The Ghatal Master Plan is finally getting a life after pending for more than six decades. The tension in the central-state relations regarding the project, which is worth about Rs 1,500 crore is well known. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to various ministries at the Centre several times for the implementation of the project.
On Tuesday, a nine-member delegation, including five state ministers, two MPs and MLAs, met Union Water and Power Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman of the NITI Aayog.
After the meeting, the Water Resources Minister of West Bengal Manas Bhuiyan told reporters, “The Union Minister said the Central government is attaching special importance to the Ghatal Master Plan project. The details of the project have been sent to a high-level committee for consideration."
“We are relieved by the assurance of the Union Minister and hope that the Central government will soon take a constructive decision on the Ghatal Master Plan."
Irrigation Minister Soumen Mohapatra told reporters, “Apart from the Ghatal Master Plan, talks have been held with the Union Minister and the NITI Aayog on several river issues in the State. Approval has been sought for two projects worth Rs 498 crore and Rs 581 crore to meet the flood problem in the rivers of North Bengal this year."
The Union Minister has asked to submit DPR. “We will go back and make a BDR and send it," Soumen Mohapatra said, adding “West Bengal is the most flood-prone State. The DVC reservoir was built long ago. The water holding capacity of reservoir shots has not been reconsidered for many years. Several reservoirs have almost no water holding capacity. The matter needs to be considered. The capacity of reservoirs should be increased by dredging."
The Minister added that: “You know, Bengal has to carry water from other states during monsoons."
The State representatives drew the attention of the Central government to the role of the river and coastal tourist centres in the State. This includes the plight of tourist destinations like the National Heritage Sundarbans and Digha.
The State delegation has also recommended the preparation of a master plan for these tourist centres.
Soumen Mohapatra told reporters, “The Ghatal Master Plan has not been implemented in the last 72 years. So don’t get so caught up in the rhetoric."
In this context, Manas Bhuiyan said, “The Keleghai-Kapaleshwari project is worth Rs 650 crore. Both the Center and the State are supposed to pay Rs 325 crore. But the Central government has not paid Rs 146 crore yet."
He added, “The Center had allocated Rs 3,500 crore after Cyclone Ayla. However, so far they have given only Rs 1,300 crore."
The Member of Parliament of Ghatal and actor Deepak Adhikari (Dev) said, “I don’t really trust this government. I have been fighting since 2014. Negotiations have been going on since 1952. Now, the minister has assured that the ministry is moving forward. It has been sent to the Finance Commission for consideration."