Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bangladesh team to visit Indian dam site July 29

Dhaka, July 15 (IANS)

Bangladesh will send a team of lawmakers and water resources experts to India July 29 to visit the site of the proposed Tipaimukh dam project in Manipur state in the northeast. Opposition leaders and environmentalists here allege the dam poses a threat to the climate, ecology and drinking water supply of Bangladesh.

“The parliamentary team will leave Dhaka on July 29,” State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hasan Mahamud told media here Tuesday, ending uncertainty over the visit that India proposed in May.

The Tipaimukh dam is proposed to be built on Barak river in India’s Manipur state.

Both governments are committed to resolve the issue through talks as protests mount in Bangladesh where opposition parties have joined a section of conservationists and NGOs to stage rallies against the project.

In announcing the date for the visit of the 10-member team, the Bangladesh government has not waited for word from main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

While holding back the names of its two lawmakers to be on the team, the BNP has launched its own protest action by preparing a letter that it would address to other foreign governments and international organisations.

The team will be led by Abdur Razak, a ruling Awami League lawmaker and chairman of the Bangladesh parliament’s Standing Committee on Water Resources.

Six MPs — four from the Awami League (AL), one from the Jatiya Party (JP) and one from the Bangladesh Jaamat-e-Islami — one water expert and three government officials have been selected for the delegation in a draft list prepared by the government, Razak told, a private news agency website.

Razak alleged that the BNP was “playing politics” on the issue.

“The BNP chief whip met me for inclusion of their MPs but they are not providing the names, so I don’t know whether BNP members will be inducted in the team,” Razak was quoted as saying by the New Age newspaper.

Besides Razaq, the team so far includes A.B.M. Ruhul Amin Hawlader MP (JP), Abdur Rahman MP (AL), A.K.M. Fazlul Haq MP (AL), A.B.M. Anwarul Haq MP (AL), Hamidur Rahman Azad (Jamaat), Monwar Hossain of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Sajjad Hossain of the Bangladesh-India Joint Rivers Commission, the water resources ministry’s secretary and a director general in the foreign ministry.

India says the project is aimed at generating power and would not divert or hold up water from the river.

Some groups in India’s Manipur are also opposed to the project saying the dam would displace thousands of people.

Barak river supplies water to two rivers in Bangladesh, the Surma and Kushiara, the main sources of water to hundreds of water bodies in the greater Sylhet region and which in turn feed the mighty River Jamuna.

Opposition parties and environmentalists here are against the Indian project located 200 km upstream of Bangladesh as they allege that it poses threats to climate, ecology, biodiversity, agriculture, fisheries, drinking water supply and the livelihood of more than a third of all Bangladeshis.

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