Image Source : PTI West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee

The central government has responded to the West Bengal dispensation over their “false” claim that the latter was not consulted on the discussion with 1996 Ganga Water Sharing Treaty with Bangladesh, according to sources.

According to the central government sources:

  • On 24 July 2023, Government of India sought the nominee of the WB Government in the ‘Committee for carrying out an ‘Internal Review of the India-Bangladesh Treaty of 1996 on Sharing of the Ganga/Ganges Waters at Farakka.
  • On 25 August 2023, WB Government conveyed the nomination of Chief Engineer (Design & Research), Irrigation & Waterways Directorate, Government of West Bengal, for the Committee.
  • On 5 April 2024, Joint Secretary (Works),Irrigation & Waterways Department, WB Govt., conveyed their total demand for the next 30 years from the stretch downstream of Farakka Barrage.

This comes after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday (June 24) 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. Her move followed PM Modi’s talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, wherein both sides agreed to initiate technical-level talks on the renewal of the treaty.

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.

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.