Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tipaimukh dam could benefit Bangladesh, says minister

Dhaka, July 7 (IANS)

India’s plan to build the Tipaimukh dam on the Barak river could benefit Bangladesh, a minister has said, urging a patient approach by all concerned as Dhaka prepares to send a team to visit the project site.

The delay in finalising the team was because the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was yet to nominate its members, Water Resources Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen said Monday.

The BNP wants to send its own team and at one stage had sent a list of five experts to be included as a pre-condition to naming a lawmaker.

Hamidur Rahman Azad, a Jamaat-e-Islami lawmaker who belongs to the BNP-led opposition alliance, was a member of the team, he told the media.

His announcement came on a day of fast-moving developments with more protests outside the Indian High Commission here, charging India with carrying out the project without consulting the lower riparian neighbour.

An effigy of Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty was burnt, New Age newspaper said.

The envoy has been in the eye of a storm after his observations at a seminar last month were perceived by opposition parties as ‘interference’ in Bangladesh’s internal affairs.

The Indian high commissioner had allegedly called Bangladeshi water resources specialists protesting India’s Tipaimukh dam project “so called experts” June 3.

Sen lambasted the opposition for “creating fuss” over the Indian project.

The minister, who has dealt with bilateral issues with India during 1996-2001, argued that there was no way India could stop the Himalayan rivers’ water flow to Bangladesh as argued by the critics.

Citing the case of the Jamuna, he said: “We did not receive enough water for 7-10 days during the lean season, but now the flow has increased…The river Jamuna has burst its banks causing erosion and inundated large swathes (of) land.”

He, however, said the Indian government had not yet given detailed information to Dhaka on how the Tipaimukh dam project might impact Bangladesh. “What we have got via foreign affairs ministry so far is all about the length and width of the project.”

The team visiting India would be that of the parliament’s standing committee on water resources and would include two experts, the minister said.

India had proposed such a team in May, suggesting that exchange of data and on-the-spot study would help in talks on the subject.

The Sheikh Hasina government has said it would discuss the dam project, to be located at Tipaimukh in Manipur in India’s northeast, at the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC).

Conceived in the 1970s, it discussed the Farakka dam that India built on river Ganga and envisages bilateral talks on augmenting water supply to Bangladesh from all the rivers that flow into it from India.

Barak is one such river that enters Bangladesh in Sylhet and eventually merges into Meghna.

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