Sunday, June 21, 2009

Indian dam will create regional chaos

Habib Siddiqui

Anyone who has visited a hydroelectric power facility knows that there is tremendous ecological impact felt on either side of the dam. One side gets flooded while the other side only sees trickling water flowing downstream, unless sluice gates are opened periodically to release and control water flow. If the flow of water is managed solely by a hostile government such can create a devastating effect on the surrounding territories, especially those living in the downstream of the river. Such a unilateral decision to construct a dam is criminal when the river is international with its water flowing through multiple countries, i.e., not limited to the country of origin.

In the 1940s and ’50s many hydroelectric dams were built in the western world to produce cheap electricity. However, with time many developed countries have abandoned the process altogether and moved into more safer and environment-friendly alternatives. Nuclear technology has become one such alternative to address growing energy demand.

Unfortunately, as with almost any new technology these days, the western world has a monopoly in the nuclear technology also. Thus, while these countries know about the devastating effect of fossil fuels to our atmosphere and the grave ecological impact of hydroelectric power generation plants, they are not willing to transfer the much-needed environment-friendly nuclear technology to technologically weaker countries. Not only that as we have seen even when a developing country like Iran likes to pursue this technology to meet its growing energy needs, let alone ensuring a cleaner atmosphere, they are barred entry into the caste-ridden nuclear club. [See this author's article on "Letter from America - Obama, Israel and Iran" or "Will Obama Capitulate to Netanyahu" - for a discussion on why the USA , in particular, is against Iran 's pursuit of nuclear energy.]

Suspicion runs so deep among these paranoid nuclear-Brahmins that they think that one day the untouchable nomo-Sudras will take revenge upon them, let alone demand the same Brahmin status. And this they can’t allow by hook or crook. As a result of this tug of war, there has not been much progress to either technology transfer or lowering of the green-house effect. Consequently, more vulnerable countries like Bangladesh are forced to deal with devastating effect of global climate change. To these low lying countries, natural calamites like the Sidr and the Aila are now becoming regular yearly features to deal with! Experts tell us that by the middle of this century, Bangladesh will have 30 million people that will be uprooted from their homes in the coastal areas requiring relocation elsewhere. They will add to the misery of the country.

In the last several years, populous countries like India and China that have already joined the nuclear club, and yet feel that they are looked down as the nomo-Sudras by the traditional blue-eyed, white nuclear-Brahmins, have tried to extract some advantage in the form of technology transfer by promising reduction in carbon emission; but not always successfully. And as far as the real untouchables are concerned - countries that have failed to join the nuclear-club yet - there is not much that they can bargain for. They are simply ignored. And worse yet, their worst nightmares are the former nomo-Sudras like India .

Indian government’s desire to construct the Tipaimukh Dam in the North-east India is not only arrogant it is criminal to the core. It will have lasting devastating impact in the entire region. It will adversely affect millions of Bangladeshis living down south in the north-east corner of the country, weakening their means of livelihood, forcing them to become internally displaced people, and thereby worsening Bangladesh ’s overall economy. It will harm bilateral relationship between the two neighboring countries. Bangladeshi people have already suffered miserably from the Farrakah Barrage and cannot afford to see another one built to threaten them. The proposed dam is also unpopular in the Manipur State where it is being constructed. Experts there have rightly termed it a geo-tectonic blunder of international dimensions.[1]

The Indian government decision seems too short-sighted and can only antagonize people on either sides of the border. If India cares about meeting energy needs in the north-eastern corner she would better serve the interest of her people by choosing the nuclear alternative.

India has several nuclear power plants that are operating in various parts of India .[2] It is inconceivable that she cannot afford to build one extra plant in the north-east corner of the country to meet her energy demand.

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