Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today criticised West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her "extremely unfortunate" stance against the Teesta water sharing deal, but expressed optimism on resolving the issue through dialogue.
"It was extremely unfortunate, the chief minister of an Indian state, Mamata Banerjee raised objection (in signing the deal)... it was very unfortunate. We saw the central government of India was sincere in inking the agreement," Hasina told officials of Water Resources Ministry at the Bangladesh Secretariat.
Hasina, however, added she was optimistic about the deal saying "We hope we could solve the problem through discussion".
This is the first time that Hasina has sharply come down on Banerjee, categorically putting the blame on her for the setback in the deal.
Her comments came four days after water resource minister Anisul Islam Mahmud said Bangladesh awaited resolution of the long pending water sharing issue of the Teesta and other common rivers after the Indian election. The deal was scheduled to be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh in 2011, but deal has to be shelved as Banerjee had objected to the proposed quantum of waters, saying it would harm her state.
She also scrapped her Dhaka tour accompanying Singh at that time.
The Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the leanest period from December to March when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusec from 5,000 cusec every year. But for the first time in history, Bangladesh received only around 500 cusecs for three months since January, a water development board official told PTI preferring anonymity.
He, however, said the flow witnessed a dramatic increase with the start of monsoon rains since last month and "today the quantum was measured to be 5,000 cusecs, which is usual for this time of the year".
Officials said massive withdrawal of waters at the upstream of the Teesta severely affected the major Boro crops particularly in four northwestern districts, often called as granary of Bangladesh. The drastic fall in the flow prompted Bangladesh's foreign minister Shahidul Haque to take up the issue with his counterpart in Delhi two months ago.
Officials here said Teesta water is vital for irrigating around 6.4 lakh hectares of cropland in Bangladesh's northwestern part during the lean season while India has taken up a scheme recently to irrigate nine lakh hectares of its land with water from Teesta.
Bangladesh is criss-crossed by dozens of major rivers with 54 originating from India with only one bilateral treaty signed on the sharing of Ganges water in 1996.
Indian leadership earlier repeatedly assured Dhaka of signing the deal as early as possible after ensuring the consensus of all stakeholders.