Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tipai team to meet Indian foreign, energy ministers

Dhaka, July 26 (bdnews24.com)

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.

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