A united movement is needed to resist the Indian move to construct Tipaimukh Dam over river Barak as it will turn Bangladesh into a desert, speakers told at a roundtable here yesterday.
They said it is high time to test patriotism and launch a vigorous movement from the grassroots level to prevent India from constructing the dam.
They were addressing a roundtable titled 'Resist Tipaimukh Dam:
United Movement' at National Press Club this evening.
International Tipaimukh Dam Prevention Committee and Sylhet Division Development Action Committee jointly organized the roundtable.
Convener of International Tipaimukh Dam Prevention Committee ANM Isa presided over the discussion while Advocate Abed Reza moderated it.
"No government can survive burying national interest and ignoring people's expectations. The government should not forget it," former TIB Chairman Prof Muzaffer Ahmed said. He said people had fought the battle in 1971 to have a prosperous country, not to see it becoming a desert. "I don't mind hearing the comments of the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka as he showed his loyalty to his own country. It's his patriotism. Our politicians should also have such proven patriotism," he said.
Prof Muzaffer said people had committed a great sin by allowing the construction of Kaptai Power Plant and going to commit another "by saying yes to Tipaimukh dam".
He emphasized the formation of International Convention to find ways for water sharing of all common rivers in the region. "It's the key power of India that they didn't provide any information regarding the dam. The parliamentary body should not go there without any clear idea about the dam as we don't need hospitality there," Prof Muzaffer said.
Speaking on the occasion, former Water Resources Minister Maj (retd) M Hafiz Uddin said Awami League itself had been dreaming of the dam for the last 20 years.
He alleged that Water Minister of the then AL government Abdur Razzak took part in three joint river commission meetings where there was no agenda on Tipaimukh dam.
"It's BNP that protested the Indian bid first during late President Zia's rule. And even I returned from India keeping the joint river commission meeting inconclusive as they dropped the Tipaimukh dam issue from the agenda of the meeting," he said showing documents of the meetings he had participated.
He alleged that the cabinet members of the present government have no coordination among themselves on the issue.
Admitting failure of the politicians, he said, "Don't depend on us. It's an age of people's power. Go for street movement capitalizing on people's power and we're with the movement."
He urged all to remain vigilant whether India is orchestrating another conspiracy by diverting people's attention from the dam issue.
In his speech, ASM Abdur Rob said as it is an international river and Bangladesh has its share in it, it (Bangladesh) has right to talk about it. "This issue should be discussed in international forums."
Earlier, presenting the keynote paper, Dr SI Khan, a former environmental expert of the UN said 60 percent of Bangladesh would turn into a desert if the Tipaimukh dam is constructed.
Former Chief Justice MM Rouf, former DG of Directorate of Education Dil Ara Hafiz, geographer Dr Abdur Rob, Saiful Alam Pradhan and wing commander M Hamidullah, among others, addressed the roundtable.
First Tipai info, then site visit
Roundtable stresses analysis of detailed project information
Visiting Tipaimukh dam site by the parliamentary committee will in no way be wise without having adequate information about the project, Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa) President Professor Muzaffer Ahmad said yesterday.
“Enjoying India's hospitality will bring no notable benefit for the country without having detailed information. So, first get information about the dam, get analysis of the experts and then talk to India,” he said.
Professor Muzaffer was speaking at a roundtable titled “Tipaimukh Dam Prevention: United Movement” held at the National Press Club. International Tipaimukh Dam Prevention Committee and Sylhet Division Development Action Council jointly organised the roundtable.
This is not a matter of political debate or being anti-Indian, he said, adding “We must have national unity and clear idea about the issue. We are on the way of justice, and will win as we did in 1971.”
The Bapa president said the southwestern and northern parts of the country are bearing the brunt of Farakka Barrage, and now another part has become the target of Tipaimukh Dam. He said one cannot be a friend by destroying lands and water of another (country).
“It is a rape of nature that is what will happen if Tipaimukh Dam is constructed,” Professor Muzaffer said, adding that no government can sustain ignoring public interests.
Speaking at the roundtable, BNP leader and former water resources minister major (retd) Hafizuddin called for national unity to resist construction of the Indian dam project.
“Don't depend on politicians. Depend on people and create mass opinion like that of 1971, India will be compelled to sit and negotiate for resolving the problem,” he said.
Refuting the government's claim that the BNP did not protest against the project during its rule, Hafizuddin said “It is actually Awami League that did not raise the issue during the Joint Rivers Commission meetings.”
He called for linking the green movements worldwide to explain the environmental aspects of the dam project.
Former UN environment expert Dr SI Khan in his keynote presentation said sixty percent of the country would be a desert as a result of Tipaimukh Dam, and Farakka Barrage which has already caused salinity in the southwestern parts and desertification process in the north.
The rate of earthquakes and arsenic in the underground water will also increase significantly in the country if the dam is constructed, he said.
International Tipaimukh Dam Prevention Committee Convenor ANM Isa said Bangladeshi expatriates all over the world remain united to resist building Tipaimukh dam.
“We have promised to continue the movement unless and until we realise our rights,” he said, adding that the land, which has been achieved as a result of a bloody war, cannot be destroyed.
Former chief election commissioner Justice Abdur Rouf, ASM Abdur Rab, former chairman of Red Crescent Society Dr Abdur Rab, Brig Gen (retd) Nasir also spoke at the meeting while Sylhet Division Development Action Council President Abed Raja moderated it.
Govt's Tipaimukh handling slated
India's secrecy not fair, dialogue told
Environmentalists and academics yesterday called for a greater movement at national and international levels to resist what they said 'India's conspiracy' to construct Tipaimukh dam without sharing information with Bangladesh.
They also slammed the government's role in dealing with India about water issues. India has neither ensured water flow in the Ganges as per the Ganges Treaty nor shared information about Tipaimukh Dam, which is sheer violation of the treaty, they said.
“India is maintaining top secrecy about the dam, because it is a conspiracy. It knows that people in Bangladesh or India to be affected by the proposed dam will protest against the construction if they have got the actual information about the dam,” said Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury at a dialogue.
Samaj Rupantor Oddhayan Kendro [study centre], a socio-political think tank, organised the dialogue titled “Tipaimukh Dam and our role to protect national interests” at the National Press Club.
Prof Choudhury said the dam, if constructed, will affect wetlands and agriculture in the country's northeastern part and hamper water flow of Meghna river.
“We cannot depend on our government because it serves the purpose of vested quarters instead of serving the interests of people. So our role is to wage movement against the construction of the dam at all levels," said the professor, also the president of the study centre.
Mujahidul Islam Selim, general secretary of Communist Party of Bangladesh, said Tipaimukh Dam will seriously affect the lives and livelihoods of the country's northeastern region that depends on the water flows of Kushiara and Surma rivers.
He said any effort to construct dam or barrage in the upper stream must be resisted.
Regarding the visit of a parliamentary delegation to Tipaimukh, the leftist leader said mere visit would not work. “We need concrete information--how much water would be contained and how much would be released and how the dam will impact on us.”
Engineer Sheikh Shahidullah termed maintaining secrecy by India about the dam a crime that cannot be forgiven. “We cannot believe India because of its past records.”
Constructing Tipaimukh dam for hydroelectric power plant also brings huge threats of earthquake for the region, he said adding that historical evidences suggest Tipaimukh was the source of huge earthquakes.
Jahangirnagar University Professor Anu Muhammad said the damages that Tipaimukh dam will cause couldn't be compensated with the money equal to 10 times of the country's budget.
Criticising Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty's comment about the country's experts, he said he must clarify what he said in public.
Zunaid Saki, a board member of the study centre, in his keynote presentation said India is also constructing a barrage at Fulertala, up from Tipaimukh, to withdraw water flow. The barrage is linked to India's river-linking project.
“So Tipaimukh dam will not affect the water flow is a lie,” he said, adding the dam project will cause drought during dry season and heavy flood during rainy season.
Engineer Enamul Haque, Workers' Party leader Haider Akbar Khan Rono, Prof Ahmed Kamal and Prof Pias Karim also spoke.