Sunday, June 14, 2009

BNP seeks int'l censure on Tipaimukh dam

Dhaka, June 13 (

BNP is urging the international community to speak out against India's construction of the Tipaimukh dam, saying it is a 'death trap' for Bangladesh.

The opposition party also urged the government once more to protest in strongest possible terms against the dam to the Indian government.

"The Tipaimukh dam is a death trap for the people of Bangladesh. We appeal to the international community to ask India stop construction," BNP secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain told a press conference on Saturday.

"The Awami League government must protest against the move immediately, or BNP along with the people will be forced to take whatever action is necessary to stop it," said Delwar.

Meanwhile, Speaker Abdul Hamid has again asked the opposition to return to parliament to discuss all issues of national importance.

"After everything, I request all opposition members to join parliament immediately and discuss, before the nation, serious issues like the budget," the speaker said Saturday.

The opposition has refused to join the parliament since the start of the budget session, as it refused for most of the maiden session, over an ongoing seating dispute.

'Blame game'

Former water resources minister and BNP vice president Hafizuddin Ahmed, in a written statement Saturday, said the government must act in the country's best interests in the Tipaimukh dam issue instead of playing the 'blame game'.

He said all parties except the ruling Awami League had protested against the move.

Party chief Khaleda Zia had been protesting against the issue from the very beginning, said Hafiz, who was at one time ousted by Khaleda from the party as a 'reformist'.

"The BNP government during its first term protested to the Indian government against the dam twice on April 16 and May 18 in 1992," he said.

The former minister ruled out the statement by AL spokesperson Syed Ashraful Islam that discussion with India about the Tipaimukh dam had begun during a previous BNP administration.

"This is not true, it is a politically motivated statement," said Hafiz.

He said India conceived the Tipaimukh dam over the cross-boundary river Barak in the state of Manipur before the 1970's.

"After the formation of the Bangladesh-India Joint River Commission, the two countries discussed the issue in its first (June 25 and 26, 1972), seventh (February 28-March 2, 1974), eighth (June 6-12, 1974), tenth (August 29-september 2, 1974) and thirteenth (June 19-21, 1975) during none of which did the Awami League government oppose the project," the BNP leader said.

Hafiz said the fourteenth meeting of the commission (January 20-24, 1978) decided that an expert committee of Bangladesh and India would present a scrutiny report on the proposed dam.

"But the expert committee did not hold any meeting."

He said after 1975, successive governments of Bangladesh opposed the proposed dam and Fulertal barrage (some 30 kms from Tipaimukh dam), considering probable harm to the country.

"In 1988, the Bangladesh government requested the Indian government to stop withdrawing water from the Barak river and suppressing information on the project."

"But the Indian government did not reply," he said.

The former minister said Bangladesh sent a letter to India opposing the project on August 11, 2003 (during BNP's term) but again no response came from the Indian government.

India in the 35th and 36th meetings of the joint river commission assured that they would discuss with Bangladesh whether to withdraw water by constructing any structure on the river Barak.

"But there was no meeting of the commission in the last four years."

Serious threat

Hafiz said the construction of the dam would pose a serious threat to the environment and public life.

The construction of the dam is an obvious breach of the 9th article of the Farakka accord signed in 1966 and against international law, he said.

He asked the government to solve the problem and stop playing the "blame game".

Delwar said: "Awami League always remained quiet on the question of the dam as they act in the interests of India."

Saturday's press conference at the National Press Club was the first joint public appearance of Delwar and Hafiz since the 1/11 changeover in 2007.


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