Thursday, June 25, 2009

Khaleda Zia can send her own team to see Indian dam: Hasina

Dhaka (IANS): Opposition leader Khaleda Zia is free to send her own team to see the Tipaimukh dam project in India, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said while reiterating her decision to send an all-party parliamentary team to look it up.

Accusing her political rival of seeking political mileage out of the proposed dam project on Barak river in India's Manipur state, Ms. Hasina assured that her government would study the reports submitted by both teams and decide "in the best interest of the country".

"I request the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) to send its own team there and submit its report to parliament after returning. The parliamentary standing committee team too will go there and submit its report. The Awami League government will then decide what will be good for the country," she said on Wednesday at a function to mark completion of 50 years of her Awami League.

"The government will go through the two reports and then decide what steps could be taken as regards the Tipaimukh dam project in the best interest of the country," New Age newspaper quoted her as saying.

Ms. Hasina also accused Ms. Zia of not cooperating with the formation of the parliamentary team.

"We wanted names from the opposition for inclusion in the parliamentary standing committee to visit the project site, but they proposed the names of some experts. Now they should take an initiative on their own to send (their chosen) experts to the Tipaimukh project site," she said.

Ms. Hasina alleged that the BNP was trying to make the Tipaimukh dam a political issue to mislead people. "But I have my belief that people of Bangladesh will not be misled," The Daily Star quoted her as saying.

The proposal for a parliamentary team accompanied by experts came from India last month and the Hasina government agreed to it. Zia-led BNP has since sent its own list of 'neutral' experts to join the team.

Mohammed Anshul, one of the experts on the BNP list, however, told BBC later that he had no connection with any political party and was "embarrassed" to find his name on the BNP list.

Ms. Hasina's counter-suggestion came even as the BNP demanded 'withdrawal' of Indian high Commissioner here, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, who while participating in a discussion, denied that India had been 'secretive' about the project details and had not consulted Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and India have in the past sparred over the Ganga river at Farakka in India's West Bengal state. The long dispute was resolved in 1998 with the signing of the Ganga Water Treaty during Ms. Hasina's earlier tenure as the prime minister.

Referring to the signing of the Ganga water treaty with India, Ms. Hasina expressed the confidence that the present government would also succeed in finding a solution to the Tipaimukh dam issue, protecting Bangladesh's interest.

Barak flows from Manipur into Bangladesh to eventually join the Meghna.

Bangladesh says it is the lower riparian state and must be consulted by India. It says that the dam project upstream on the river affects its environment and the water flow adversely.

Source: The Hindu

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