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Central nod eludes flood control plans

Siliguri/Jalpaiguri, Nov. 26: The Guwahati-based Brahmaputra Board hasn’t endorsed the proposals sent by the state for the improvement of embankments along six rivers in north Bengal even two months after the projects were sent, forcing the Trinamul Congress to threaten a movement against the Centre.

The projects with a total estimated cost of Rs 158.25 crore were prepared by the North Bengal Flood Control Commission (NBFCC) under the state irrigation and waterways department for the rivers that merge with the Brahmaputra (see chart).

The measures to control floods caused by rivers which disgorge themselves into the Brahmaputra were brought under the ambit of the board earlier this year.

“Engineers of the irrigation department have sent detailed project reports to the Brahmaputra Board for allocation of money to repair and strengthen embankments along at least six rivers in north Bengal. However, it has come to our notice that the authorities in Guwahati haven’t sent a single proposal to the Union water resources ministry under which the board functions,” said north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb.

“This is a serious issue and we feel the state has been deprived of its rightful share. We will seek the intervention of the chief minister and if the funds are not sanctioned, the Trinamul Congress will launch a movement on the issue.”

Deb also said there was not a single representative of Bengal on the Brahmaputra Board, unlike northeastern states. “This is another example of the Centre’s partisan attitude towards Bengal.”

Engineers of the irrigation department said they had sent the projects to the board in September. “Initially, we were assured by the board officials that funds would be sanctioned. However, over two months have passed since then and the board is yet to give the green light,” said an engineer.

The projects laid emphasis on the prevention of erosion, repair of embankments and installation of deflectors in the rivers.

The NBFCC chairman, Narayan Chatterjee, said winter and summer months were ideal for river protection works. “We are apprehensive that the delay in the release of funds or the denial of the amount might aggravate the flood situation in the monsoon.”

The board officials couldn’t be contacted.