Delhi in talks with states over water issue

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Indian Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti yesterday said the federal government is in talks for bringing the issue of water in the “concurrent” list of the constitution which will give the federal government the right to have a key say in the matter.

“Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation

Sushri Uma Bharti has said the centre is discussing the issue of bringing water into concurrent list with states,” an official statement quoted Bharti as saying at an event in New Delhi called “Jal Manthan-III”.

As per the Indian constitution, the issue of water resources is totally in the domain of respective states, which means the federal government has to have the consent of a particular state before taking any decision on the issue affecting that state.

Bharti’s remarks assume significance as bringing the water issue on the concurrent list of the constitution will give the federal government a key say in the matter.

The question is: what implications it would have for the stalled deal between India and Bangladesh on sharing the waters of Teesta river, a deal that has been steadfastly opposed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee since September 2011 when she opted out of a trip with the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka to sign the agreement.

Since then, the federal Indian government has maintained that it is trying to work out a consensus with the West Bengal administration on the proposed deal which Mamata has consistently vetoed so far.

Recently, India’s State Minister for External Affairs MJ Akbar had told the media in New Delhi that efforts were on to evolve a consensus with the West Bengal government on the Teesta water-sharing issue.

Mamata had in the past maintained that sharing of Teesta water with Bangladesh would have grave implications for irrigation and power in the northern part of West Bengal.

It remains to be seen how the federal government addresses her concerns and help overcome the resistance to the Teesta deal.

Bharti also said the Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga-Mahanadi-Godawari rivers link was “Mother link” of India’s ambitious inter-linking of rivers in the country, saying it would help solve water woes of states like West Bengal, Odisha and Bihar.

She said a section of the people in a particular state are opposed to this link and termed it a political issue.

She said the successful completion of this link would be able to solve the drought and flood problems of West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha to a great extent.

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