Monday, July 13, 2009

Hasina to discuss controversial dam with Manmohan Singh

Dhaka, July 13 (IANS)

The prime ministers of Bangladesh and India are expected to meet this week on the sidelines of the 15th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit to discuss New Delhi's plan to construct the Tipaimukh dam in Manipur, a move that has triggered protests in Dhaka.

Dhaka and New Delhi have indicated their willingness to talk on the issue as pressures have mounted on the Sheikh Hasina government, with opposition parties joining environmentalists to allege that the dam on the Barak river would deny Bangladesh its share of water and have deleterious effect on the environment.

The 15th NAM Summit will take place July 15-16 at the Egyptian resort of Sharm-Al-Shaikh.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni had last week stopped over in New Delhi and conveyed the need to talk over the Tipaimukh dam project. Barak flows into Bangladesh's Meghna river system. Tipaimukh is located 200 km upstream of Bangladesh.

Dhaka has accepted in principle New Delhi's proposal made in May for sending a team of parliamentarians and water resource experts to visit the dam site.

However, no dates for the visit have been finalised with Hasina's political rival and opposition leader Khaleda Zia refusing to nominate her representatives on the team.

"The scheduled visit of a parliamentary delegation to the project site has been deferred," an official at the parliamentary standing committee on water resources ministry told New Age newspaper Sunday.

The all-party delegation was to visit the Tipaimukh project site July 15. The fresh date will be fixed once Sheikh Hasina returns from Egypt July 17, the official said.

Zia had, in the early 1990s, raised at the UN General Assembly the dispute with India over the sharing of waters of the Ganga, another major river system the two South Asian neighbours share.

The bilateral Ganga Water Treaty was signed in 1997 and the dispute was settled during Sheikh Hasina's earlier tenure as the prime minister.

Hasina told parliament earlier this month that she intended to resolve the new dispute as well through talks.

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