State trains gun on Centre over delay in flood management funds
Kolkata: The Bengal government on Monday has strongly raised the issue of the delay by the Centre in clearing around Rs 325 crore that the state government has invested to carry out various works, including flood management projects during the regional conference of eastern states on water resources.
In the same breath, the state Irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee has also demanded "unified control" over release of water from Tenughat Reservoir in Jharkhand to check flood in the Damodar basin, that causes heavy damage to South Bengal districts in Bengal almost every year during monsoon.
Banerjee said: "The Centre earlier used to sanction fund for a project in 75:25 ratio with the state. Now, the Centre has reduced its allocation and the state needs to bear 50 percent cost of a project. Even in such a situation, in today's date the state will get Rs 230 crore from the Centre for Flood Management Project (FMP) and Rs 95 crore for common border management. But the Centre has given only 12 percent of the due amount of the work carried out under FMP, in the past three consecutive financial years."
He further said: "We have also placed the demand for unified control over the release of water from Tenughat Reservoir. It has been discussed in the meeting."
It may be mentioned that with "unified control" over the release of water in place, Jharkhand alone cannot take decision on the time and volume of water to be released from the reservoir. Suggestion of the minister of Water Resources, Damodar Valley River Regulation Committee, Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand governments also have to be taken in this connection.
Stating that the problems in Bengal, compared to all the other states which attended the conference on Monday, are major and chronic, Banerjee said: "Discussions are good but it is of no use if no fund is arranged for projects as the Centre's allocation for FMP for the entire country is less than Rs 200 crore, when it has to clear Rs 230 crore of the Bengal government alone."
The issues related to Ghatal Master Plan, which was submitted in 2013, has also been raised as flood will be a matter of the past for the people of Midnapore, once it is executed. Though the Centre gave administrative sanction in 2015, it is yet to release the required money for the project.
The major issue of erosion in the banks of Ganga, Padma and Bhagirathi, that led to loss of property worth a few crores in the past few years, with an outpost of the Border Security Force (BSF) being washed away at Narukhagi Arjunpur area in Murshidabad, was also a crucial point of discussion.
The state government demanded immediate steps to check the erosion, which is vulnerable in 37 spots and a 29 km river stretch. A demand of Rs 1,000 crore for the project has also been placed.
In this connection, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Union Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, said: "Three to four issues of the Bengal government, which are related to the Finance Ministry, have come up during the discussion. We have noted it very seriously and will take necessary steps to help the state get the money as per the present policy. There is no such issue that we are not giving money to a state."
When asked how long it would take to come to a final conclusion in connection with the Tenughat Reservoir issue, Meghwal maintained: "Today I held the meeting and understood the issue...we will do follow-up meetings and will try to resolve the long-standing issue as early as possible."