Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Indian Expert Warns of Quake Risk at Tipai Dam Site

Dhaka, 13 July, 2009, bdnews24.com

Seismic studies have shown an earthquake fault within 80 kilometres of the proposed Tipaimukh dam site that could result in a massive quake in the near future, says one Indian expert.

Dr RK Ranjan Singh, former associate professor of earth science at Monipur University of India, now Chairman of the Citizen Concern for Dams and Development, warned of potential earthquake dangers to the dam during a recent interview with bdnews24.com.

India plans to build the Tipaimukh dam across the Barak river in the northeastern state of Monipur, in a region that experiences regular quakes, including two that have registered 7 and 8 on the Richter scale in the last 200 years.

Dr Singh told bdnews24.com the Barak river system and its smaller tributaries travel across the Kashar valley of Assam, with its delta in Bangladesh.

The river's ecosystem flows from the source region to the end region of Barak, with the upper source region being situated in a very seismic-sensitive zone, said Singh. Moreover, all the tributaries, including the mainstream Barak, flows along the fault line, itself located in a very weak tectonic zone.

"The river, then, continues through a region of seismic sensitivity," he said. Seismic zones are rated from one to five, with five being the rating of greatest danger.

"The area of the dam zone is rated five. Therefore, if the water in the upper catchments of the Barak is dammed it may actually increase the chances of triggering a seismic event," said Singh.

The dam axis is located on this path along the fault line called the Tai Thu fault, considered to be a major fault. For this reason, Singh warned it is not advisable to build the proposed 180 metre-high dam at this site.

Further, when the area becomes submerged, a range of bio resources will be affected, including endangered species, plants and animals.

This is considered a gene pool area of bio resources. However, once the water flow is controlled, the gentle ebb and flow of the water rising and receding will stop, with a negative impact upon the wildlife, depending upon the slow cycles of the waters, said Singh.

Areas to be affected include the haor areas in Bangladesh, particularly the wetlands in the Sylhet region.

Further, Singh warns that the dam will result in the growing season for farmers being shortened, as a longer dry season will occur. The negative impact of the dam might be felt in the local economy, occupations, fishing communities and within other aspects of community life.

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