The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha cold to joint floodfight with Dhaka

Calcutta, Oct. 3: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today set aside Dhaka’s intent to jointly tackle the flood and erosion problems plaguing Bengal and Bangladesh.

After a meeting with Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings, Bangladeshi water resources minister Hafizuddin Ahmed said: “As people of Bengal and Bangladesh are both suffering from flood and erosion problems, it is good for us to deal with them jointly through the task force formed under the Joint River Commission.”

Bhattacharjee, however, differed. Asked if the two governments were planning to jointly tackle erosion and floods, the chief minister said: “We have not discussed it. We have to deal with our problem and they must deal with theirs.”

Large parts of the state, especially Malda and Murshidabad, were ravaged by erosion along the banks of the Ganga this season. Thousands were rendered homeless in the two districts. Entire villages and even a plush irrigation department bungalow were swept away.

The state government has been making efforts to ensure that the Centre agrees to its contention that the problem is “national”, not the state’s alone. Bhattacharjee had recently said that the Centre was not implementing an expert committee report on ways to deal with erosion and floods. He had taken up the problems during meetings with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

“The problem of floods and erosion is more acute in Bangladesh,” Ahmed said today. He added that his government honours the Farakka agreement on the quantum of Ganga water to be shared between the countries.

Ahmed, who was on his way to Dhaka after talks with Union water resources minister Arjun Charan Sethi on September 30, discussed the proposed inter-linking of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra with the chief minister.

“The inter-linking would severely affect Bangladesh and lead to aridity in our country,” Ahmed said. His meeting with Sethi in Delhi ran into rough weather with Dhaka insisting that the inter-linking of rivers be made part of a joint statement and Delhi maintaining that there was no need for it at a “conceptual stage”.

After meeting Bhattacharjee, Ahmed expressed apprehensions about the proposed linking of the two rivers. The chief minister declined comment. “The Centre is dealing with it,” he said. Ahmed denied that Dhaka was trying to lobby Bengal to prevent the Centre from taking a decision on the inter-linking.

Bhattacharjee, however, refused to state Bengal’s position.

Ahmed said Bhattacharjee spoke in the same vein as the Union water resources minister.

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