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Teesta canal hits land block

Islampur, Dec. 9: The proposed Teesta Barrage canal in Islampur subdivision has run into a fresh but familiar problem in Bengal — that of land acquisition.

Yesterday, Trinamul minister Chowdhury Abdul Karim was told during a meeting with Teesta Barrage Project officials and North Dinajpur district authorities that villagers of Bethna, about 70km from Islampur town, had refused to give their land for the proposed canal. The Teesta Barrage authorities would have to acquire 10 acres to divert the canal’s path.

After the meeting, Karim said: “There are problems that need to be addressed at the local level. First, some people who have sold land are not allowing work to start in Chopra. Second, we have to change the alignment of the 130km canal because at Karandighi, where the canal will flow into the Tangon river, people are unwilling to give land.”

Karim, the mass education and library services minister, said he had told the sabhadhipati and the BDO of Karandighi to submit a report within a week for an alternative 10 acres in order to divert the canal.

The Teesta Barrage project was started in 1976 and has since been bogged down by litigation. The project has to be completed by 2015, failing which a Rs 2,998-crore grant by the Centre would be converted into a loan.

Karim said: “A major portion of the 160 cases have been resolved with the handing over of about 100 landloser certificates.”

Land was acquired by previous Left governments for the river project but the plots lay unused for years. According to district administration sources, many farmers who had got compensation started cultivating the plots again illegally. When the Trinamul-led government wanted to start work, they refused to move out.