Monday, June 15, 2009

Will Tipaimukh Dam be another Farakka Barrage?

Shuaib Ahmed

India has reportedly started construction of "Tipaimukh Dam" on the River Barak in ManipurMizoram border, a 100 kilometres uppersteam from Amalshid border of Zakigonj, Sylhet amid concerns and strong protest from the different socio-political organisations, environmentalists, civil society bodies of both India and Bangladesh apprehending its adverse socio-ecological impacts like Farakka though it is assured on India part that this dam will not affect upper stream or downstream but their assurance cannot be believed neither by the people of Bangladesh who are severely victimised for long by the Farakka and Tista barrage, nor by the riparian people of Tipaimukh dam due to the bitter experience of Bangladeshi people as the Farakka barrage was constructed showing same arguments that India would not hamper the interest of downstream but fact is that India did not keep their promise.

Moreover, our long outstanding unsettled bi-Iateral issues, due share of Ganges' water, trade gap with India, killing of Bangladeshi personnel by BSF crossing our border illegally, erecting fence in the border by BSF as well as the big brotherly attitude of India to its small neighbours like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Bangladesh compel people for not putting their faith on Indian assurance.

The construction of Tipaimukh dam, is no doubt, a burning question for Bangladeshi people due to its immense adverse impacts on the socio-ecology of the country as the experts warn that if this dam is built, we will have to face the following:

a) Tipaimukh dam would impose a great environmental threat to Bangladesh as four major rivers in the Meghna basin -- the Meghna, Kalini, Surma and Kushiara -- lie downstream of the Barak, locally known as "Ahu". After construction of this dam, if India withdraws the water from the Barak, water flow in the Surma, Kushiara and Meghna river basin will be reduced for certain period, as a result, riparian people of Megna basin will face desertification.

b) The experts warn of an increase in salinity in the Meghna-Surma basin, unusual floods in haor region, damage to the country's ecosystem and agriculture patterns in Sylhet region, due to the adverse affects of this dam. Once the dam is set up, it may reduce the natural monsoon flood patterns in the Sylhet region, adversely affecting cultivation and livelihood on a vast scale.

c) Rainfall pattern is changing due to climate change and a lot of rainfall takes place at the end of monsoon.

If it rains at the end of monsoon it will necessitate opening of the spillway gates of the' dam and unusual floods will occur here. India would preserve the water during monsoon after building the dam and release it in winter which will increase the water flow downstream. The land downstream the Barak in Sylhet region is wet land where people grow crops during winter when it gets dry. If they release water during winter the wetland will have a negative impact on our agriculture.

d) Sources said that once the project is implemented, an area of 286.20 square kilo-metres riparian land of Barak will go under water forever.

Eight villages situated in the Barak valley will be completely inundated leaving over 40,000 people landless and more than 90 villages, about 27,242 hectares of cultivable land will be lost. The project will be completed by 2012.

Considering the aforesaid negative effects, when the people of Bangladesh and India too are lodging their protest against Indian step to construct Tipaimukh dam, the Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh H.E. Mr. Pinak Ranjan Chakrabarti claimed that most of the Bangladeshi experts are making comments without having adequate information. And it is politically biased. He assured that Bangladesh would not be affected by the dam rather there is a great possibility of Bangladesh being benefited by this dam through importing electricity from India generated by Tipaimukh dam. And it is an irony of fate that fine tune with the speeches of Indian High Commissioner, even some of our ministers are reported to express the same opinion as though they were the ministers of India, instead of Bangladesh.

Indian High Commissioner accuses our experts of not having adequate knowledge to comment on Tipaimukh Dam, but at a time he should have remembered that it was the responsibility of India to provide us adequate information, which they did not provide. However, people cannot rely on the assurance of India regarding the negative effects of Tipaimukh dam as it was India who also gave assurance before opening Farakka Barrage to Bangladeshi people that it would not hamper our interest.

This is the historical truth that India has been making us suffer a lot by this barrage without keeping their sweet promises. Due to the adverse impacts of Farakka barrage, our greater Rajshahi Division is facing severe ecological disaster.

And if Tipaimukh dam is constructed, greater Sylhet and Mymensing regions will also face the same fate.

According to the International Convention on Joint River Water, without the consent of the downstream river nations, no single country alone can control the multi-nation rivers. But India seemingly does not care for these international laws despite being a signatory to this convention. If India constructs the dam without the consent of Bangladesh, it will also violate Article 9 of Bangladesh India Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, 1996.

There is a proverb saying that a stitch in time saves nine. Indeed, it is true. If our government and political leaders, civil society bodies, environmentalists fail to take proper step in time to refrain India constructing Tipaimukh dam, it will, no doubt, be another Farakka barrage for us and total nation has to pay a lot for this government blunder. It is high time we raised our clarion voices against Indian river aggression locally and internationally with a view to saving our socio-ecological balance.

This is the expectation of the Bangladeshi people that the government will take time befitting steps required to check this river aggression of India without doing any sordid politics for the sake of Indian interest as according to the International Convention on Joint River Water, support from international community will morally be obtained for the favour of Bangladesh.


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