Monday, June 22, 2009

India consulted Dhaka, no law can stop Tipai dam: envoy

Dhaka, June 21 (—Indian high commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty has said his country had consulted Bangladesh over the construction of the controversial Tipaimukh dam on the Barak river.

He says there is no international law that could stop India from implementing the Tipaimukh dam, perceived to wreak huge environmental disaster on Bangladesh.

The envoy has taken a swipe at the BNP-led alliance for opposing against the Bangladesh-India Ganges water-sharing treaty and anti-India comments, which he said were aimed at gaining "political mileage"

Chakravarty has trashed the allegation that India is depriving Bangladesh of due share of the Ganges waters as an "empty political slogan".

"Recently, there has been a lot of agitation on the question of the Tipaimukh dam. I would like to reiterate that it is a hydro-electric multi-purpose project to produce electricity," Chakravarty said at a seminar on South Asian connectivity at the Sonargaon Hotel on Sunday.

"It is also helpful to some extent for flood control. The project has no component of irrigation purpose,"

Bangladesh-India Friendship Society organised the seminar attended by foreign minister Dipu Moni as chief guest.

The high commissioner said the Bangladesh-India Joint Rivers Commission at its 1972 and 1978 meetings recoginsed the construction of a storage dam on the river Barak, which entered Bangladesh as Kushaira and Surma.

"So, to say that India has not consulted Bangladesh is really thorough lie and totally false."

"All of you should know that there is no international treaty. There is a UN convention on the non-navigation and uses of water resources made in the late 1990s," he said.

He said the convention, approved and ratified by 17 countries so far, needed signing and ratification by 35 countries to be made into an international law.

He sharply criticised people who said the Tipaimukh dam would cause environmental disasters in the greater Sylhet region in Bangladesh.

"It is unfortunate that there are some so-called water experts who make comments without considering some of the issues.

"(They) are basically attempting to poison the minds of friendly people of Bangladesh against India."

The high commissioner said both Bangladesh and India were getting due share of waters as per the Ganges water treaty singed by the previous Awami League government in 1996.

"Some people in the country are trying to derive political mileage over the water share of common rivers.

"During the 2001 general elections in Bangladesh, there were voices raised for the annulment of the treaty. However, after the elections those voices were not heard anymore.

"We were expecting that maybe we will receive a letter that the treaty would be annulled or at least reviewed. But that did not happen," he said.

Chakravarty, who did not name the main opposition BNP, said they realised that the treaty was good for both sides.

The BNP-Jaamat-e-Islami alliance in their election manifesto had said that the Ganges treaty would be reviewed.

The high commissioner also said the flow of the Ganges shrunk due to climate change, population increase, and high number of irrigation projects along the river.

"Unfortunately, criticism of India and India phobia have become an instrument for deriving political mileage for a particular section," the envoy observed.

Common river Barak carries seven to eight percent of Bangladesh's water supply. Hundreds of small rivers and water bodies are dependent on the river for water supply.

Environmentalists in Bangladesh fear that the drying up of the water bodies will lead to the unemployment of millions of people dependent on the water bodies.

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