Social activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar has urged West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to agree to the sharing of River Teesta water with Bangladesh.
“India and Bangladesh are countries with friendly relations. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was accorded a grand welcome at the G-20 meeting. Then why should we have differences? We appeal to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that she should go ahead with the agreement (of exchange of Teesta waters),” Ms. Patkar said.
The activist referred to The Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers and added that water of rivers running through international borders needs to be shared.
Ms. Patkar also pointed out that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs in India has recently recommended to the government to resolve the pending Teesta water sharing with Bangladesh and pointed out that the West Bengal Chief Minister has not expressed objections to the reports. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has opposed the sharing of water of river Teesta that flows through north Bengal.
The remarks by the social activist assume significance as she has a long association with Mamata Banerjee from the days of agitation against forcible land acquisition in Nandigram. During the 2021 Assembly election in the State, when the Trinamool leadership was facing stiff challenge from the BJP, Ms. Patkar was among those spearheaded a campaign “No vote for BJP’. The social activist was visiting West Bengal to participate in an event on World Rivers Day on September 24.
Speaking with The Hindu on Monday, Ms. Parkar indicated that she has made an appeal to the Chief Minister and may write to Ms. Banerjee on the issue. Ms. Patkar who had campaigned against large dams in the country also raised concern over construction of barrages and dams on river Teesta. She said that 70% of proposed projects of the Teesta River basin which are pending should never be completed.
Floods in Narmada basin
Ms. Patkar said that the recent floods in Narmada river basin were due to deliberate manipulation of water level over the years to reduce the affected areas under relief and rehabilitation. She said that the Sardar Sarovar Dam was filled up to its brim till the night of September 16 and only 2.5 metres of the 17 metres gates of the dam were opened. Ms. Patkar added that on September 17, which is the birthday of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the gates of the dam were opened for six metres for a few hours and then only three metres of gates were left open.
“Because of sudden discharge of water from the dam, large rural and urban areas of Gujarat such as Narmada, Ankleshwar, Bharuch has been submerged and farmers, fishermen, workers and citizens have been pushed into disaster,” a press statement by Narmada Bachao Andolan said.