Friday, July 31, 2009

Tipaimukh dam only if affected people agree to it, say activists

Imphal, Jul 30:

The Tipaimukh dam should not be constructed without the free prior and informed consent of the indigenous people of all affected people in Manipur, Mizoram, Assam and further down in Bangladesh, said the Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD), Action Committee Against Tipaimukh Dam (ACTIP) and Committee on Land and Natural Resources (COLNAR).

While speaking during a press meet held today at the Manipur Press Club, the three organizations condemned the environmental clearance accorded by the ministry of environment and forest, government of India in 2008 despite the vehement opposition of the affected people to the public hearing on the proposed dam and also to the construction of the dam. They said that clearance despite the absence of a holistic and detailed impact assessment with due rightful participation of affected people construes disrespect to the indigenous people call for respect of people’s rights over their land and resources.

The government of India and Manipur government remained the only supporters of the construction of the Tipaimukh dam despite resistance from all sides, both down and upstream, which includes the mass anti-dam mobilization in Bangladesh and the recent resolution against the dam in the Barak valley in Assam demanding for abandoning the dam, said the three anti dam bodies while asserting that only a dictatorial government would continue with forceful implementation in defiance to the people’s call for respect of their rights and justice.

The anti dam bodies revealed that they would continue to fight against forceful damming of Barak river and resist any attempt to disregard and sacrilege their culture, economy and identity. They also said that any form of compensation or other benefits cannot replace what has evolved over generations. The dam if built would stand to represent an example of a repressive development, they said.

They also pointed out that the government of Manipur in the past had twice in the Assembly resolved that they would not allow the dam. But undemocratic processes that rule Manipur have led to the signing of MoU with NEEPCO, and now with NHPC without explaining to the people what these MoUs are.

On the visit of the parliamentary committee from Bangladesh, the bodies definitely welcomed them as representatives of their neighbours, but, however, added that the bodies would respectfully urge them to desist from any unilateral agreement with India. They informed that they would continue to work with the people living downstream to stop this dam from coming up and asserted that a series of agitations would be lined up if the dam is not scrapped immediately.

Bangladeshi delegation visits Manipur to assess hydel project

Imphal, July 31 (IANS)

A 10-member Bangladeshi parliamentary delegation visited the Tipaimukh dam in India’s Manipur Friday following the opposition in Dhaka over the hydel project’s possible ecological impact.

The delegation, led by parliament water resources standing committee chairman Abdur Razzaq, held a meeting with Indian Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in New Delhi Thursday before arriving in Manipur Friday.

“The Indian power minister told the visiting delegation that the Tipaimukh project is not an irrigation project or a water diversion scheme, it is a hydel project and in no way will harm Bangladesh’s interest,” an official told journalists here.

The Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydel Project on the Barak river, some 200 km upstream of the Bangladesh border, is under attack in Bangladesh with opposition parties and environmental groups saying it could cause desertification downstream.

“We will ask the Indian authorities not to implement any project that diverts or withdraws water from the Barak river,” Razzaq said.

He said they proposed to request India to launch a joint survey on the proposed Tipaimukh multi-purpose dam before beginning construction.

The delegation, comprising of six lawmakers, three officials and a water expert, during its five-day tour was scheduled to meet Indian officials associated with water resources, power and environment.

The state-owned National Hydro-electric Power Corporation (NHPC)is developing the Rs.81.38 billion ($1.7-billion) hydel project to generate 1,500 MW of power.

Part of the Brahmaputra river system, the Barak bifurcates on entering Sylhet district of eastern Bangladesh into the Surma and Kushiyara rivers.

Bangladesh’s opposition leader and former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia wrote to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month, urging him to stop construction of the project.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is understood to have told his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni at a meeting in New Delhi earlier this month that India would not harm its neighbour’s interests.

“It will regulate excess water, control floods in Sylhet district of Bangladesh, western Manipur and southern Assam, and open a new waterway from Haldia port in West Bengal to northeast India via Bangladesh,” said T.C. Borgohain, a senior engineer associated with the project.

“The project would also lead to the development of two national highways - NH 53 and NH 150 - and thereby improve the connectivity among Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura,” Borgohain told IANS.

“Water used for generating electricity will be released back into the river.”

The project, cleared by the Manipur government, is awaiting approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) of the central government. “The project is scheduled for commissioning within 87 months from the date of the CCEA clearance,” Borgohain said.

The project, one of the largest in northeastern India, is also facing opposition from within the country over fears of displacement.

Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD), Committee on Land and Natural Resources (COLNAR) and Action Against the Tipaimukh Dam Project (ACTIP), in a joint statement on the visit of the Bangladesh parliamentary committee to the dam site, said: “The Tipaimukh project must be scrapped.”

Meanwhile, following the Manipur government’s request, the central power ministry last month appointed the state-owned NHPC as the implementing agency for the multi-purpose Tipaimukh hydro-electric project replacing power giant North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) which had earlier been awarded the project in January 2003, but the construction work had failed to take off for various reasons.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tipaimukh dam means war, says HPC(D)

The Imphal Free Press

The proposed Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project is a war imposed on the indigenous Hmar people and various other communities who shared the river, downstream as well as upperstream, the Hmar People`s Convention (D) has said in a press release.

The power-hungry governments and dam builders in India who were driven by capitalist interests, in their blind pursuit for profit making and securing energy in distant foreign land, are poised to cross into indigenous peoples territory to dam the two life-giving rivers, Tuiruong and Tuivai. They don`t have the approval and consent of the people in whose land the dam is proposed. We are closely watching their every move, it said.

The HPC (D) shall never tolerate and allow their efforts to bear any fruit, it added.

The rivers that nurse and feed our honoured generations before shall continue to flow for all the generations to come. We cannot allow the rivers to be disturbed and are obligated to see that no outsiders, their forces and might will dam, destroy or disturb the natural flow of the rivers of life, it stated.

It also appealed to the visiting Bangladeshi parliamentary delegates to steadfastly share the concern to save river Tuiruong and Tuivai for all purposes; to work together for collective good; to save the rivers from irreparable damage and public calamity.

The HPC(D) is also responsible for destroying NEEPCO`s drilling machine in the year 2008, the release from Lalthutlung Hmar, northern command of the Hmar Peoples Convention (Democratic) said

Bangladesh team to visit dam site

By Mark Dummett

BBC News, Dhaka

A delegation of Bangladeshi parliamentarians has arrived in north-east India to examine plans to build a hydroelectric dam.

Many Bangladeshis worry that, if built, the Tipaimukh dam in the state of Manipur will reduce water flowing into its own north-eastern region.

Work on building the dam has not yet started.

But this is already a sensitive issue in Bangladesh, a country normally associated with having too much water.

The leader of the main opposition party in Bangladesh has called on India to cancel the project for the sake of the millions of people in both countries, who she said would be harmed by it.

There have been several street protests as well, by those who say that two rivers, which pass through Bangladesh's Sylhet region, could dry up if the dam is built.

They have compared the proposals to the Farakka Barrage, which India built in the 1970s on the Ganges to divert water away from Bangladesh.

Despite a later agreement between the two countries to share water, Bangladesh's north-western regions continue to suffer from shortages in the winter months.

After meeting officials in Delhi, the Bangladeshi parliamentarians will travel to Manipur to visit the site of the proposed dam.

They are to examine whether Bangladesh really does have something to fear.

Govt out to protect interest of big neighour: Moudud

Staff Reporter

Former minister and BNP leader Barrister Moudud Ahmed yesterday said that the present government was busy to protect and promote the interest of a neighbouring country. They came to the power with their blessings, he said.

He was addressing as the chief guest at a discussion on 'Tipaimukh Dam and Responsibility of the Government' at the Institution of Engineers Bangladesh (IEB) in the city.

Organised by Islami Chatra Shibir, it was addressed, among others, by Assistant Secretary General of Bangladesh Jamate Islami Mohammad Kamruzzaman, Vice Chancellor of Manarat International University Prof Dr Abdur Rab, Professor of Dhaka University Mujahidul Islam and President of city unit of Jamate Islami Rafiqul Islam Khan.

The programme was presided over by President of the organisation Md Rezaul Karim while its General Secretary Shishir Mohammad Monir Conducted it.

Barrister Moudud said that if the Tipaimukh dam is constructed, it would sour the relationship between Bangladesh and India.

He said that the Tipaimukh dam issue is the life and death matters for Bangladesh, but the government was silent.

Criticising the government, Kamruzzaman said that the ministers of the government remain silent when the Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty delivered controversial remarks on the Tipaimukh dam issue.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

'Dhaka will urge no Barak irrigation project'

Kamran Reza Chowdhury Senior Correspondent

Bangladesh will demand assurance from India that it will not implement any irrigation project which will divert water from the common river Barak, says the chief of the parliamentary team leaving on Wednesday to visit the site of the planned Tipaimukh dam.

Abdur Razzaq, who will head the 11-member parliamentary delegation, told on Tuesday that he would propose India carry out a joint study on the dam that Bangladesh fears will cause environmental damage in the downstream.

The former water resources minister said as per the minutes of the joint rivers commission (JRC) meetings and a Bangladesh study on the proposed dam, if India solely implements a power project in Tipaimiukh, it would not harm Dhaka's interests.

Razzaq said the BNP' former water resources minister Hafiz Uddin Ahmed at the JRC meetings in 2003 and 2005 rightly opposed implementation of any irrigation project in Phulertala—further down to the Tipaimukh dam in the northeasternIndian state of Manipur.

As per the Indian plans, Delhi will implement an irrigation project at Phulertala over the Barak which enters into Bangladesh as the Surma and Kushiara.

The two rivers are lifeline for hundreds of rivers and water bodies in the greater Sylhet region.

"Despite the study and the JRC agreements, we will propose carrying out a joint-study to know whether the Tipaimukh dam will cause any harm to Bangladesh," Razzaq, , also the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on water resources ministry, said at parliament building.

He said Bangladesh had been opposing implementation of the irrigation project over the Barak since 1978.

"We will firmly ask the Indian side that they must not implement the irrigation project at Phulertala. Because, irrigation project means water diversion (from the upstream)," he said.

Razzaq said India "repeatedly" committed to not implement the Phulertala project.

"At one stage, they agreed that they would not start irrigation project there.

"Again, the Indian prime minister has assured us that they will not do anything that will harm Bangladesh," said Razzaq.

Environmental pressure groups in Bangladesh and Manipur state have repeatedly voiced concern over the potential impact of the planned dam in downstream regions.

India claims the Tipaimukh dam would not withhold water from Bangladesh as it is part of a power generation and not intended for irrigation purposes.

Indian high commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty has said there will be no water diversion from downstream Bangladesh.

The parliamentary delegation goes for a five-day tour after India invited it in a move to allay Dhaka's fear over the controversial project.

The main opposition the BNP has not nominated any delegation to the 11-member team.

The BNP's main ally Bangladesh Jaamat-e-Islami MP Hamidur Rahman Azad, who is one of the members of the team, may not go, according to Razzaq.

He said the team would leave Dhaka for New Delhi at 10:00am by a Jet Airways flight on July 29, where they will meet officials from the foreign and energy ministries.

"We will listen to what they have to say, rather than voice our own opinions," said Razzaq.

On July 30, they are scheduled to fly to Guwahati, the capital of Assam state, and to the proposed dam site.

"We will submit a report on our return to the prime minister through the water resources ministry and the parliament secretariat," he said.

Members of the parliamentary team include Awami League MP Abdur Rahman, AKM Fazlul Haq MP (AL), ABM Anwarul Haq MP (AL) and Jatiya Party MP ABM Ruhul Amin Hawlader, Hamidur Rahman Azad (Bangladesh Jaamat-e-Islami), and independent MP Fazlul Azim.

It also has two experts, BUET professor Monwar Hossain and Sajjad Hossain of the Bangladesh-India Joint Rivers Commission, the water resources secretary and a director general of the foreign ministry.

Boon or bane for Bangladesh?

G. M. Quader

FOR quite sometime now Tipaimukh Dam has been a subject of discussion, a political issue. Different people are raising it in various forums, providing reasons based mostly on political bias and very little on facts and figures.

On July 18, leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia made some statements on Tipaimukh Dam. She gave a call to all the people of Bangladesh, including the government, to be united against construction of the said dam in India. She also called upon the Indian government to declare immediately that India had abandoned the project.

She said that Tipaimukh Dam when constructed would have a tremendously harmful effect on Bangladesh. She said that it would have an adverse effect on water, life, environment, nature, agriculture, fish etc. She termed the dam as a death trap for Bangladesh and compared it with the Farakka Barrage.

She said that she understood that the government did not have enough data or facts and figures on Tipaimukh Dam. She thought that it was her duty to collect the same from renowned experts and disclose those to assist the government

A power-point presentation with some information was given by a former power secretary, Mr. Akhter Hossain, after Begum Zia's statement.

Mr. Akhter Hossain expressed that India had been constructing dams on common rivers and withdrawing water unilaterally in the upper riparian region, depriving Bangladesh of its due share. He concluded by stating that by the year 2050 there would be no water in any river in Bangladesh due to construction of the dams on common rivers. He said that Bangladesh was going to become a desert in the long run due to the actions of the Indian government.

Mr. Akhter Hossain accused India of violating the international charter since it was mandatory for India, an upper riparian country, to consult Bangladesh -- the lower riparian country -- and take its consent before building the Tipaimukh Dam.

Engr. Akhter Hossain also said that the proposed dam site fell within the earthquake prone zone. As such, in case of an earthquake the dam may fail, which would cause havoc like a tsunami and Shilchar, Karimganj of Assam and Sylhet of Bangladesh would be inundated.

Let us analyse the accusations in the perspective of what we find from different documents.

The question of construction of a water reservoir on the Barak river came up as far back as June, 1972 in the first meeting of the Joint River Commission (JRC) between the experts of India and Bangladesh. The purpose had been moderation of flooding along the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, Barak and other rivers and in Sylhet district in Bangladesh.

Quoted below is the relevant portion of the minutes of the meeting:

"The current flood situation in Assam and the adjoining areas in Bangladesh was reviewed by the Commission. There has been heavy flood along the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, Barak and other rivers and in the Sylhet district in Bangladesh. In considering measures for flood control and flood distress mitigation, the Commission decided to form a Study Group comprising of Shri V.N. Nagaraja (alternate Shri R. Rangachari) and Director, Floods, CWPC or alternate from India and M/s. A. M. M. G. Kibria, Chief Engineer, IWTA and Amjad Hossain Khan, Director, Water Investigation, from Bangladesh to assess immediately the flood situation in the Sylhet area of Bangladesh in Cachar district and other adjoining areas in India in order to formulate short-term and long-term measures for reducing the flood damage in the region. In this connection the Commission noted that a project for the construction of storage reservoir on the Barak river has been investigated. The Commission felt that this was a useful project and formulation of this project should be expedited taking into consideration conditions in Bangladesh."

The subject continued to be discussed, decisions taken and follow up actions persuaded in the subsequent JRC meetings and recorded accordingly e.g. 2nd meeting in Dhaka, September 28-30, 1972 (Para 8), 3rd meeting in New Delhi, December 11-13, 1972 (Para 8), 4th meeting in Dhaka, March 29-31, 1973 (Para 8), 5th meeting in New Delhi, July 19-21, 1973 (Para 8), 6th meeting in Dhaka, November 8-10, 1973 (Para 7), 7th meeting in New Delhi, Feb 28-March 2, 1974 (Para 10), 8th meeting in Dhaka, June 6-12, 1974 (Para 8.4.1), 10th meeting in Dhaka, Aug 29-Sept 2, 1974 (Para 10), 13th meeting in Dhaka, June 19-21, 1975 (Para 8).

Quoted below is the extract of the 14th JRC meeting in Dhaka, June 20-24, 1978, when a dam at Tipaimukh site was considered:

"With regard to the flood problem of Sylhet-Cachar and adjoining areas the Commission decided that the concerned superintending engineers of both the countries should jointly examine the scope of the Indian scheme of a storage dam on Barak river at Tipaimukh and study expeditiously the potential flood control and other benefits for Bangladesh and report the progress to the Commission at its next meeting."

Later, the flood plan coordination organisation, Bangladesh Water Development Board, made a study on Flood Action Plan and prepared a report titled "Northeast Regional Water Management Project (FAP 6) in September 1993.

Quoted below are the contents of page 17 of the said study report, which provides an overall assessment of the project as published:


Planned date of implementation: Proposed to start 1993 but delayed pending resolution of various issues, including impacts on Bangladesh.

Objective: Generate 3,609 GWH of electricity annually and irrigate 1,680 sq/km of Cachar Plain.

Physical works: 161metre high rock-fill dam at Tipaimukh gorge on the Barak river with an installed generating capacity of 1,500 MW.

Barrage on the Barak at Fulerthal, about 100 km downstream from the dam, irrigation distribution system, Cachar Plain.

Direct impacts: Moderation of flood flows of the Barak, Surma, and Kushiyara rivers. Amalshid peak flows reduced by 25%, floodwater volumes reduced by 20%, water levels reduced by 1.6 metres. The Sylhet basin would experience lower floods, less inundation, lower monsoon drainage flows. Surma and Kushiyara channel erosion and sediment transport would be less.

Augmentation of dry season flows. Amalshid. Average February flows estimated to increase by a factor of 4.2, total dry season volume +60%, water levels +1.7 metres, Other dry season water levels: Sherpur +1.5 metres, Ajmiriganj +1.0m. Drainage congestion possible in some areas.

Other impacts: Monsoon season: less flood and erosion damage to crops, homesteads, urban areas, infrastructure. Dry season: increased water availability during the critical period for irrigation, fisheries, navigation.

Hazards: reduced flood hazards. Dam failure could have catastrophic effects on the northeast region -- the issue requires further study/environment management planning.

Implementation phase impacts: Reservoir filling could affect hydrology in the northeast region -- the issue requires further study/environment management planning."

[Source Joint Rivers Commission, NERP estimates.]

The above clearly indicates that the project would achieve moderation of flood flows of the Barak, Surma, and Kushiyara rivers. In addition, it would allow augmentation of dry season flows of the same rivers.

As regards hazard, the project did minimise the flooding, but dam failure could have catastrophic effects on the northeast region. It is also seen that in addition to generation of 1500 mw of electricity, the project has a component for making a barrage on the Barak at Fulerthal, about 100 km downstream from the dam.

In the 35th JRC meeting in New Delhi, September 29-30, 2003 (Para VI) Bangladesh side raised an objection on the proposed construction of a barrage at Fulerthal for diverting water by India. The Indian side assured that there would not be any diversion of waters from Fulertal or elsewhere on the Barak river.

The Indian side also gave assurance that if it was ever decided to build a diversion structure on the Barak river it would be done after due consultation with Bangladesh. There was reassurance from the Indian side on the same issue again in the subsequent 36th JRC meeting in Dhaka on September 19-21, 2005.

It is known from newspaper reports that on December16, 2006, two ministers of the government of India laid the foundation stone of Tipaimukh Dam project. The Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the government of India vide a note verbal dated January 2007 not to proceed with the construction of Tipaimukh Dam until the water sharing issues with Bangladesh were resolved.

The Indian prime minister, during a meeting with the prime minister of Bangladesh on the sidelines of the 15th Non-Aligned Movement Summit at Sharm El- Sheikh in Egypt on July 15, gave firm assurance that India would not take any action in respect of Tipaimukh Dam which would harm the bilateral relations between the two countries.

In the meantime, the government of India forwarded an invitation for a team from Bangladesh to go to Tipaimukh Dam site to have first-hand understanding of the situation there. Bangladesh is preparing to send an all-party parliamentary delegation to visit the site.

It is clear from the above that the concerned experts from Bangladesh side have all along been very much aware of the situation as regards Tipaimukh Dam. The government of Bangladesh did not show any lack of alertness to safeguard the interest of the country on the issue as well.

No visible sign of unilateral action by the Indian experts or the government of India defying or denying Bangladesh could be traced so far. Is creating unnecessary panic and making the situation complicated with aggressive accusations really needed at the moment? It is evident from the above-mentioned study done by Bangladesh that if constructed properly taking into consideration interest of Bangladesh, the country can be immensely benefited from Tipaimukh Dam.

G.M. Quader is Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism.

Parliamentary team to do all to collect most Tipai info

The parliamentary delegation scheduled to visit the Tipaimukh dam site in India on Friday, said that the extent of its access to the site will depend on how much its counterpart is willing to allow.

The team, that is scheduled to leave Dhaka on Wednesday for a six-day visit, however said it will try its best to collect as much information and documents as possible for assessing the dam's effect on Bangladesh.

"We will not be able to roam around at will while visiting the Tipaimukh dam, as we will be guided by the Indian counterpart," chief of the delegation Abdur Razzaq, also chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on water resources, told reporters after a committee meeting yesterday.

"We will move around as much as they will allow us," added Razzaq, also a senior lawmaker of ruling Awami League.

The delegation chief also admitted that the team's strength has been weakened due to main opposition lawmakers' refusal to be included in it.

Razzaq said, "It would be better if they had gone with us," adding that independent lawmaker Mohammad Fazlul Azim from Noakhali-6 was included in the delegation.

The 11-member delegation comprised of seven lawmakers, one official each from the water resources ministry, foreign affairs ministry, and Joint Rivers Commission, and a water expert from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), will finalise the ambit of its investigation, agenda, and strategy today in a meeting.

Razzaq said they will meet officials of the Indian foreign ministry and energy ministry on July 29, the first day of their visit.

The delegation will also make a courtesy call to the Indian foreign minister and energy minister on July 30.

On July 31, the delegation will fly to Gouhati and go to the Tipaimukh dam site by a helicopter from there. The team will spend the day at the site.

"We are likely to return to Delhi on August 2, and likely to return home the next day," ABM Anwarul Hoque, one of the delegates, told The Daily Star after the briefing.

About the ambit of the delegation's investigation, Razzaq said, "We will try to assess how much damage to our environment the proposed dam is likely to cause. We will ask our expert to assess the matter."

"We will also try to find out whether any structure is already built on the Barak river," he said.

"News reports show a picture of a dam on the Barak River, but we know there is no structure built on that river, therefore we will go and see for ourselves what is the real picture," added Razzaq.

He said the delegation will also try to know the exact nature of the project.

Source: The Daily Star

Govt inaction to halt Tipai dam challenged

A writ petition was filed with the High Court (HC) today seeking direction from the court upon the government to take immediate steps to halt the construction of the proposed Tipaimukh dam.

In the writ petition, 'inaction of the government to stop the process of constructing the Tipaimukh Dam was challenged'.

The writ petition also prayed to the court to issue a rule upon the government to explain why its decision on sending a parliamentary team to visit the Tipai Dam site without having exact information and data regarding the dam from India should not be declared illegal.

Abu Naser Rahmatullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP) filed the writ petition as a public interest litigation.

The lawyer for the petitioner advocate Tajul Islam told The Daily Star that hearing of the petition will be held tomorrow.


Tipai team to meet Indian foreign, energy ministers

Dhaka, July 26 (

The parliamentary team leaving this week to inspect the site of the planned Tipaimukh dam will meet the Indian foreign and energy ministers to inform them of Bangladesh's concern over the project, said the delegation chief on Sunday.

Abdur Razzaq, head of the team and chairman of the standing committee on water resources, said the Bangladeshi delegation could have been stronger if the main opposition BNP had nominated two of their MPs for inclusion as requested.

The 11-member Bangladeshi delegation, during its five-day trip beginning Wednesday, will collect data on the potential environmental impact of the dam on Bangladesh, said Razzaq, a former water resources minister.

"I have studied the minutes of meetings of the Joint Rivers Commission regarding the project," he told reporters after a meeting of the standing committee on water resources at the parliament building.

Razzaq said the team would leave Dhaka for Delhi on July 29, where they will meet officials from the foreign and energy ministries.

"We will listen to what they have to say, rather than voice our own opinions," said Razzaq.

On July 30, they are scheduled to reach Guwahati by air, and will then travel on by helicopter to the proposed site of the dam at Tipaimukh.

"We will submit a report on our return to the prime minister through the water resources ministry and the parliament secretariat," he said.

Environmental pressure groups in Bangladesh and India's northeastern Monipur state have repeatedly voiced concern over the potential impact of the planned dam in downstream regions.

The hugely contentious dam would straddle the cross-border Barak River, which crosses Monipur and enters Bangladesh as it divides into the Surma and Kushiara rivers.

The two rivers are the source for hundreds of water bodies in the greater Sylhet region.

India claims the Tipaimukh dam would not withhold water from Bangladesh as it is part of a power generation and not intended for irrigation purposes.

Indian high commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty has said there will be no water diversion from downstream Bangladesh.

Members of the parliamentary team include Awami League MP Abdur Rahman, AKM Fazlul Haq MP (AL), ABM Anwarul Haq MP (AL) and Jatiya Party MP ABM Ruhul Amin Hawlader.

It also has two experts BUET Prof Monwar Hossain and Sajjad Hossain of the Bangladesh-India Joint Rivers Commission.

Razzaq, who is also a ruling Awami League MP, said MP Hamidur Rahman Azad of the opposition Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, a BNP ally, was also included in the delegation.

He said independent MP Fazlul Azim brought the team up to 11 members.

BNP failed to name two members for the team, even though
the party has been among the loudest critics of the dam project in recent months.

The main opposition party has been firing from the sidelines, however, unwilling to raise its concerns in parliament as its MPs have been boycotting the House almost continuously since January.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dhaka team to do its `best’ during Indian dam site visit

IANS, Dhaka, July 27

The Bangladesh team preparing to study the Tipaimukh dam project in India has promised to do its ‘best’, but says it would depend upon the extent to which the hosts facilitate all its movements.

“We will not be able to roam around at will while visiting the Tipaimukh dam, as we will be guided by the Indian counterpart,” chief of the delegation Abdur Razzaq, who is also chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on water resources, told the media Sunday.

A former minister, Razzaq leads an 11-member team of parliamentarians, officials and a water resource expert to the site of the proposed dam over Barak river in India’s Manipur state.

The team is scheduled to leave Dhaka Wednesday for a six-day visit.

Razzaq said it will try its best to collect as much information and documents as possible for assessing the dam’s effect on Bangladesh.

“We will move around as much as they will allow us,” Razzaq was quoted as saying in The Daily Star Monday.

About the ambit of the delegation’s investigation, Razzaq said: “We will try to assess how much damage to our environment the proposed dam is likely to cause. We will ask our expert to assess the matter.”

“We will also try to find out whether any structure is already built on the Barak river.

“News reports show a picture of a dam on the Barak river, but we know there is no structure built on that river. Therefore we will go and see for ourselves what is the real picture,” added Razzaq.

He said the delegation will also try to know the exact nature of the project.

The team will be visiting on an invitation extended by India two months ago. There have been protests and even rallies in the intervening period that have delayed the visit.

Razzaq admitted to leading a ‘weak’ team as the opposition parties had kept out of the visit.

“It would be better if they had gone with us,” Razzaq said, adding that independent lawmaker Mohammad Fazlul Azim was included in the delegation.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, have opted out and have joined protests by a section of environmentalists and NGOs.

Upper riparian India says it requires the dam to generate power for its northeastern region.

The project’s critics however charge that it would deny Bangladesh its share of river water and have an adverse impact on the ecology.

Tipaimukh Dam row: BNP says no to India visit

Dhaka, July 26 (PTI)

Bangladesh's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has decided not to be part of a 10-member delegation which will visit India to inspect the cross-border Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur.

While BNP has maintained that its two lawmakers will not join the delegation, a single member of its ally Jamaat-e-Islami has signalled not to participate in the visit by saying that he is "not well".

"We are not going to India as part of the parliamentary delegation. It is our party decision," the chief whip of the opposition in parliament, Zainul Abdin Farroque was quoted as saying by New Age.

The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami which has lone MP Hamidur Rahman Azad in the committee did not submit his travel documents till yesterday.

Azad told the newspaper that he has met with an accident and said "my participation has become uncertain because of my illness.

Cachar meet gives strong opposition to Tipaimukh dam

The Imphal Free Press

Imphal, Jul 26: Amidst the growing controversy over the construction of Tipaimukh dam, a public discussion on Tipaimukh held in Cachar district of Assam, has resolved to oppose the construction of the dam at any cost.

The public meeting held on Sunday was organized by the United Development Organisation at Ganga Dayal Dixit Community Hall, Binakandi, Cachar district, Assam, and was attended by prominent members like W Ramanand, coordinator of the Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Piyush Kanti Das, an activist, Keshab Krishna Chatradhara, chief secretary of the Alliance Against Subansiri Project Dhemaji Assam and Kinderson Pamei, an active member of Committee on Land and Natural Resources. Hundreds of people attended the meeting.

While speaking at the function, O Bikramjit, co-convenor of the Action Committee Against the Tipaimukh Dam, remarked that the statements of the former chief secretary of Manipur and ministers was unexpected and unfortunate. The statements had apparently said that there was nothing to lose for Manipur in building the dam and hue and cry should not be raised by the anti-dam activists.

According to W Ramananda, the entire north eastern state of India was prone to earthquakes and added that in case the dam happens to break the whole of Lakhipur sub-division of Cachar would be inundated by 10 metres of water and Silchar town would be seven feet under water. The meeting in view of these dangerous findings resolved to oppose the construction of the dam.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dhaka opposition parties keep out of team to inspect Indian dam

Dhaka, July 26 (IANS)

Bangladesh’s opposition parties have opted out of a team that will visit the site of the Tipaimukh dam in India’s Manipur state.

While Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has conveyed that their two lawmakers would not join it, a lone member of its Islamist ally Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami Saturday said he had met with an accident and was unlikely to join.

The lawmaker had not sent in his travel papers in response to the government’s invitation, New Age newspaper said Sunday.

“We are not going to India as part of the parliamentary delegation. It is our party decision,” the chief whip of the opposition in the parliament, Zainul Abdin Farroque, told the newspaper Saturday.

Nearly two months after India mooted the proposal for a visit by the parliamentary team, Dhaka is set to send its team Wednesday.

Led by Abdur Razzak, a former freedom fighter and minister who is the chairman of the standing committee of parliament on water resources, the team will have lawmakers, officials and an independent water resource expert.

The BNP had been insisting on five experts that it said were ‘neutral’. BNP chief former prime minister Khaleda Zia has dispatched a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to abandon the project.

She has readied a protest letter that would be addressed to different governments and international organisations to complain that the dam would deny Bangladesh its share of river water and have adverse effect on its ecology.

The BNP has joined protests by a section of environmentalists and NGOs and there have been rallies outside the Indian High Commission office in downtown Dhaka.

During its six-day trip to India, the 10-member Bangladeshi delegation is scheduled to spend a day in Manipur from where they will fly to the project site by helicopter.

India plans to construct a multi-purpose dam on the river Barak to generate 1,500 megawatts electricity and prevent monsoon floods.

Part of the Brahmaputra river system that flows from China, Barak river passes through India before flowing into Bangladesh to form Surma and Kushiara rivers that eventually merge into Meghna.

Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina and Manmohan Singh have agreed to resolve the issue by talks during their meeting in Egypt.

Tipai Issue: Muzaffer stresses working together

Staff Correspondent, Sylhet

India wants to produce hydroelectricity instead of coal-based power by constructing Tipaimukh dam to get rid of carbon pollution, said President of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon Prof Muzaffer Ahmad.

Muzaffer, also Trustee Board member of Transparency International Bangladesh, said India had studied what would happen to its portion if the dam was constructed but did not think what would happen to the people of Bangladesh.

“We should now work together,” he said, adding that Kaptai and Farakka barrages had caused environmental and biological disaster in Bangladesh. Monga is the result of the construction of Farakka Barrage.

If Tipaimukh dam is constructed Monipuri indigenous people of India will also be affected, he said, adding: "We will have to contact them. We need to convince them to raise their voices against the dam."

Muzaffer said indigenous people have always been vocal against Kaptai and Farakka dams.

Muzaffer was delivering his speech as the chief discussant at a seminar on "Impact of Tipaimukh dam construction: What we should do to prevent imminent disaster" at a restaurant in Sylhet yesterday morning.

Sylhet Paribesh Andolon and Rotary Club of Sylhet, Sunshine, jointly organised the seminar.

Muzaffer said the Tipaimukh dam would inundate low-lying areas like Sylhet and the agricultural system there would be in jeopardy.

He said during the construction of Farakka dam in the 60s people could not protest but now they are suffering from its consequences.

Muzaffer urged the elected lawmakers to inform the ministries concerned about the harmful effects of the dam.

If they discuss the issue in the House the government might take an environment-friendly decision, he added.

Sadruddin Ahmed Chowdhury, AK Kim, Enamul Quddus Chowdhury, Bahauddin Zakaria, Debananda Bhattacharya, Emadullah Shahidul Islam, Mahbub Sobhani and ATM Kamal also spoke.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

China supports Bangladesh-India talks on Tipaimukh dam

Dhaka, July 24 (IANS)
China has expressed support for talks between Dhaka and New Delhi over the proposed construction of Tipaimukh dam in India’s Manipur state. The Barak river, on which the dam is to be built, flows from China into India and then goes to Bangladesh.Visiting Chinese special envoy Zhou Gang, who met the Bangladeshi leadership Thursday, supported the dialogue process, New Age newspaper said Friday.

His response came even as Dhaka prepared to send a team of parliamentarians, officials and a water resource expert to visit the site of the proposed dam.

Team leader Abdur Razzaq announced Thursday that the team would leave without two lawmakers from the main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The day witnessed mutual recrimination between leaders of the government and the BNP, each accusing the other for lack of cooperation.

BNP, headed by former prime minister Khaleda Zia, has cast its lot with a section of environmentalists and NGOs opposing the Indian project on the ground that it would deny Bangladesh its share of water and endanger the ecology of the Sylhet region.

Zia has sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to abandon the project.

“The parliamentary standing committee of water resources ministry does not have any representative from BNP. We have requested the party to send names of its two lawmakers but they did not cooperate with us, taking the issue politically,” Abdur Razzaq, chairman of the parliamentary committee, told the BBC.

The delegation will leave for India July 29 to carry out preliminary assessment of the possible impact on Bangladesh if the dam is built. The team is scheduled to return Aug 3.

Barak river is part of the Brahmaputra river system that the three countries share. There have been reports that China wants to build a dam on the river as well. Tipaimukh is located 200 km upstream of the Bangladesh border.

India says it needs the dam to generate power for the development of its northeastern region.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Transboundary water conflicts and Tipaimukh Dam

By: Jiten Yumnam

Transboundary waters tussle and Tipaimukh dam :

The world is rife with conflicts over waters, especially over use and management of transboundary waters. Rivers with transboundary nature, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Barak etc are becoming subjects of controversy over the right to manage the waters. Some countries exercise power through military or economic means to weaker countries to justify control of transboundary waters. Conflicts emerge when countries upstream of a water resource use the water available to them to wield more power and when certain countries downstream use other forms of power such as military to get more water. Stronger countries use “exploitation potential”, both technical capacity and infrastructure to exploit water resources.

Two expressions of concerns, one Bangladesh’s opposition to Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project over Barak River in Manipur in India’s North East and the other, India’s objections to Chinese Government’s plan to dam and divert waters of Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River in Tibetan Plateau, elucidates potentials of conflicts over the use of transboundary waters and the need to explore feasible means to avoid conflicts. The critiques of Tipaimukh dam to be built in Manipur is moving beyond imposed frontiers, the traditional expression of concerns once confined limitedly in Manipur and parts of Bangladesh now resonates from afar. Never had Tipaimukh Dam been focus of international diplomacy, media attention, intelligentsia critics, environmentalist and those with high tentacles as in 2009. The Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh discussed the contentious issue at the recently concluded Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, July 2009 in Egypt. The issue has now moved from the confines of Manipur Assembly discussion to the British and Bangladesh parliamentary debates to the deliberations of several United Nations human rights forums.

The Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project is to be constructed 500 Meters downstream from the confluence of Barak and Tuivai Rivers in Manipur over Barak River with firm generation capacity of 401.25 MW. The main objective of the project is to generate 1500 MW hydropower and flood control on 2039 Sq. km. The North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) was earlier slated to undertake the project with the Manipur Govt at 5% equity till it was replaced recently by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC).

The Government (Govt) of India had a tough time pursuing the Tipaimukh project in Manipur since 1970’s due to vigorous peoples’ opposition to the project and also in clearing out the armed insurgents who dominates the Tipaimukh dam site area. Manipur is afflicted with armed conflict as national liberation movement groups battle Indian armed forces operating under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 for full secession of Manipur since 1949, the year Manipur was merged to India without peoples consent. The Tipaimukh project is also opposed by several national liberation groups terming it as India’s yet another sinister effort for hegemony and exploitation of the natural resources of Manipur .

Proposed Tipaimukh Dam: Concerns and Responses :

The Tipaimukh dam issue currently continues to dominate the domain of political, media, intellectual and civil society’s discourse in Bangladesh with a unilateral demand for revocation of India’s decision for the project. Massive rallies, protest meetings, strikes and other forms of protest against the dam continues to gain momentum in Bangladesh. The Tipaimukh Dam concern is not a recent phenomenon as the first international Conference on Tipaimukh Dam, held way back in December 2005 had resolved against the project. The peoples’ concerns in Bangladesh are based on their bitter experience of severe water shortage and multifaceted impacts after commissioning of Farakka Barrage over the Ganges River by India. Concerns raised include staggering environmental degradation, economic crisis and hydrological drought.

The damming of Barak River, seriously limiting free flowing Surma and Kushyara rivers will disrupt agriculture, irrigation, drinking water supply, navigation etc and reduce recharge of ground water during lean season, affecting all dug wells and shallow tube wells. Bangladesh gets 7 to 8 percent of its total water from the Barak River. The Surma-Kushyara with its maze of numerous tributaries and distributaries support agriculture, irrigation navigation, drinking water supply, fisheries, wildlife in the entire Sylhet division and in peripheral areas of Dhaka division and industries like fertilizer, electricity, gas . The dam would also leave millions jobless with the drying up of the two rivers. Millions of people are dependent on hundreds of water bodies, fed by the Barak, in the Sylhet region for fishing, agriculture and allied activities. The Barak-Surma-Kushyara is an international river with Bangladesh as a lower riparian country having rights over any decision over River. “Construction of a dam at Tipaimukh would be a death-trap for Bangladesh, it rather involves the very existence of the lives of the 15 Crore people of the country,” Bangladesh National Party (BNP) vice president Hafizuddin Ahmed asserted.

In Manipur, where the dam is to be built, the concerns are diverse and premised on three aspect, first the direct physical aspect of displacement, loss of biodiversity, loss of economic activities of indigenous peoples, social and environmental impacts etc, the second being the procedural lapses, absence of holistic impact assessment and limitations of developmental and environmental regulations, weak enforcement mechanisms and lack of people oriented accountability norms and thirdly, unclear benefits of the project to the people of Manipur and nuances based on traumatic experiences from similar projects in Manipur such as NHPC’s 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project (NHPC) which remains irresponsible and unaccountable for its devastation of Loktak wetlands ecosystem, submergence of vast tract of agricultural land, loss of species and failure to rehabilitate several thousands of affected peoples of Manipur even after nearly three decades of project commissioning in 1984. The NHPC further insisted on reaping more profits by filing Loktak project as Clean Development Mechanisms project for carbon credits under Kyoto Protocols of the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change.

A large number of Zeliangrong and Hmar tribes will be displaced permanently and deprived of livelihood. Official figures states 1,461 Hmar families will be directly displaced due to the project. The dam will submerge 311 sq. km covering 90 villages with 1,310 families, including 27,242 hectares of forest and cultivable land and posing serious threat to the rich biodiversity, flora and fauna of the region. Social impact due to demographic changes due to migration of workers from outside Manipur has not been addressed. The site selected for Tipaimukh project is one of the most active in the entire world, recording at least two major earthquakes of 8+ in the Richter scale during the past 50 years. The dam is envisaged for construction in one of the most geologically unstable area and the dam axis falls on a ‘fault line’ potentially epicenters for major earthquakes.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Govt of Manipur and the NEEPCO was signed on 9 January 2003 even as the affected peoples both in the upstream and downstream of Barak River called for a wide consultation on Tipaimukh Dam based on provision of project information. Against peoples’ wishes, the power Minister of India, Sushil Kumar Shinde laid the foundation stone for Tipaimukh Dam on 15 December 2006. Of late, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) of the Govt of India accords environmental clearance on 24 October 2008 despite peoples’ objection to Tipaimukh Dam during the projects’ five public hearings held from the year 2004 to 2008. The environmental clearance of MoEF is despite the fact that the downstream impact assessment of the project in Assam and Bangladesh is still pending.

Notwithstanding serious lack of information, Detailed Project Report (DPR) and Environmental Impact assessment and management plans of the dam, the Govt of India floated international tenders inviting bids for construction of the project. Largely the Govt of India rely on militarization of dam site area and suppression of voices for fair decision making process and sustainable development to pursue construction of the dam.

The Indian Govt’s response to Bangladesh concerns has long been marked by a state of denial. Indeed, the Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakrabarty’s statement of absence of an international law that could prevent India from constructing the Tipaimukh Dam and that Bangladesh’s concerns are based on ignorance on 21 June 2009 at Dhaka provoked an intense resentment in Bangladesh even calling for his expulsion. Experts counter reacted his statement as totally erroneous in view of the status of the 1996 Indo-Bangladesh Ganges Water Treaty and the applicability of the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. Bangladesh experts though agreeing that it is not yet binding as an “international treaty” law, opined there is every reason to argue that the Convention, being adopted by a vote of 103 - 3 in the UN General Assembly, is applicable as “evidence of international customary law” to Tipaimukh dam or any such project on shared rivers. The 1997 Convention put heavy emphasis on comprehensive cooperation for equitable utilization of any trans-boundary watercourse, no-harm to all the co-basin states, and adequate protection of the watercourse itself. Sensing a political crisis in South Asia over Tipaimukh Dam, the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, James F Moriarty urge the people and the government of Bangladesh to discuss with India to settle the Tipaimukh dam issue,” while speaking at a discussion on ‘Engaging South Asia: Obama’s South Asia Policy,’ held in Dhaka.
Dams over transboundary waters in South Asia and Challenges.

As Bangladesh engaged India to drop construction of Tipaimukh dam, India too is busy raising concerns with Chinese Govt’s efforts to dam and generate 40,000 Megawatt power from Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) in Tibet and to divert 200 billion cubic meters of waters to the Yellow River for easing water shortages in cities of Shaanxi, Beijing and Tianjin in Northern China. The dam and diversion plan is at the Tsangpo River’s big U-turn at 7,782-meter-high Namcha Barwa, the world’s deepest canyon before entering India. Shu Yinbiao, vice president of State Grid Corp. of China opined, “An initial study shows the river can accommodate hydropower stations with a total capacity of 70 gigawatts, or about 10 percent of the nation’s overall generating capacity”. The diversion of the waters is part of a China’s larger hydro-engineering project, the South-North water diversion scheme. The 2,906-km long Brahmaputra is one of Asia’s largest rivers that traverse its first stretch of 1,625 km in China’s Tibet region, the next 918 km in India and the remaining 363 km in Bangladesh before converging into the Bay of Bengal. The Tsangpo is now perhaps the only Transboundary Rivers yet to be dammed in China after dams are constructed over Mekong, Salween, Irrawady, Sutlej, Indus etc.

The water diversion project at the Great Bend will spell disaster for the Tibetan plateau and the lower riparian countries, India’s North East and Bangladesh. India is also facing a security dilemma over the Chinese control over the principal watershed of South and Southeast Asia in Tibet. India fears Chinese reported plans to use nuclear technology in the project will lead to environmental concerns in the Eastern Himalayas. Indian experts say the mega scheme could be disastrous for the 185 million people of India’s North East and Bangladesh. In Assam, 80 per cent of the population is involved in agriculture, depending on Brahmaputra for irrigation and the region’s regular earthquakes, that can hit 8.0 on the Richter scale, can destroy the proposed Chinese dam and cause devastating floods downstream.

India’s proposed Tipaimukh dam and China’s proposed dam over Yarlung Tsangpo bears much similarity in terms of scale of destruction, threats and challenges both in upstream and downstream portion of the rivers. In the latter scheme, both India and Bangladesh shares common challenges when China proceeded with diversion of Brahmaputra waters in its territory primarily due to shortage of water. Bangladesh exists because of its waters coming from the Mighty Rivers Ganges, Teesta, Brahmaputra, and Barak etc. India’s Farakka Dam over River Ganges burdens Bangladesh with an irreparable crisis of unfathomable magnitude.

India pursued a perfidious double game. While objecting China’s plan to dam Yarlung Tsangpo, India aggressively pursued mega dams construction spree in India’s North East, including gigantic dams over the same river Yarlung Tsangpo, called Siang (the Brahmaputra) in Arunachal Pradesh, notwithstanding concerns in India’s North East and Bangladesh. The Siang Upper HE Project is a massive 11000 MW project to be built over Siang River in East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The Middle and Lower Siang Hydel project with 750 mw and 1700 mw power generating capacity are other mega dams planned over the same river. The 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric project is another mega dam over River Subansiri, a main tributary of Brahmaputra River. Other dams over the tributaries of Brahmaputra includes the Ranganadi I and II (450 and 150 mw respectively), Kameng (600 mw), 3000 MW Dibang HE project etc. the construction of series of dams over Siang River and its tributaries will exacerbate the water crisis and related problems in Assam and Bangladesh.

India’s plan to construct more than 169 dams in India’s North East and connotation of the region as India’s Power house has been met with stiff opposition from the region. The Assam Govt strongly opposed proposed construction of mega dams on the Siang River and several other rivers in Arunachal Pradesh. “I am aware of Assam’s concerns over the dams and I feel there is no need to construct mega dams”, Governor of Assam, Shiv Charan Mathur said while addressing his first press conference. The Assam Govt set up a commission to study the environmental impact of mega dams in Arunachal Pradesh and other neighboring states on Brahmaputra valley region. “Large-scale diversion of water would adversely hit the state’s economy and could even lead to environmental problems and affecting the surface water table” according to Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi. Anti dam movement is increasing In Arunachal Pradesh where most of the dams are being planned. India use all means, mis-information, flouting of norms, manipulations, militarization, brute use of force and nepotism etc to push through dam projects.

India is proactive in addressing concerns with the Chinese Govt on the proposed dam over Tsangpo River, relaying its concern to Beijing in 2006. However, the Govt of Bangladesh needs be more proactive to the whole scheme to dam the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries in China and India, which will worsen water crisis in Bangladesh and Assam. Bangladesh faces a big challenge to confront the “exploitation potential” of both China and India over the use of transboundary waters. There is indeed, a primary urgency for Bangladesh and the people of India’s North East to explore all means to ensure China and India to adopt a multilateral, multiparty decision over transboundary water use with due and full respect of rights and participation of indigenous peoples depending on waters. All States indeed, should refrain from unilateral and contradictory decisions over transboundary waters disregarding downstream concerns and rights of indigenous peoples.

Towards multilateral and human rights based approach to manage transboundary waters
Diplomatic engagement between India and Bangladesh over proposed Tipaimukh Dam, latest being the Prime Ministers meet at NAM summit in Egypt and past experience of efforts to resolve water dispute between the two countries, such as the Indo-Bangla Ganges Water sharing treaty, 1996 and setting up of Teesta River Commission, 1997 etc, indicates possibility of the two countries converging towards establishing dialogues for resolution of differences. Intervention of the United States envoy to Bangladesh favoring a dialogue to settle the row further reinforces this possibility. Indeed, Bangladesh Prime Minister called for political unity with the opposition BNP to be able to “bargain better with India” over Tipaimukh Dam issue. However, the Statement of Mr. Razzak, proposed head of Bangladesh parliamentary team to visit Tipaimukh dam site, that the Tipaimukh dam is beneficial for Bangladesh, is premature given that Bangladesh Govt is still yet to take an official position on the dam and despite absence of comprehensive and multilateral impact assessment. The statement seriously negates and undermined the rationale and objectives of the visit to Tipaimukh dam site.

In transboundary waters such as Mekong River, Yarlung Tsangpo, Barak River etc, question looms large as to whether a single country or States solely decide over the use of the waters in exclusion of indigenous people who lives and depends on the waters over millennia and whose cultures, identity and traditions evolved with such relationships? The big question still remains, will the people of Manipur accept any compromise bargaining, if any and exclusively crafted between India and Bangladesh. Any bilateral Agreement between India and Bangladesh without the people of Manipur will be unacceptable. The people of Manipur have inalienable rights over the transboundary waters. International law has also evolved that Indigenous peoples have right to self determination over their land resources, need for recognizing their rights over their land and resources and having clear rights to define their develop priorities on how to use, manage their land and resources in accordance with the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, 2007 and recommendations of the sessions of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN HQs, May 2009. Such approach can prevent all sufferings of indigenous peoples affected by Bangladesh’s Kaptai Dam in Chittagong Hills Tract, India’s Loktak Hydroelectric Project in Manipur or India’s Dumbur dam in Tripura etc.

The resolution of Tipaimukh dam seriously needs a multilateral, inclusive and human rights based approach to development and sensitivity to the concerns & established rights of all affected peoples. Bangladesh Govt’s announcement of sending an all-party parliamentary committee to visit Tipaimukh dam site in end July 2009 to review the dam’s impact will be a right step if the visit forms the basis for an inclusive process to conduct detailed impact assessment of the dam in upstream and downstream of the Barak River based on recommendations of World Commission on Dams, 2000 and other applicable Int’l law on transboundary waters, such as the UN Convention on the Law of Non Navigational Uses of International Watercourses of 1997. The visit can be a good grounding for a multilateral approach in addressing Tipaimukh Dam issues.

Bangladesh and the indigenous peoples of India’s North East needs be fully sensitive to the multitude of mega dam projects planned both by India and China in transboundary waters and tributaries and should strategize for a multi dimensional and multi party approach in the use and management of transboundary waters with due respect of rights of people in lower riparian areas and indigenous peoples dependent on such waters.

India should refrain from constructing Tipaimukh dam to avoid multidimensional conflicts and complications as the project is potentially rife for causing conflicts between states, between state and indigenous peoples and between indigenous peoples all over control and management of resources and definition of developmental priorities. As Manipur is already rife with movements for right to self determination, any forced construction of Tipaimukh dam with its multifaceted impacts will only legitimize their movement to defend their land and resources. The NEEPCO and the Govt of Manipur must revoke the Memorandum of Understanding on Tipaimukh dam project inked in 2003 and initiate a comprehensive process for a just decision making process.


Confrontational politics

Pranab Kumar Panday

A sound and effective democracy demands responsible behaviour from both ruling and opposition political parties, which means the opposition should make constructive criticisms of the government activities and the ruling party should respect opposition criticisms and suggestions. However, in Bangladesh we have been experiencing the politics of confrontation for a long time.

In a democracy, it is usual that political parties vie for power. However, political parties in Bangladesh always try to remain as the ruling party. They don't have that tolerance which is necessary to remain in the opposition. When they lose the election they raise different allegations Justify Fullagainst the election even though the election is extolled by the local and international observers as well as communities.

Given the bitter experience of 1/11 where the leaders of the political parties were the worst sufferers, it was expected that we would get rid of the confrontational politics and an environment would be created where all political parties would show their tolerance for the development of the country.

However, things started to happen differently even after the ninth parliamentary election, when the losing party raised their allegations about the manipulation of the election result even though the election was highly extolled by the international communities. In point of fact, the opposition law-makers have given legal recognition to the election result by taking oath as member of Parliament.

Another issue which is an indication of the confrontation politics is the boycotting of Parliament by the main opposition. Most importantly, the most important budget session remained unattended by the opposition.

It is a matter of great regret that the opposition did not offer us any convincing reason for their absence from Parliament. The reason they argued (one seat in the front row of the opposition bench) is not at all persuasive to take a harsh decision like boycotting Parliament. They could have expressed their discontent on the floor of the Parliament if they really considered themselves deprived.

Even the role of the ruling party in this regard is not at all praiseworthy. Since the ruling alliance has brutal majority in the existing Parliament, people's expectation from them is mammoth as compared to the opposition who literally have no power to influence the parliamentary affairs considering their strength in Parliament.

The ruling party could have given the opposition an extra seat. Of course there was no guarantee that the opposition would have joined Parliament if they were given one extra seat since they extended their demand lists from time to time. Even then, the ruling party could have earned much appreciation from the general mass if they were responsive to the opposition's demand.

If we consider the issue of Tipaimukh Dam, there is no doubt that Bangladesh will be affected if the dam is built. Now we need a consensus among the political parties in order to put up a strong resistance to building the dam. However, we have noticed both the main parties are at the opposite ends on this issue. We did not experience any sort of initiative to come to consensus on the issue. Both the parties are playing a blame game with Tipaimukh.

Very recently we have witnessed consensus among the political parties on an issue relating to preservation of their interest. One such example was the consensus of all parties in the ninth Parliament when an amendment was passed on the Upazila Parishad Ordinance, which was intended to strengthen the power of the members of Parliament in the Upazila Parishad. Since the issue was related to their individual interest, all parties came to a consensus on the issue. Although such consensus building is atypical in the context of Bangladesh, but still it can be presumed that political parties can come to general consensus.

The ongoing debate on the issue of the parliamentary committee's report on the charges of corruption of the immediate past speaker, deputy speaker, and chief whip of the last ruling party deserves special mention here. Of course, the initiative to explore charges of corruption against those who manipulated their constitutional power for personal interest is a praiseworthy effort.

Such inquiry would send a strong messages to those who are holding offices at present. They would definitely learn a lesson from this case. However, given the confrontational political culture, the issue would have received much appreciation if it would have been solved through proper channels of law since the BNP has already identified the initiative as ill-motivated.

Politics in Bangladesh has increasingly become confrontational and unstable. The problem largely stems from lack of commitment by the political parties to basic norms of democracy. For the sake of sound and effective democratic culture, political parties should free the country from the trauma of confrontational politics. Only then the objective to build a poverty-free Bangladesh would come to reality.

Political parties should consider the fact that the awareness level of the ordinary citizens has increased to a great extent. They are in a position to adjudicate what is good and what is bad for them. The result of the ninth parliamentary election is an indication of the level of awareness of the voters. Thus, political parties would do well to respect the verdict of the voters.

Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration,
University of Rajshahi.



Badrul Islam

July 20, 2009

Environmentalists and academics called for a greater movement at national and international levels to resist what they said "India´s conspiracy" to construct Tipaimukh dam without sharing information with Bangladesh. They also slammed the government´s role in dealing with India about water issues. India has neither ensured water flow in the Ganges as per the Ganges Treaty nor shared information about Tipaimukh Dam, which is sheer violation of the treaty.( The Daily Star,July08,2009).

Remonstrance over the Farakka Barrage , first in 1965 , led to Indo-Pak war, but in 1975, Bangladesh in good faith , agreed to allow its friend, India to " test-run " its feeder canal for fourteen days only. India guaranteed Bangladesh that actual operation will commence after an agreement is signed detailing terms of operation and share of water. Rest is a history of non-compliance from India, resulting in desertification of many rivers inside Bangladesh. Next is India´s move to construct the Tipaimukh Dam ignoring strong protest from Manipur, as well as Bangladesh as it threatens the North-East section part of the Country. Isn´t both, faith and friendship, being compromised?

So why is India so obsessed with its Dam projects? In April 2001 David Barsamian,Director of Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colorado interviewed Arundhati Roy and here is what she said, "the myth of big dams is something that's sold to us from the time we're three years old in every school textbook. Nehru said, "Dams are the temples of modern India", the dam will serve you breakfast in bed, it will get your daughter married and cure your jaundice. People have to understand that they're just monuments to political corruption, and they derive from very undemocratic political institutions. You just centralize natural resources, snatch them away from people, and then you decide who you're going to give them to. When I was writing "The Greater Common Good," what shocked me more than the figures that do exist are the figures that don't exist. The Indian government does not have any estimate of how many people have been displaced by big dams. The reason that there aren't these figures is because most of the people that are displaced are again the non-people, the Adivasis and the Dalits. India doesn't mow down its people. It doesn't kill people who are refusing to move. It just waits it out. It continues to do what it has to do and ignores the consequences. Because of the caste system, because of the fact that there is no social link between those who make the decisions and those who suffer the decisions, it just goes ahead and does what it wants. The people also assume that this is their lot, their karma, what was written. It's quite an efficient way of doing things. Therefore, India has a very good reputation in the world as a democracy, as a government that cares, that has just got too much on its hands, whereas, in fact, it's actually creating the problems."- ( The Book is an eye-opener for Citizens to understand the system in India ; its corruption, the obnoxious nexus with World Bank that offers the funds and the International Community that implements the projects robbing the poor to pay the rich. Tipaimukh Dam will be no exception to this system.

Now I wish to present an example of how arrogant attitude of "Government" over demands of the "Governed" breeds violence and terrorism. Water First by Kunta Lahiri-Dutt and Robert J.Wasson has a chapter on The Regional Politics of Water Sharing written by Douglas Hill.

In 1976 Central Government of India passed a ruling settling how much water should be available to each state. Punjab disagreed and filed a case in the Supreme Court challenging its validity. Meanwile construction of 112 km Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal began in 1982 to divert waters to farmers in Rajasthan and southern Harayana(khurana2006). Construction was immediately met with opposition from Punjab unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Shriomani Akali Dal(SAD). The SAD section of protest eventually reverted to violent agitation and terrorism culminating in the events of 0peration Blue Star at Amritsar, 1984(where Indira Gandhi ordered the killing of hundreds of Sikh separists) and arguably resulted in her assassination in 0ctober. New Prime Minister Rajib Gandhi and Akali Dal leader Harcharan Singh Longowal met in 1985, set up a tribunal under Justice Eradi to re-examine appropriate allocations for Rajasthan,Punjab and Haryana. The findings of this tribunal was disputed by Punjab in 1987 on grounds that sufficient water to cover the recommended allocation was not available.Violence caused the closure of this tribunal in 1988 and construction of the Punjab section of SYL canal ceased in 1990. Again tribunal re-opened in 1997 and ruling passed in favour of Harayana in 2004. This triggered political crisis and the Punjab Government passed a Bill that nullified all previous agreements related to sharing of the Ravi and Beas (khurana2006): -( Did India learn any lesson from this?

Governments works intricately through "Mama" system, to do their dirty work. Chetan Bagat in his book "The 3 Mistakes in My life" describes "Mama", a local tout but ambitious to climb up the ladder of" Power". He asks his political Guru to get him an election ticket. The Guru informs Mama that ambitious people like him are required in the party and since he is good and committed, he (Mama) to get to the next top level, needs to do work that gets him noticed. India has such "Mamas" for operations.

"Mamas", on behalf of India, bribed officials to make temporary settlement through promises that 10-12% of the electricity will be received free of cost and the rest of it will be given to NEEPCO for distribution to other states. Will other states not demand the same deal? Besides the "Citizens Concern for Dam and Development" (CCDD) and Environmentalists don´t care about this temporary settlement and are continuing with the protest and if the Marxists and Maoist insurgents joins there is great possibility that protests could turn to violent agitation. How will India contain this violence? What would be the world´s reaction to this? Will Bangladesh be pressurized to facilitate India?

And now, Bangladesh. India without moral and military support from the then USSR (Russia) couldn´t have assisted Bangladesh in the war of Liberation. During liberation India was selectively aiding groups from Awami League (Mama Factor) though other political groups worked in tandem to achieve the common goal of Independence. Former Foreign secretary,Late Mr.J.N.Dixit in his comments to the Foreign Affairs Committee, said "We helped in the liberation of Bangladesh in mutual interest, it was not a favor. He also said that 90% of the problems could be resolved if Bangladesh exported gas to India. India subsequently made a list of other items to demand from Bangladesh. Friendship is being tested harshly.

Additionally, (1) India is ignoring clauses 2 and 3 of the Dublin Principles, 1992. Clause 2, stipulates Water Development and Management should be based on a participatory approach involving all users, planners and policy makers and Clause 3 stipulates that women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water. (2) India never agreed to the proposal to discuss with Nepal to solve the problems of Bangladesh due to Farakka Barrage. Why is India acting so mysteriously ?

Will the Bangladesh Parliament team that has been invited to visit Manipur be able to find solutions? The answer is a straight NO. In the absence of full details from India and the Funding Agency and subsequent analysis by local experts by all three states, free from political influence, the team wouldn´t be able to distinguish any controversial points. Rather there is danger that the name of Bangladesh will be mis-utilized politically to pressurize Manipur and Mizoram.

What then is the solution? Following is my four step solutions: (1) Barrister Harun ur Rashid´s suggests the construction of Ganges Barrage at Pangsha (90 miles west of Dhaka) to offset the adverse effects of Farraka Barrage. (Ref: Daily Star, May 31, 2008). It was first conceived in 1963 and next in 1984 and after feasibility report of 1997 the Joint River Commission approved it. Immediate steps must be made to implement this and next Bangladesh experts should undertake another study to construct another similar Barrage in the Sylhet region to offset the Tipaimukh Dam effect. Only after an agreement is made with India for construction of these two Barrages, should our Government think to cooperate with India. (2) Dr.Aiun Nishat suggests that positive politics, mutual understanding and the Prime Ministers of both India and Bangladesh should be involved. (Ref: NewAge Xtra June 12,2009). (3) From all three states, Women´s participation must be ensured and their opinions recorded and taken into consideration. (4) I fully endorse the suggestions, the Non-resident Bangladeshis in Los Angeles, have forwarded to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through the Consul General; they recommended that a team comprising of five countries be formed: Bangladesh, India, China, Nepal and Myanmar to find the right solution(.Ref: reading memorandum sent to Sheikh Hasina).

At the sidelines of NAM Conference, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has confirmed to Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina that India won´t take any steps that might affect ties. Earlier in an exclusive interview Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh had stated "It is my sincere belief that a strong and prosperous Bangladesh is in India´s fundamental interest."(Ref: Daily Star, Nov.15,2005). Let the Honorable Prime Minister prove his intentions. It would be great if Sonia Gandhi also takes a keen interest and joins Dr.Singh in this venture. I am confident that Bangladesh and India Relations will greatly improve.


Tipaimukh Politics in Bangladesh

Joe Fleishman

July 20, 2009

Tipaimukh Dam is now the hot topic in Bangladesh politics. The heat of Tipaimukh is not restricted only inside Bangladesh but also India is feeling the flame. There is strong opposition against Tipaimukh dam from Inside the India. Dr. R.K. Ranjan in his article mentioned that Tipaimukh dam is a death trap for the indigenous people.

Tipaimukh project is not something very new. It´s a very old project. Necessity of such dam was first though in 1954. At that time "Assam government requested the Central Water Commission and the Planning Commission to identify a suitable location where the monsoon waters of the Barak could be impounded to form an artificial flooding zone." -as per Dr. R.K. Ranjan said.

"The Central Water Commission (CWC) submitted their report in 1984, which proposed the construction of the Tipaimukh high dam at a cost of Rs. 1,078 cores." Dr. Ranjan Singh said.

So it´s a long-standing process. Its upshot is not without question. But why from out of the blue Tipaimukh became so hot? Why India-Bangladesh relationship experienced little bitterness on Tipaimukh? It is surprising but understandable.

Some political parties in Bangladesh use anti-Indian sentiment for there politics. Sometimes this emotional motivation works magically. Some suspect, opposition is heating it up in order to regain momentum from their shocking election defeat.

Main opposition BNP ruled the country from 2001 to 2006. During this time they met several times with India in Joint River Commission -JRC. In 2003 Bangladeshi Water Resource Minister M. Hafiz Uddin represented Bangladesh delegate in JRC. Two days long 35 JRC meeting ended up without any dispute. PTI reported "Two ministers signed the agreed minutes of the meeting".

PTI has also reported "Addressing a joint press conference, Sethi said the river linking project was among the 'miscellaneous items' that came up for discussion.

The minister said there was no difference of opinion on the agenda fixed by the two sides and the discussion were held in a cordial atmosphere and in a spirit of give and take.

On the proposed Tipaimukh project in the north-east India assured Bangladesh that if there would be any diversion of water it would be done after due consultation with Dhaka."

So overall analysis is not suggesting BNP or Bangladesh government had any dispute on Tipaimukh. Rather they had mutually agreed the issues which include Tipaimukh.

Now after six years BNP made a 180 degree turn. Denying any discussion on Tipaimukh with India and signing agreement is far beyond imagination.

Now the question is what is the meaning of these sorts of unusual falsehood? Undoubtedly politics. Denying an agreed matter will mount pressure on the Government. This issue will add up fuel on some anti-Indian sentiment – certainly this is what they are looking for.

When Indian High Commissioner Mr. Pinak Ranjan Chakravarti presented some information on the previous discussions, BNP demanded immediate withdrawal of him. Provoking words were about to cooling down their warm relationship. However, Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina met with her Indian counterpart while both were in NAM meeting. Both the nation agreed to work on side by side to resolve any dispute. Indian Prime Minister assured her that India will not do anything that is harmful for Bangladesh.

This should conclude the confusion but politics does matter. BNP is still looking for other ways with the same issue - to take maximum advantage by confusing people.


Nijami on Tipaimukh dam: National unity must to face the problem

Staff Reporter

Amir of Bangladesh Jamate Islami Moulana Motiur Rahman Nijami yesterday emphasised on the need for forging national unity and consensus against the construction of Tipaimukh dam by India and the decision to the government to give corridor to India in the name of Asian Highway to protect the freedom and sovereignty of the country.

He also said that when the people of the country were vigorous against the construction of Tipaimukh dam in the interest of the country, the cabinet of the present government was not cordial to take initiatives to stop the construction of the dam.

He said these while addressing as chief guest at a discussion on 'Tipaimukh Dam and Asian Highway: Responsibility of the Patriots' at the Dr MA Hadi Auditorium in the city.

National Youth Forum organised the discussion to mark its 3rd founding anniversary with its President Mohammad Saidur Rahman in the chair.

The discussion was addressed, among others, by former minister and Amir of Bangladesh Khelafat Majlis Principal Moulana Mohammad Ishak, President of Jatiya Gonotantrik Party Shafiul Alam Prodhan, Assistant General Secretary of Bangladesh Jamate Islami Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, President of National People's Party Sheikh Sawkat Hossain Nilu, President of Nejame Islam Party Advocate Moulana MA Rakib, General Secretary of Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal and General Secretary of Islami Oikya Jote Moulana Abdul Latif Nejami.

Motiur Rahman Nijami, also former minister said that the government should not go for negotiations with India and should not send parliamentary committee without having basic information about the Tipaimukh dam, which would be a death trap for the country.

He called upon the government not to sign the agreement of corridor to India in the name of being connected with Asian Highway Network saying that the highway would be a threat to the sovereignty of the country. If the country is connected with the highway, the country would be a free market of India, he added.

The speakers said that the government should reach an understanding with all opposition parties over the Tipaimukh dam issue and mount diplomatic pressure on the Indian government to resist it from constructing the dam.

They called upon the government to send an expert team to India to visit the dam site before sending the proposed parliamentary committee.


Hasina seeks oppn cooperation for national unity on Tipaimukh

Dhaka: Amid main opposition BNP's demand for scrapping of the cross-border Tipaimukh dam project in Manipur, Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina has sought its chief Khaleda Zia's cooperation for national unity on the issue with India in order to achieve "cent percent success" in protecting the country's interest.

"Tipaimukh issue is a national problem. The nation should not be divided for political reasons. We will be unable to protect our national interests if we are divided. Unity will strengthen our bargaining capacity," Hasina told a meeting of senior party leaders last night.

"We will not allow anything that will cause the slightest harm to the country," Hasina was quoted as saying at the meeting by the ruling Awami League spokesperson and Local Government Minister Syed Ashraful Islam.

Hasina's comments, in which she also highlighted the need to attain "cent percent success" in protecting the country's interest, came hours after Zia at a BNP-sponsored function promised to extend her hand to the government on the issue, saying "don't" be afraid, you are not alone, we will be with you (government) in protecting the national interest."

"I urge the Indian Prime Minister to formally announce cancellation of the project," Zia told a seminar on the possible impacts of the cross-border hydro-electric dam in Bangladesh, organised by her party.

Zia, however, said, "I appreciate his (Singh's) statement" assuring Hasina that his country would not do anything that might affect Bangladesh.”

Hasina last month said she expected resolution of the Tipaimukh Dam issue through talks with India with cooperation of her archrival Zia, but added that she was in a dilemma if the opposition wanted to "resolve or politicise" the issue.

Hasina and Zia's latest comments came days after Prime Minister Singh and his Bangladeshi counterpart met on the sidelines of the NAM summit in Egypt earlier this week.

"This assurance (by Singh that India would not do anything that might affect Bangladesh) will help her (Hasina's six-month-old) new government overcome an embarrassing situation with regard to the Tipaimukh issue," leading foreign relations analyst Professor Imtiaz Ahmed said.

He said the "no harm clause" of international conventions and laws regarding trans-boundary rivers were now expected to get priority in the project.

Professor Anwar Hossain, another international politics expert, said "the significance of Dr Manmohan Singh's gesture is immense .. but Hasina's talks with Singh could bring a fruitful result over the Tipaimugh issue if successful diplomatic manoeuvring could be made as follow up measures."

Meanwhile, environmental activists and protesters in Bangladesh set out on a six-day 264-km-long march from Dhaka to northeastern Sylhet to mobilise public opinion against the dam project.

Over two dozens protesters, including women belonging to a left leaning youth group, earlier this month tried to gate-crash the Indian High Commission office in Dhaka, demanding scrapping of the Tipaimukh project, leading to a brief clash with police which left nearly a dozen people injured.

A 10-member Bangladesh parliamentary delegation is set to visit India next week to have an idea on the impact of Tipaimukh Dam amid growing concerns and protests in Bangladesh over the project on Barak River along the northeast borders.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni earlier this month urged New Delhi to keep the project work suspended until the visit of a parliamentary delegation as Water Resource Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen last week said Bangladesh was yet to get the Indian Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the project.

The project falls under 'red category' in terms of environmental risk categorisation.

The Barak, which is divided in two streams, the Surma and Kushiyara entering in Bangladesh, is the main source of flow in this country's major Meghna basin covering the northeastern and central regions.

Bangladesh is criss-crossed by nearly 230 rivers with 54 being trans-boundary ones and mostly originating from India while officials said the lower riparian country gets 7 to 8 percent of its total water from the Barak.