Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Monday said the proposed single national tribunal for settling inter-state water disputes would expedite resolutions and facilitate irrigation facilities across the country. The minister of state for water resources convened a meeting with the ministers and high-level officials of five eastern states — West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
At present, there are separate tribunals for the Cauvery, the Narmada, the Krishna and other rivers existing in the country and the formation of the Mahanadi tribunal is in process, he said. “Instead of having so many tribunals, a single national tribunal has been proposed in the Interstate River Disputes Act Amendment Bill 2017 which has already been placed in the Lok Sabha,” he said.
A single tribunal would also help the states get proper irrigation facilities, Meghwal said adding the decision of the tribunal will be mandatory. Not just of the states, but the nation’s interest is also involved in it as water is a national asset, the minister said. He discussed pending issues relating to water disputes among the eastern states including release of funds by the Centre.
Regarding the proposed Teesta Water Sharing Treaty between India and Bangladesh, he said it was in an advanced stage and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had already made a statement in the Parliament. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had been opposing the treaty on grounds that it would affect the interest of the state as water levels would reduce.
State irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee said water level of the Teesta was already already low due to construction of dams in Sikkim for hydel power projects. He also flagged the issue of non-release of Central funds to the state for water management.
Banerjee also demanded unified control of Tenughat Dam of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) in Jharkhand for restrained release of water during the flood season.