New Delhi, April 7 (www.bdnews24.com):Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may offer to West Bengal, reservoirs to store excess water obtained during the monsoon so that Bangladesh may get more water from the Teesta river during the December to April dry season.
The Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is in New Delhi now on a three-day visit during which Bangladesh and India are keen on signing a deal on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta river. But the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerji is against the proposed deal as it will deprive her state of adequate water during the dry season. Banerji is also in New Delhi now at the invitation of the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee who is trying to bring Hasina and Mamata together.
West Bengal Home Secretary Malay Kumar Dey, the bureaucrat Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee trusts most, had a three hour long meeting with Modi’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Mishra and PMO secretary Bhaskar Kulbe.
Dey raised West Bengal’s concern about inadequate flow in Teesta during the lean season due to the eight hydroelectricity projects in Sikkim and told Mishra and Kulbe about a specialist report commissioned by the Bengal government.
That report was produced by river expert Kalyan Rudra at the behest of Mamata Banerjee.
It had suggested seasonal water management on the Teesta to handle the surplus flow during monsoon and the sharp drop in flow during the summer months.
The PMO officials said that Mishra and Kulbe have reportedly zeroed in on Rudra’s recommendations to find a solution for West Bengal, so that it stops opposing the accord with Bangladesh that would guarantee the lower riparian neighbour sufficient – or close to sufficient – flow during lean months.
“It seems the Centre will offer Mamata Banerjee full funding for a number of reservoirs in northern Bengal to store the surplus Teesta waters during monsoon for use during winter and summer,” one official aware of the discussions said.
Banerjee has said she was not opposed to an accord on Teesta waters with Bangladesh if West Bengal’s interests were protected.
“If India can offer Bangladesh a huge line of credit for crucial development projects, it can certainly consider funding reservoirs and any other arrangement that will ensure Bengal does not lose out and Banerjee agrees to the deal that Delhi wants to push through,” the official said, but on condition of anonymity.
He said the Centre’s readiness to fund the rehabilitation of those who will come to India during the swap of enclaves broke the ice and paved the way for the Land Boundary Agreement.
“So if the Centre now funds reservoirs to ensure water storage for lean season, Mamata Banerjee may agree,” he said.
Bangladesh has maintained tactical patience on the issue and advisors of PM Hasina have repeatedly said they reposed full faith in both Modi and Mamata to push through the Teesta deal.
Indian foreign secretary S Jaishanker told Bangladesh journalists this week not to expect a ‘surprise solution on Teesta’ but said that efforts to find a solution was work in progress.
Indian and Bangladesh diplomats now say the breakthrough will entirely depend on the political equations between the leaders — and promise for alternatives (like funding of reservoirs or getting Sikkim to avoid major diversion in its upstream hydel projects) may convince Mamata Banerjee to change gears.
(The featured image at the top shows Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi)