National interest can't be paramount by hurting state: Bengal

Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal today insisted that the opinion of states should be mandatory for sharing of the water with any other country, an apparent reference to the Teesta water-sharing issue with Bangladesh.

"National interest cannot be kept paramount by sacrificing the interest of a particular state, notably West Bengal," the state government told a meeting of the National Water Resources Council here.

"Accordingly, sharing and management of water of international rivers should be finalised after giving due cognizance to the views of the states and this should be stated in the National Water Policy (NWP)," the state demanded.

A deal on sharing the waters of Teesta with Bangladesh had to be scrapped during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka in September last year following last-minute reservations voiced by Mamata.

Linking the water to the food security plan, the Bengal government maintained water should not be viewed as an economic goods.

"It should be clearly declared in the national water policy (NWP) in unambiguous terms that it is the responsibility of the government to provide water for ensuring food security, drinking and other purposes to the common citizen, including lower and middle class people in an equitable manner," according to a statement issued by West Bengal government.

In order to fulfil the commitment to ensure food security, the state demanded the role of the Centre should be more proactive in funding new projects as well as renovation and modernisation of completed major projects in water sector.

The Mamata Banerjee-led government said the Centre should consider views of state governments in matters of conservation, development and management of water resources while finalising the national water policy.

West Bengal was represented by Irrigation and Waterways Minister Rajib Banerjee at the meeting of the National Water Resources Council here.

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