been stopped. It is the primary reason for floods and erosion. This is a plan to sell off Bengal," O'Brien told reporters.

(with PTI inputs)

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