Monday, July 13, 2009

Tipai dam controversy rages on: Not deftly handled so far

WE have every reason to feel disappointed by the way the Tipaimukh dam issue has been handled so far, and the fault lies at the door of the government as well as the opposition BNP.

It is only natural that concerns have been voiced by different quarters about the possible deleterious consequence that Bangladesh might face due to the Tipai dam especially in the backdrop of lack of substantial information about the project.

While the government has taken up on India's offer to send a parliamentary delegation to visit the site and assess the issue first hand, there are several matters that have created confusion in public mind in view of the way the matter has been addressed, not least because of the diametrically opposite approach of the government and the opposition to the issue.

The BNP has not nominated its rep for the delegation in spite of the government request to nominate two persons, but has made it conditional upon receipt of reply to Khaleda Zia's letter to Sheikh Hasina. And we cannot see why the leader of the opposition's letter to the PM on the matter, whose contents we are not aware of, has remained unanswered so far.

We feel that in matters of important national issues the opposition must be taken on board. It appears though that the opposition is taking a bit too intransigent a position. Still, the government should try and engage the opposition in such a serious matter of national concern. The government must also take into account the concerns of the civil society before formulating its stand on the issue.

That our foreign minister has very recently conveyed our concern to her Indian counterpart indicates that the government is fully aware of the ill effects of the project and the general sentiment in Bangladesh regarding the proposed dam. We hear that the Indian government has given us to understand that nothing that harms Bangladesh will be done. With such assurances from New Delhi, it is all the more expected that she would play a pro-active role in sharing all relevant information with Bangladesh.

There is little doubt that lack of detailed information regarding the project has created serious misgivings in Bangladesh. We understand that India has already floated tender for the project but we are not aware of the details of neither the tender nor whether the Bangladesh government has received adequate data from India. The dam is not a military installation and, therefore, there should be no restrictions on sharing the relevant data with Bangladesh. And the longer is the delay the deeper will the misunderstanding grow. And this is likely to be exploited by those that would want to harm Bangladesh-India relationship.

The experience in regard to Farakka with two decades intervening between its inception and the Ganges water treaty, whether we like it or not, has cast a shadow on the way we took the news of Tipaimukh dam project. On that realisation, we believe, India would do everything in its power to allay Bangladesh's concerns over Tipaimukh and move to ensure that nothing jeopardising friendly relations between the two countries will be done.


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