Parul Chandra, Asian Age Corespondent
New Delhi, 20 September 2011. The Centre is hoping that the proposed Teesta Waters Treaty with Bangladesh may still happen once the “small technical misunderstanding” between it and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is sorted out. The proposed treaty, which had been billed as one of the high-points of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent Dhaka visit, could not be signed leading to considerable disappointment on both sides.
Officials here admitted that “there was a little bit of technical misunderstanding over the wording of the agreement”.
They added, “We assumed that West Bengal had agreed”.
However, with Didi clearly not on board, the Centre is hopeful that it will be able to bring her around once this “misunderstanding” has been cleared.
The treaty’s signing fell through after the Trinamul Congress leader dropped out of the PM-led delegation to Dhaka at the 9th hour earlier this month. Ms Banerjee was apparently miffed that Bangladesh would be getting more than the water share she had acceded to under the proposed pact.
Her last-minute decision not only scuppered the proposed Teesta agreement but also left New Delhi red-faced and Dhaka considerably unhappy.
The bone of contention between the two nations, expectedly, is the quantity of water they are willing to share with each other. While Bangladesh wants 75 per cent of the Teesta waters, Bengal wants the sharing to be in the 50:50 ratio.
However, water experts note that the treaty is really “academic in nature” as there is no way that India can hold back the Teesta waters beyond a certain quantity as north Bengal would then get flooded. They also note that north Bengal can use only about 30 to 40 per cent of the Teesta waters as it is still to get the extensive canals system which was envisaged under the Teesta Barrage Project for making this water available to a larger area.
Indeed, the project, has been bedevilled by delays ever since it was approved in 1976. One of the reasons for the delay are land acquisition issues, said experts.
The Centre finally decided to declare the project a “national project” in 2009 which entails that it will shoulder 90 per cent of the costs with the state government chipping in with the remaining 10 per cent.
Expected to cost `69.77 crores when approved, the last project cost as approved by the Planning Commission in December 2010 had spiralled to roughly `2,988 crores.