Monday, August 31, 2009
New Delhi, August 30
As Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni prepares to fly down to India early next month, the Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Dam Project has become a bone of contention between the two countries, threatening to sour bilateral ties. Located near the confluence of Barak and Tuivai rivers in Manipur, the project has sharply divided civil society groups, environmentalists, human rights organisations and the media in Bangladesh over its implications on the share of water flowing from upper riparian India.
The Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is hell bent upon exploiting the situation to the hilt by fanning anti-India sentiments. Recently BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia, who was perceived to have an anti-India bias even when she was the Prime Minister, even refused to nominate her party colleagues on a team of Parliamentarians and water experts which visited the dam site in India last month.
The recent comments of Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty ridiculing suggestions in Dhaka that the project could harm Bangladesh’s interests had almost kicked up a row between India and Bangladesh. Thanks to the excellent relations that India enjoys with the Sheikh Khaleda Government, the controversy over his remarks was allowed to die down. Indian officials said Dhaka’s apprehensions on the dam project were entirely misplaced. They contended that the project provided a ‘win-win’ situation for both India and Bangladesh.
A deliberate and motivated campaign had been launched by vested interests against the project in Bangladesh. ‘’We have furnished data and views of experts to Dhaka explaining how the project would be beneficial for both the countries…it would still be our endeavour to remove doubts that still exist in the mind of the Bangladesh leadership,’’ official sources said..
They recalled that the Bangladeshi team which had visited India last month was briefed on how the project would help control floods in Bangladesh and provide it with more irrigation facilities. Dipu Moni’s visit, the first intense high-level contact between the two governments after the UPA began its second innings at the helm of affairs in New Delhi in May, would also provide an opportunity to the two countries to review the entire range of bilateral issues, the threat from terrorism to the South Asian region and international developments.
It is also being seen as a visit preparatory to the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s tour of India later this year. In the context of terrorism, India is likely to once again ask Dhaka to deport ULFA chief Anup Chetia and other militants belonging to the outlawed outfit who are in Bangladesh. New Delhi has made this request to Dhaka on several occasions in the past but in vain. Now that a ‘friendly’ government is in place in Bangladesh, India is hopeful that Chetia’s extradition to India could be a possibility.
New Delhi is also encouraged by some of the steps taken by Bangladesh in recent months to check the activities of anti-India elements operating from its soil. Bangladesh had last month arrested two Indian militants, who had been hiding there for 15 years, in a span of one week.
What is more, Bangladeshi security forces are said to be hot on trail of 3-4 more Indians who have been choreographing terror attacks against India from the Bangladeshi territory. Bangladesh had, in fact, from time to time, proposed a joint task force to combat terrorism in South Asia.
The proposal could again be on the agenda between the two countries. However, the increasing activities of Pakistan’s ISI are a matter of concern to New Delhi, which might be prompted to take it up with Dhaka during Moni’s visit. On the economic side, India and Bangladesh are trying to settle their differences in a variety of areas, including commerce, power and railways.
Mamoona Ali Kazmi
The Indo-Bangladesh relations have never been cordial. Regrettably, India’s expansionist policy in the region and anti-Bangladesh propaganda continued unabated. In Bangladesh, India is viewed as a bully, throwing its weight around and threatening the sovereignty of its smaller neighbors.
There are several issues between the two countries, which are of grave concern for Bangladesh. These include water issue, land issue, fencing of border, Indian support to Chakma community, killing of innocent civilians by BSF, subversive activities by India’s intelligence wings, Bangladesh’s high profile criminals taking asylum in India, smuggling from India etc.
Most important issue that mars bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh is water. Most of the rivers, which Bangladesh shares with India are controlled and managed by India. It has evolved plans to divert waters, from the northeast of the country to its drought prone west and south, of some 54 rivers which flow from India to Bangladesh.
India’s construction of dams or barrages on the common rivers one after the other not only violates international law regarding common rivers but also threatens the norms of good neighbourliness and the livelihood of the people of Bangladesh. After building Farraka and Teesta barrages, India has started construction of the Tipaimukh dam on river Barack just a kilometer north of Jakiganj in Sylhet. The construction work of Tipaimukh dam was stalled in March 2007 in the face of protests within and outside India for not following the international conventions about the international rivers. Linked to this dam is the Fulertal barrage.
To be located 500 meters downstream from the flowing rivers of the Barack and Tuovai rivers, the Tipaimukh dam lies on the south western corner of the Manipur state of India. Its reservoir will have a water storage capacity of 15,900 million cubic meters with a maximum depth of 1,725.5 meters. The dam and barrage when completed in 2012 are supposed to provide 1500 megawatts of hydel power to the Indian state of Assam but in return its going to bring about a major disaster for Bangladesh, practically contributing to drying up of 350 km long Surma and 110 km long Kushiara rivers which water most of the northeastern region of Bangladesh.
The Tipaimukh barrage is going to seriously affect not only agriculture in large portions of Bangladesh, particularly in winter, but is also gong to bring about negative ecological, climatic and environmental changes in vast areas of Bangladesh. Education Minister of India Nurul Islam Nahid said, “If India withdraws water from the Barack River, the free flowing Surma and Kushiara rivers will dry up”.
Surma-Kushiara and its 60 tributaries support agriculture, irrigation, navigation, drinking water supply, fisheries, wildlife in numerous areas in the entire Sylhet division and some peripheral areas of Dhaka division. So around five crore people in Sylhet and Dhaka division will face problems as Surma and Kushiara will lose five feet water in the rainy season. Abdul Karim Kim, an organizer of the Sylhet Paribesh Andolon feels that besides other parts of Bangladesh, Sylhet will be gravely affected.
“The dam completion will disrupt agriculture, irrigation, navigation, drinking water supply and ground water levels. Sylhet will face the same consequences faced by the south western region of Bangladesh”.
A Water resources expert, Professor Mustafizur Rahman Tarafdar discussed the ill effects of the Tipaimukh dam. He said, “If this dam is eventually constructed as intended, Bangladesh would have to suffer the adverse effects. This dam would lead to hydrological drought and environmental degradation.
This dam would cause the Surma and Kushiara to run dry during November to May which would eventually hamper agriculture, irrigation, navigation, shortage of supply of drinking water, etc. This shortage of water in these months would decrease the boost of ground water which over the years would lower the ground water level, which in turn would affect all dug outs and shallow tube-wells. Agriculture, which is dependent on both surface as well as ground water, would also be affected.
Also, any interference in the normal flow of water in the Barack would have an adverse effect on the Surma in Bangladesh that, in turn, feeds the mighty Meghna that flows through Bangladesh. Arable land will decrease and production of crops will fall, leading to an increase in poverty. Roughly 7 to 8 percent of total water of Bangladesh is obtained from the Barack.
Millions of people are dependent on hundreds of water bodies fed by Barack in the Sylhet region for fishing and agricultural activities. A dam-break is a catastrophic failure of a dam which results in the sudden draining of the reservoir and a severe flood wave that causes destruction and in many cases death downstream. If the Tipaimukh dam were to break, impounding billions of cubic meters of water, it will cause catastrophic floods because of its colossal structure”.
India never bothered to discuss the matter of the Tipaimukh dam with Bangladesh. The Tipaimukh Dam project was entirely developed and approved without informing the government of Bangladesh or involving its people in any meaningful exercise to assess the downstream impacts of the dam. Since the river Barack is an international river, Bangladesh as a lower riparian country should have an equitable share of water.
Moreover an access to the design details of the project, planning and design etc also is a right of the country. Mir Sajjad Hossain, member of Joint River Commission (JRC) said, “We do not know what is going on there. We came to know from our sources that India is panning a hydroelectric plant. India has not sent any official documents about the proposal”. This is clearly a gross violation of co-riparian rights of Bangladesh. India has violated provisions of the 1997 UN Watercourse Convention on the Article 5 (1) Equitable Utilization, (7) No Harm Principle, (9) Exchange of Information.
According to International Law, it is illegal to construct any dam on an international river without consent from the other side. But India has violated it by starting the construction of Tipaimukh Dam on the Barack. Unilateral water diversion, or withdrawal of water from international or common rivers, has been the long standing policy of India. India has seldom bothered to think about the impact of such policies on a low riparian country, such as Bangladesh, in diverting water from common rivers. The high commissioner of India Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty to Bangladesh admitted that the Indian government has resumed the process of construction once again from the end of 2008.
According to Chakravarty the dam would produce hydroelectricity and would not harm Bangladesh in any way. It would only regulate the rivers’ flow. As it is a project aimed at producing hydroelectricity, no water would be withheld from Bangladesh. But this is not as simple as said by Chakravarty as to produce electricity the water flow would have to be obstructed which means that there will be less flow of water to the riparian neighbouring country.
Furthermore, Chakravarty also stated that the water will not be used for irrigation purposes. Where as according to sources the original plan of India is to supply water to the areas of Rajasthan and other states from Barack River, around 900 km away from the Manipur state. How can the people of Bangladesh trust that India’s Tipaimukh dam will not do any harm to them when they have been suffering numerous environmental disasters for the last 35 years due to the barrages, in the upstreams of the Ganges and the Teesta, built by India?
India is withdrawing waters of almost all the common rivers by building dams on the upstream, which will eventually cause Bangladesh to turn into a desert. India’s lack of sensitivity to the neighbours does not speak of friendly act by a friendly country. By constructing Tipaimukh dam India is only looking its own interest. India wants to control the water flow to facilitate irrigation of the Cacher plain. India should not be insensitive to the environmental and the negative consequences of the Tipaimukh dam on the lower riparian Bangladesh.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
August 30, 2009
Leaders of National Tipaimukh Dam Resistance Committee at a discussion yesterday stressed the need for spontaneous participation of the people in the movement against the construction of Tipaimukh dam by India.
They called upon the people to remain alert on the issue so that the Indian government could not construct the dam on Borak River. If India constructs the dam, the north-eastern region of the country would turn into a desert, they said.
The discussion was held at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) in the city as a part of observance of 'Global Solidarity Sit-in Tipaimukh Dam Programme'.
The programme was also observed in the day in different district headquarters of the country and cities of the world including Shilchar, Calcutta and Patna of India, Canberra of Australia, Tokyo of Japan and New York of America.
Coordinator of the committee Engineer Mohammad Hilal Uddin moderated the discussion while convener of Governance Coalition Mohsin Ali, chairman of Supra Abdul Awal, leader of INCIDIN Bangladesh Shafikul Ahsan, executive director of Chalanbeel Uddyag Abdur Rasid Sabuj, president of Women Trade Union Shahida Parveen Shikha, among others participated.
Referring to 50 large dams in the world, Engineer Hilal said that a 'water syndicate' is now active to build more dams on big rivers to serve their own interests. "Such immoral activities of the syndicate have also con tributed to global climate change," he said.
Indian renowned journalist Shankar Roy and veteran leader of Tipaimukh dam issue in India Engineer Dinesh Mitra expressed solidarity with the participants of the programme.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Tawfique Ali, from New Delhi
India should address Bangladesh's concerns over the proposed Tipaimukh Dam on the river Barak, said Indian State Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh during an interaction with reporters at a regional workshop yesterday.
"Bangladesh's concerns over the proposed Tipaimukh Dam are quite obvious and they must be addressed," said Ramesh on the second day of a two-day South Asia Media Briefing on climate change organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
Journalists from seven south Asian countries took part in the workshop.
Replying to a query during the question-answer session, Ramesh said, "We are ready to address the concerns over the proposed dam."
Three consecutive prime ministers of India had laid down the foundation stones of this project since 1996, but it is yet to be realised, he said.
Asked if the project exists, the Indian minister said, "The project does exist but not the dam."
JM Mauskar, additional secretary to the environment and forests ministry of India, said the clearance for the project on environmental ground was given after a 'drill' on the project.
"We have put the assessment on environmental impact and environmental management study on website," he added.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
To give wings for the construction of the controversy ridden Tipaimukh dam, a tripartite MoU is set to be signed soon, even as the Bangladesh team, which had to abort its plan to visit the dam site earlier, is set to visit it in November this year.
The MoU will be signed between the NHPC, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) and the State Government at Imphal very soon, probably within the next few days, said a top official of the State Power Department today.
The initiative has been necessitated following the decision to axe the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), as the implementing agency for the project.
Once the MoU is signed, it will be forwarded to the Central Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for a go ahead signal to construct the Dam, after the clearance from the Forest Department is obtained, said the official.
NHPC will hold the biggest share of the joint venture with 69 percent with SJVN holding 26 percent.
The State Govt's share will be the remaining five percent, said the official further.
The total estimated cost of the 1500 MW project has been pegged at Rs 8139 crores including the compensation to be paid to the affected people.
The Bangladesh team had to abort their visit to the dam site on July 31 and on August 1 due to the inclement weather, said the official and added that they are now scheduled to visit the site in November this year.
The team will assess whether the proposed dam on the Barak river will affect the flow of water to their country or not.
Dam opponents in Bangladesh are contending that it will cause large damage to the ecology and reduce the water share from the Barak, which flows into the Surma river in their country.
Anti-dam lobbyists have also been opposing the proposal to build the dam on the ground that it will submerge over 90 villages, besides a large chunk of forest land and arable land.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Dr Asif Nazrul, professor of law at Dhaka University who did his PhD in international Watercourse Law from SOAS, University of London, explains to Konka Karim why it is important to register a protest over the Tipaimukh Dam at the international level.
We hear a lot of conflicting reports about what effects the Tipaimukh Dam will have on Bangladesh. Some say that the Surma, Kushiara and eventually the Meghna rivers will dry up turning northeastern Bangladesh into a desert. Others say, that hydroelectric power generation will actually benefit Bangladesh. How do you see the effects?
As reflected in various reports of the International Commission on Dam, whenever there is a huge intervention like the Tipaimukh project with the natural flow of a river, it will have disastrous impacts, particularly in the downstream areas. No matter what some people are saying, like we will get water during the dry season or the flood would be mitigated, the fact is, biodiversity in the riverine areas in Bangladesh is so sensitive that it would surely be adversely affected by any mega project in a shared river. Furthermore, since the project would be located in a highly seismic zone, the risk is much more grave.
Tipaimukh, no doubt, might have certain benefits but the injuries easily outweigh the benefits. But in order to be precise in our assessment as to the benefits and risks of the project we need to have all the data and information concerning the project. But India is yet to provide us with the project papers and other relevant information.
So, we have every reason to be suspicious. Take the example of Farakka. In 1976, while speaking at the UN general assembly, the Indian representative clearly stated that Farakka is not going to make Bangladesh suffer and whatever minor effect it will have could be remedied. Well, we all saw what economic and environmental impact the Farakka had on us.
The Indian government has told the Bangladesh government that the Tipaimukh dam will only be used for hydroelectric power generation and yet on their website they indicate to the Fulertala Barrage which will be used to retain diverted water.
Exactly. During the first proposal for the Tipaimukh dam in 1978 as well as the second one in 1983, they mention the Fulertala Barrage. In the NEEPCO website, the site for the Fulertala barrage is clearly indicated.
During the last meeting of the Joint River Commission in 2005, the Bangladesh delegation categorically asked whether the Indian government would construct any barrage at Fulertol to divert the water stored at Tipaimukh for irrigation purposes. They answered no. When they were asked whether they would construct the barrage at any other place in Manipur, they said they would answer it in the next meeting. That answer never came.
The Indians have been saying that there will be no barrage but their written literature like the NEEPCO website suggests otherwise. We need a written assurance from India that they are not going to construct any barrage at Fulertol or elsewhere. In fact Article IX of the 1996 water-sharing treaty clearly stipulates that Bangladesh and India will enter into agreement in relation to the utilisation of the waters of the shared rivers by complying with the principle of equity, fairness and no-harm. What they have been doing unilaterally with Tipaimukh is already a violation of the treaty.
If they can assure us verbally, why can’t they have a written agreement with us which would clearly state all the details on how we will benefit from the dam, how much water would be released in every day of a year and what compensation we will receive in the case of an accident or dam failure!
We signed a water-sharing treaty over Farakka years after the dam had been built. Do you think the Indian government intends to do the same?
That was 1969, this is 2009. At that time there was no water sharing agreement with India, today there is i.e. the 1996 Ganges Water Treaty. Our water sharing treaty expires in 2026 and until then, India has a treaty obligation to share all information with us. What India is doing now is a clear violation of Article 9 of the Ganges Water Treaty.
The construction of Tipaimukh Dam is also a clear violation of international customary law as it has been embodied in the UN Watercourses Convention of 1997. This is where the recent controversy regarding the remarks of Indian high commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakrabarty comes in. Pinak pointed that since the convention did not enter into force, it was not applicable. However, we have to understand that this treaty is a product of International Law Commission(ILC). The international court of justice in a number of cases valued the convention ILC had produced as evidence of embodiment of international customary law.
Is there any scope of taking the Tipaimukh issue to the international court?
Of course there is. Bangladesh and India are party to a number of international environmental agreements and raising the issue on these podiums will create an outcry.
Take for example the 1992 Biodiversity Convention. Article 5 of this convention stipulates that no country will undertake any measure which will seriously affect the biodiversity of another country. If the natural flow of water of Surma and Kushiara is affected, it will have immense effect on the animal and plant life of the region. To give a simple example, if you do not provide water to a human being for three days and then suddenly give him 10 glasses on the fourth day, imagine the impact of it? Plants and animals are generally more sensitive than humans not to mention micro organisms who can be affected in an hour. All those issues can be raised in the conference of the parties to the biodiversity convention and also in various committees established by the convention.
There is the Kyoto Protocol. Studies have proven that storing a huge amount of water like the proposed Tipaimukh Dam would contribute to global warming. Then there is the 1972 World Heritage Convention according to which, Sundarbans is a world heritage. That the increasing salinity in the water will affect a world heritage site is contradictory to the convention. In addition, there is the UN General Assembly through which you can capture the international headlines. But before internationalising the issue, Bangladesh must try its best to resolve the matter bilaterally.
Is there any real scope of holding them back from building the Tipaimukh?
Of course there is. Times have changed. You see, rivers such as Borak and Brahmaputra have their origin in China. If China one day wants to build dams on those rivers, which they obviously eventually will to generate power, on what moral grounds will India stop them? They will have no logical stand. We can play the environment card and we can play the China card. But most importantly, even if we can’t stop them we have to ensure that we have registered our protests very strongly, because they will remain as references in the future. This is exactly what India does not want us to do.
How would you assess the new Bangladesh government’s reaction to the Tipaimukh issue?
So far, the reaction has not been inspiring. Some of the ministers and parliamentarians appear to be suffering from India-phobia. There is also a serious lack of expertise in the government rank. The government seems to have totally failed to understand their strengths – the legal position, the global scenario and the fact that India cannot just unilaterally construct the dam. Because if they do it unilaterally, that would validate China’s future unilateral projects on the same rivers. The government has to properly assess the comprehensive picture, strengthen forums like JRC by appointing experts as its honorary members, beef up its negotiating skill by consulting all the concerned experts and provide people with genuine information so that people do not get confused and suspicious of the government’s performance on this issue. These are doable. You just need a change in the mind-set and a bit more smartness.
source: The New Age Xtra
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Ahead of Foreign Minister Dipu Moni&aposs maiden official visit to India, Bangladesh has said it has sought more technical information from New Delhi on the cross- border Tipaimukh dam, which it considered an"important"and"urgent"matter along with the maritime boundary issue.
"We have several issues with neighbours. We want to settle them on a win-win basis as neighbours are constant and relations should be on constant basis through continued engagements," Foreign Secretary Mizarul Quayes said at his first press conference yesterday after assuming office.
On the Tipaimukh dam in Manipur, he said Dhaka has sought more technical information from New Delhi on the hydro-electric project.
Bangladesh&aposs main opposition BNP has objected to the cross-border dam and demanded that the project be scrapped.
Quayes categorised the issues of maritime boundary with New Delhi and Yangon and the Tipaimukh dam as"important"and"urgent".
He said the report of the Bangladeshi parliamentary delegation, which visited the site of the Tipaimukh dam on the common Barak River, was being examined by experts.
He said talks on the maritime boundary with both Yangon and New Delhi were underway, noting that the issue involved"sensitivity on both sides".
Organised movement against construction of Tipaimukh Dam has begun at Cachar in the Indian state of Assam, Although there has been movement against the proposed dam in Manipur state of India for over two decades people of Cachar in Assam favoured construction of this dam.
Different environmental organisations of Cachar at a joint meeting with the Monipur groups which are opposed to the construction of the dam yesterday decided to wage movement against this project. These environmental organisations alleged that the government had given a wrong idea about the benefit of the dam to the down stream people for long, according to the BBC monitored in Dhaka yesterday.
Leader of the Anti-Tipai Dam Project Ramananda said “Down stream communities of different races and environmental organisations at yesterday’s meeting decided to join anti-dam movement. People of Barak’s upper region in Manipur have been waging movement for a long time. Anti-dam movement has begun in Bangladesh. Now the people of downstream Cachar region have joined this movement.
As a result the anti-dam movement will gain momentum and pressure will be exerted on the government to abandon this project, the BBC said.
One environmental activist of Shilchar said the proposed dam will fail to control flood. In dry season the whole Barak valley including Bangladesh will be in water crisis. Boro cultivation in the down stream region will be affected. Above all, if the dam collapses the whole downstream region will be destroyed.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Ehsanul Haque Jasim
August 22, 2009
When the people of the country particularly the people of greater Sylhet area are concerned of the adverse impact of proposed Tipaimukh dam at the upper reaches of rivers Surma and Kushiara, at that time cannels, bills, hoars and small rivers of the area are facing water crisis even before the beginning of the construction of the dam by India.
Due to the present water crisis, tension heightened among the people of the area and they have been expressing concern that when the construction of Tipaimukh dam will be completed, how will be the conditions of Surma-Kushiara and other water bodies?
Meanwhile a rumour has spread among the people of Sylhet area that the construction of Tipaimukh dam by India on Borak River has already been completed and due to that the water crisis in the area has been created.
Common people of the area believe the rumour and the tension has increased among them. The rumour and tension are increasing day by day.
Hundreds of canals and rivers including the rivers Surma and Kushiara flowing through Sylhet are now facing low water flow.
Sabbir Ahmed Apu, a youth of Zakigonj, told this reporter that the rainy season is running and usually the river Surma and Kushiara do not suffer from water crisis in the season. But this year it is an exception that the two rivers are suffering water crisis. Due to water crisis the general people believe the rumour of completion of Tipaimukh dam.
When asked a boatman of Surma river Yunus Ali, told 'we know that the Indian government has completed the Tipaimukh dam construction. So there is no sufficient water in the river even being rainy season.'
He also told that they were ready to respond to the call of the government or other quarters to stand against the construction of the dam.
Md Nijam Uddin, resident on the bank of Kushiara River, told 'I believe that the water crisis is created due to Tipaimukh dam and the Indian government has finished the dam construction without informing Bangladesh,'
Abdul Hamid Manik, a journalist of Zakigonj, told that the rumour has spread due to water crisis in the rivers Surma and Kushiara and other water bodies of greater Sylhet area.
Officials of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) informed that the Sylhet area were facing water crisis due to insufficient rain this year and creating char at the confluence of Surma and Kushiara River.
In every dry season a huge char is created at Amalshid in Sylhet at No-mans land of Bangladesh-India border. So BWDB can not implement dredging project without the consent of India.
The Hmar Peoples Convention-Democratic (HPC-D) has said that the proposed Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project is a war imposed on the indigenous Hmar people and other communities who share the river.
HPC-D “northern command” leader Lalthutlung Hmar told Newmai News Network that power-hungry governments and dam builders in India are being driven by capitalist interests. In their blind pursuit for profit and securing energy in distant foreign lands, they are poised to cross into indigenous peoples’ territory to dam the two life-giving rivers, Tuiruong and Tuivai, the group said.
“They don’t have the approval and consent of the people in whose land the dam is proposed. We are closely watching their every move. Hmar Peoples Convention Democratic shall never tolerate and allow their efforts to bear any fruit,” he said. The HPC-D leader said the rivers that nurse and feed ‘our honored generations before shall continue to flow for all the generations to come.’
'Tipaimukh, India: Location of Proposed Dam'
“We cannot allow the rivers to be disturbed. We are obligated to see that no outsiders, their forces and might will dam, destroy or disturb the natural flow of the rivers of life. Whoever steps in shall do so at their own risk. They shall pay for their own action,” he added sternly.
The HPC-D leader also said that Tuiruong and Tuivai rivers are central to the existence and survival of the indigenous Hmar people, who are fragmented by five state boundaries – Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya.
“Although the divisive state boundaries made our people politically insignificant in their respective State, the rivers weaved our people together through thick and thin. We shall never sacrifice them; never in the name of development; never in any elusive name. Our rich culture, tradition, history, language and memory flow in these rivers,” he said The HPC-D leader said it won’t “bow before any foreign interests to become mere fodder when our human quest is also to live and progress like equal human being.”
He said the rivers did not flow to be dammed and “our land and forest did not stand to be submerged; our people did not live to be uprooted and displaced”. There can be no compensation for the loss and cost to be paid by the people,” the Hmar outfit leader said.
The HPC-D pledged that it will fight to the end to see that the continuity and survival of these resources are not cornered. “We shall not allow the inheritor of these resources, the Hmar people, to be murdered by the same rivers that has given them life through the ages,” he said.
The outfit has appealed to the visiting parliamentary delegates from Bangladesh to steadfastly share the people’s concern to save river Tuiruong and Tuivai for all purposes. “Work together for collective good; to save the rivers from irreparable damage and public calamity,” he added.
The “northern command” leader of the outfit further said that HPC (D) was responsible for destroying NEEPCO’s drilling machine in the year 2008. “We hope everyone read our message loud and clear. We shall ever be committed to resist the destructive forces that go against the will of our people. Let this be a warning to all the other actors who are eyeing to intervene and injure our land and resources,” he said.
Advising to “stop all your vain efforts,” the outfit said it will not allow anyone to become “profit makers, share-holders and beneficiaries at the cost of our blood, land and rivers.”
“Let the governments and dam builders hear if they have ears; let them reason with their clear conscience before they initiate the structure of mass destruction. Let them not push us against the limit. If, today, they don’t retreat, HPC (D) shall be proud to become a sacrifice to take our own course of action. We shall fight this war. None can stop us, for God is with us,” Lalthutlung Hmar added.
Friday, August 21, 2009
August 21, 2009
A conference of Surma Kushiara Meghna Bachao Andolan in the capital yesterday called for drumming up support of the people for the movement to resist the construction of the Tipaimkh dam.
The leaders of the organisation said they would declare a programme for a still greater movement in this regard on the occasion of the 33th death anniversary of Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani in November.
The conference held at the Dr MA Hadi Auditorium in the city was attended by delegates from 18 districts of the basin of the rivers Surma, Kushiara and Meghna.
Former member of University Grant Commission Prof Dr Tarek Shamsur Rehman presided over the programme while former environment and water expert of United Nations Engineer Dr SI Khan, Vice Chancellor of Manarat International University Prof Dr Abdur Rab, lawyer Zubayer Ahmed Bhuiyan, took part in the discussions.
Dr SI Khan said that natural flood is necessary for the country, as without flood Bangladesh would be turned into a desert. If India constructs the Tipaimukh dam on the Borak River, the rivers Surma, Kushiara and Meghna will become dry. Consequently, a vast area of the country would be severely affected for want of water, he added.
Dr Abdur Rab stressed the need for forging greater national unity to resist India's move to construct the dam saying that the issue is a question of life and death for us.
Member Secretary of the organisation Md Selim Uddin conducted the programme while delegates of different districts addressed it. Md Kamal Hossain (Chadpur), Shahin Ahmed Khan (Moulvibazar), Jaber Hossain Rasel (B.Baria), Abdul Motin (Kishorgonj) and Mizanur Rahman Rasel (Shariatpur) were among the speakers. Speakers said that the government should discuss the issue with Indian government and if the latter did not stop the construction of the dam, our government should raise the issue in the international court.
The next course of action was declared at the conference.
Abdullah A. Dewan
AFTER holding talks with Indian authorities about the pros and cons of the construction of Tipaimukh dam vis-à-vis Bangladesh, the Parliament's water resources committee chairman Abdur Razzak told New Age that his team members were convinced that India would do nothing harmful for Bangladesh. "We have to trust our neighbour, as the Indian prime minister and two other ministers have assured that they wouldn't take up any scheme that would harm Bangladesh," he stressed.
On receiving the team's report about the controversial 1,500 MW Tipaimukh dam (TD), Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered the formation of an expert committee to assess the environmental, ecological, and economic (EEE) impacts on Bangladesh.
The building of the dam is of serious concern because of its potentially detrimental effects on Bangladesh's rivers. The plan is to build TD on the trans-boundary Barak river which channels water to the Bangladesh rivers Surma and Kushiyara, both of which merge into the Meghna. Thus, any potentially destabilising water flow in Meghna should be unacceptable to Bangladesh.
Razzak's imprudent assertion that India would do nothing that is harmful for Bangladesh can be dismissed as a memory-lapse statement -- one that ignores the adverse consequences of the Farakka barrage (FB) that both India and Bangladesh have been coping with ever since its construction.
One of the devastating impacts of the FB is the vanishing of a large village, Akheriganj of Bhagabangola, rendering 23,394 people homeless and raising tensions between India and Bangladesh. Besides, the barrage has turned parts of northern Bangladesh into a desert, raising salinity, affecting navigation, and adversely impacting the environment, agriculture and fisheries.
The government of India is now thinking of repairing the damage with a massive $120 billion plan to link its rivers, which originate in the Himalayas, with 30 interlinked canal systems that would deliver water to so-called Peninsular India. (India: Farakka Barrage -- An Environmental Mistake by Muhammad Javed Iqbal.)
Razzaque is a politician, not a water expert -- even a "so-called" one. His assertion about the team being "convinced that India would do nothing harmful" may be deemed gratuitously friendly, diplomatically pandering, evidentially unsubstantiated, and openly vociferous. Despite environmentalists' concerns, Razzak dismissed BNP's remonstrations about the project as nothing but an attempt to keep themselves politically alive. All his post India trip statements seem to suggest: "In India, we trust."
"Trust, but verify" should have been the mission of the Razzak-led 10-member get-to-know delegation. The Russian proverb doveryai, no proveryai -- Trust, but verify -- had often been quoted by US President Ronald Reagan when discussing US and Soviel relationships with USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorvachev. If the Farraka barrage had taught us anything, the Razzak led delegation should have adhered to the Russian proverb before being convinced that dam would have no adverse effects on Bangladesh.
The lessons of FB make it imperative that the proposed expert committee must consist of professionals with expertise in all three areas of EEE to produce an independent and professionally sound assessment. The TD is not a diplomatic matter or a cross-border political issue -- it's a question of Bangladesh's national security.
The recent actions and concerns expressed by members of the US Congress, the UN Security Council, and retired US military officers have awakened many nations to the consequences of climate change, including the destabilising effects of storms, droughts, and floods (SDF). Experts think that the effects of climate change could easily overwhelm disaster-response capabilities in the US. Internationally, it may cause humanitarian disasters, contribute to political unrest, and undermine weak governments -- leading to failed states.
Last week, in a national public radio talk show on climate change, I heard a retired US military officer refer to Bangladesh several times while discussing what could potentially happen to natural disaster prone countries. He argued that the effects of SDF brought about by climate change could lead to starvation, political violence and terrorism. As a consequence, climate change has increasingly been called a "security" problem, and there is conjecture that climate change may enhance the risk of violent conflict.
A recent study, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, projected climate change as "a threat multiplier in already fragile regions, exacerbating conditions that lead to failed states -- the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism."
The disastrous effects of the Farraka barrage must remind the politicians of Bangladesh not to blithely jump to hasty conclusions about the potential negative impacts of the controversial Tipaimukh dam. The potential adverse effects are similar to those of climate change. Therefore, the government of India must abandon the project if the dam -- even if remotely -- poses a threat to the environment, ecology, and economy of Bangladesh. A rise in terrorism as a result of dam related adverse effects could easily spill over across the border into India -- which neither Bangladesh nor India would ever like to see happening.
(Dr. Abdullah A. Dewan, founder of politiconomy.com, is Professor of Economics at Eastern Michigan University.)
Z. A. Khan
THE Bangladesh parliamentary delegation that went to visit Tipaimukh Dam site to obtain first hand information has apparently come back without much success. Our nation is not surprised about the outcome. An opinion poll held by The Daily Star last week about whether India would extend any worthwhile cooperation to the delegation, more than 80% respondents opined that it would not.
Although the delegation claims that it got some valuable information, which substantiates India's position that construction of this dam will not affect Bangladesh in any way, the people are not inclined to believe the delegation's claim of India's positive assurances.
Taking a cue from India's non-adherence to certain aspects of the instrument of understanding between Bangladesh and India pertaining to water sharing from the Farrakka Barrage, this time too they fear a repeat of the attitude shown in the past by India.
The people feel that our leaders, both in the government and in the opposition, should find ways to resolve the vexed issue so that our fragile relationship with India does not slide any further. In the days of "mouse click civilisation" speed is of the essence in any conflict resolution. If Tipaimukh is not dealt with in earnest by the parties involved, it may put the two neighbours on a collision course that is likely to create impediments in our march for development.
There are 55 rivers and rivulets that flow from India to the Bay of Bengal through our country. We have learnt that our neighbour has already constructed dams on the upstream of 54 of them. The Farakka experience has terrified the population living on the Meghna basin about the possible effects of the Tipaimukh dam. Any tampering with the flow of these water sources will affect Bangadesh a great deal.
Bangladesh, being a lower riparian country, bears the brunt of the natural vagaries caused by rains and flooding. The turning of the Ganges into a desert because of Farrakka may have given us football grounds (a recent photograph in The Daily Star is a proof in point), but it has deprived the area of a waterway that helped agriculture and communication aplenty.
The horrendous experience of the Farrakka Barrage has made our nation apprehensive about the extent of damage that Tipaimukh dam may cause. So both India and Bangladesh should demonstrate eagerness to engage in a genuine dialogue to resolve this critical issue to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders.
We wasted a lot of time in deciding on the composition of the delegation, which was rejected by the opposition on the ground that no expert had been included. They suggested a few names, which were unacceptable to the government. Finally, our delegation went to visit Tipaimukh dam site without any member from the opposition.
As ill luck would have it, the delegation made two attempts to visit the site, which were aborted by nature. The delegation, on its return, informed the nation that it had received some documents that show that the Meghna basin is not threatened with desertification and bio-degradation. The delegation also informed the nation that India had made a firm commitment that the construction of the dam would not affect water sharing in both the wet and the dry season.
People find it intriguing as to why the relevant details made available by India were not made public initially, and why the delegation did not land at the site when they could see it while hovering over it in a helicopter? They allege that our government is not demonstrating firmness in seeking assurances from India that the dam will not affect our economy and environment. This has provided people outside the government with an opportunity to blame the government, terming the entire exercise as a failure. Let us not forget that this is a top priority national issue.
To my understanding, both the government and the opposition should work hand-in-gloves to find a common solution, which should strengthen the dialoguers of our side to press home our demand. The water resource ministry should immediately arrange a broad-based conference of experts to deliberate on the viability of the suggestions put forward by India, and short list an agenda by according priority for further discussions in the immediate future.
Let us form an international body of experts to determine whether the dam, if constructed at the selected site, will have any adverse affect on our people's lives or retard our development -- or neither. If this is not considered in due haste, it might snowball into a massive movement which may not augur well for the government. Let us choose time to save time.
My intention is not to censure anybody. I only want to remind us about what Lord Buddha said in this perspective, which is: "Right view, right speech, right action, right mindfulness and right contemplation are sinews of a full life (successful life)." To this, I would add that these virtues should be founded on compromise and barter when it comes to dealing with problems involving nations.
Any delay in ensuring a national consensus about the modus operandi to handle this issue with India may subject our nation to gallows humour. If the government remains stubborn about not including experts suggested by the opposition it will drive a wedge between the two, which will imperil development of politics of understanding, which is essential for democracy.
The nation deserves to be correctly navigated by the leadership so that we are led towards peace. Our hopes of living among greenery should be revived by demonstration of genuine efforts to arrive at a conclusion that assures the lower riparian nation that it would not be deprived of the quantum of water needed. Only thus we can thrive to enjoy the fruits of democracy and development, the prime mover of our motivation to fight for independence.
Let us be reassured that our rights to life and property will remain the chief concern of our political leadership, both in the government and in the opposition. As of now, we feel shaken at the thought that a large chunk of our productive territory will be engulfed by water if we do not face the challenge thrown by India's decision to build the dam on the upstream of the Borak river.
(Z.A. Khan is a former Director General of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
With unalloyed support for independence and strong opposition against the barbarism committed by Pakistan in 1971, India, no doubt, contributed much to the establishment of Bangladesh, showing great neighbourly approach to the war-stained people of the latter nation. With the passage of time, the relations, however, between the two countries have been termed as a 'complex' one, as there has been fluctuation, if not bitterness, between them.
Bangladesh, being almost entirely encircled by India via a land border stretching 2400 kilometres, considers its relations with India to be vital for political and economic reasons. During Mujib government the relations with India were at the peak but with the fall of the government mentioned, bilateral issues concerning the interest of the two neighbours, slowly but surely, started experiencing, in most of the cases, dissatisfaction. Issues such as South Talpatti Island, the Tin Bigha corridor and access to Nepal, the Farakka Barrage and water sharing, border killings and the construction of a fence along most of the borders gave birth to mutual misunderstanding. But the issues never turned extremely serious.
In recent years, India increasingly complained that Bangladesh does not secure its border properly, though many small pieces of land such as Padua, a part of Sylhet division, and South Talpatti Island, belonging to Bangladesh along the border region are still under Indian military occupation. However, India fears an increasing flow of economically depressed Bangladeshis to its territory and it accuses Bangladesh of harbouring Indian separatist groups like ULFA and alleged terrorist groups. India estimates that over 20 million Bangladeshis are living illegally in India, which has no reasonable footing. The Bangladesh government has consistently denied these accusations
Tipaimukh barrage issue has recently been a much talked about topic and managed to cause a hue and cry, for it is entirely concerned with mutual interest. The Indian government has planned to construct a controversial dam and a barrage on the upstream of the trans-boundary river Barak, with the intention of stopping the flow of water to Bangladesh which will, no doubt, cause a devastating effect in the latter nation. Bangladesh water experts, environmentalists, politicians and people in general protested the move in a peaceful manner. But their counterpart seems paying no heed but showing 'Big-brotherly' attitude, making the issue worse.
On top of that, Indian High Commissioner Pinak Chakrabarty has not only undermined the people concerned for their opposition to construction of the barrage but also termed 80 percent of the Bangladeshis seeking Indian visa as 'touts and brokers' at a conference in Dhaka. Regrettably enough, he delivered the highly objectionable and arrogant comments in front of high officials including the foreign minister herself with no protest.
Diplomatic relations among nations can never be developed blowing hot words and showing a 'Big-brotherly' attitude. If diplomats create a gap, who will bridge it?
(Sarwar Hussain, Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Chittagong).
Jahangirnagar University (JU) unit of Bangladesh Chhatra Federation (BCF) yesterday launched a mass signature campaign at the campus with a view to protesting the construction Tipaimukh dam at the bank of Borak river.
The leaders of the organisation urged the mass people to raise their voice unitedly against any attempt to construct the Tipaimukh dam by eighbouring India overlooking the interests of Bangladesh.
They also appealed to the people to unite to save the country, human life, nature and to ensure the sovereignty of the country.
Afrin Tithi, the university unit convener, Mrinal Haque, general secretary, Golam Murshed, the central member of the organisation were present at the launching programme.
Leaders of Islami Andolan Bangladesh (IAB) yesterday submitted a memorandum to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Mun through UNDP representative of Bangladesh office demanding help to stop the construction of Tipaimukh dam by India on Borak river in Monipur state of India near the border of Sylhet.
A delegation of IAB led by its presidium member Moulana Syed Musaddek Billah Al Madani submitted the memorandum while UNDP Bangladesh office incharge Kazi Ali Reza received it and assured the delegation that the memorandum will be reached to UN Secretary General as soon as possible.
The memorandum said that the plan of constructing Tipaimukh Dam Project was a complete violation of Bangladesh-India Joint River Commission (JRC) 1996, International Helsinki Convention and International River Law.
It was also told that if India constructs the dam, it would destroy country's existence and it would seriously affect not only in Bangladesh, it is also going to bring negative ecological and environmental changes in vast areas in Bangladesh and different states of India.
IAB leaders urged UN Secretary General to intervene to stop the construction of the dam to save vast areas of Bangladesh from desertification.
The delegation includes, among others, by IAB General Secretary Moulana Yunus Ahmed, Organising Secretary Prof Syed Belayet Hossain and Dhaka city president Prof Moulana ATM Hemayet Uddin.
After submitting memorandum, IAB leaders informed journalists that a Long March towards Tipaimukh Dam led by IAB Amir Mufti Syed Rezaul Karim Pirsaheb Chormonai would be launched on December 24 this year.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The New Nation
The Tipaimukh Dam Affected Villages Committee, Nungba Sub-area, Tamenglong on Friday strongly condemned all 60 Members of Legislative Assembly, Manipur for their failure to take up a substantial debate in the just concluded Monsoon Assembly and leaving ways for New Delhi to decide the fate and future especially of the affected communities of proposed Tipaimukh Project.
Terming Tipaimukh as the most controversial and biggest single project being imposed upon Manipur which will have far reaching consequences for generations to come the committee alleged that the responsibility and accountability of elected representative has been replaced by a sense of servitude who are all out for forced submission, according to a message received from Manipur.
As elected representatives, the committee observed, their first and foremost obligation is to frame policies and laws that suit the people of Manipur to ensure peaceful co-existence, with freedom from dislocations, displacement and ensure better life. The very purpose of these 60 odd MLAs has been diluted, and have demeaned the office they hold.
The Controversial damming of Barak River to contain flood water in Cachar Valley at the cost of Manipur and Mizoram have reached a new dimension. The British House of Commons did discuss the matter and asked the Government of India to down the damming project.
Bangladesh has strongly objected and went event to the extent of sending their own parliamentary team to ascertain their apprehensions. United States of America and China too have responded for talks to resolve the conflict the Dam has generated. Whereas, these 60 odd MLAs of so called Manipur State of India have no nothing to say, the committee observed.
In 1995, the Manipur Assembly, having learnt that the proposed dam site fall under seismologically active zone, the environmental hazard to be caused is too heavy and the rehabilitation and resettlement package is extremely inadequate, had adopted a strongly
worded resolution opposing the damming of Barak River, and later in 1997, similar resolution was adopted.
The committee said on 9 January 2003, without taking into confidence House and people of Manipur, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Government of Manipur and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation, Ltd. then with NHPC. In other words, the Assembly have never cleared the project which was earlier rejected on two counts.
The Committee demands that this controversial and anti-people Tipaimukh Dam Project be scrapped otherwise the 60 MLAs resign en-mass. Let the Chief Minister and Power Minister lead the way. The Committee will join hands with other would-be-affected communities and other organisations demanding for scrapping of the Tipaimukh Dam Project, the message signed by Lumgaipou Kamei, convenor, Tipaimukh Dam Affected Committee.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
M. Serajul Islam
FORMER Water Resources Minister and currently Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources Mr. Abdur Razzak, upon his return home from leading a parliamentary delegation to India, said that his talks with the Indians have “convinced” him that Tipaimukh will not harm Bangladesh. He told news media that the dam will be constructed for generating hydro-electricity and ensuring flood control and its water will not be used for irrigation.
The parliamentary delegation did not include any member of the opposition. Mr. Razzak's words alone may not resolve the controversy that Tipaimukh has raised in Bangladesh. A lot more will be required to calm passion and apprehension over the issue that was allowed to develop into a full blown controversy with enough potentials to take Bangladesh-India relations off the track. The Indian High Commissioner, unfortunately, started the controversy as much by what he said as by the manner in which he said what he said. Some of the Bangladeshi ministers added apprehension to the controversy when they addressed the issue in the media in support of the Indian High Commissioner.
The Indian High Commissioner and the ministers failed to take into account the fact that the Farakka issue has embedded deep into the psyche of Bangladeshis a suspicion that India would eventually withdraw waters from the rivers that flow from India and turn Bangladesh into a desert. The public reaction in Bangladesh led by the BNP was therefore natural and spontaneous because in Tipaimukh, they saw the scepter of a Farakka on the north eastern side of Bangladesh-India border.
It is very encouraging that the Indians have “convinced” the Bangladesh parliamentary delegation. It is also encouraging to learn that Tipaimukh will generate electricity and control floods in the plains of Assam and that its water will not be diverted to cause shortfall in the flow of Barak River on which the dam will be constructed as it flows into Bangladesh into the Surma and Kushiara rivers. The assurances nevertheless raise a curious issue in the context of the serious controversy that Tippaihmukh has caused in Bangladesh: the inordinate delay by the Indian side to take Bangladesh into confidence over Tipaimukh. According to one member of the delegation, they were given information on Tipaimukh that was denied to Bangladesh in the last 20-25 years. The parliamentary delegation has submitted a report to the Prime Minister but its details are not yet known. The report must have all the technical details so that the Bangladesh government could tell the people the whole truth and let the issue rest. Therefore, one must wait to learn how much the Indians have taken Bangladesh into confidence on Tipaimukh.
When the AL won the December elections last year, it was expected in Bangladesh that Bangladesh-India relations would improve qualitatively given the AL's historical closeness with the Congress. Additionally, in recent times, there has been a perceptible change in people's attitude in Bangladesh over issues that had stalled Bangladesh-India relations in the past such as transit, use of ports etc. Given India's concern over terrorism, Prime Minister Sehikh Hasina even offered to establish a joint task force to tackle the issue. There was optimism in many quarters in Bangladesh that the two countries who need each other for compulsions of history and geopolitics would move towards a new era of win- win relationships where India, in reciprocal gesture, would look at Bangladesh's concerns on water, trade and maritime boundary.
Unfortunately, that optimism was very short lived. The Indian High Commissioner helped raise the controversy over Tipaimukh that put the Bangladesh government on a spot. Even the ministers were confused over the Indian High Commissioner, with the Foreign Minister at least once expressing reservation over his media comment only to be contradicted by the LGRD Minister the day after! All these did not suggest that the Indians were eager to settle outstanding bilateral issues; rather these actions by the Indians hinted towards an overbearing attitude on their part.
Tipaimukh nevertheless has helped the AL and the BNP move closer to making this a national issue, something unpleasantly rare in our politics. The ministers stopped supporting the project perhaps under the Prime Minister's direction who must have sensed the dangers of taking a pro-Tipaimukh stand. In her bilateral meeting with the Indian Prime Minister on the sidelines of the NAM Summit in Egypt in July she raised Bangladesh's concerns over Tipaimukh. Mr. Singh gave Sheikh Hasina assurance that nothing would be done to harm Bangladesh and the two leaders further agreed that a Bangladesh parliamentary delegation would visit India to discuss Tipaimukh.
Apprehensions in Bangladesh will not be fully laid to rest till the people are convinced with facts. The favourable impression carried home by Mr. Razzak and his delegation will not be enough to clear the apprehension in Bangladesh. The facts must come out in a transparent manner so that assessment could be made by experts. The best and perhaps the only way to resolve this issue satisfactorily would be to discuss Tipaimukh in the Joint Rivers Commisison with India providing all the facts and figures, something the Indians have refused so far despite Bangladesh's repeated requests.
The Tipaimukh controversy can land Bangladesh-India relations in the doldrums if handled badly or insensitively. It can also act as a conduit for taking relations to a different level altogether if handled positively. Given the fact that there is very deep and significant opposition in India, particularly in Manipur over the project, the Indians could drop it altogether because the amount of electricity it will generate is by no means dramatic. In fact if generating electricity is the main argument, then there are other places India could look to generate many times more electricity. That could provide a quantum leap to the development of Bangladesh-northeast India-Nepal and Bhutan sub-region and could very well include Manipur with no environmental costs. For many decades now, Bangladesh has been trying to pique India with Nepal's tacit support for a sub-regional management of water resources. Nepal could be used for building dams and reservoirs that could provide the much needed energy as well as control devastating floods in India, Bangladesh and the sub-region.
Recently Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has spoken of a South Asian power grid. It is an old call, one she also made when she was Leader of the Opposition. Such a power grid could become transformational if the vast water resource of the region, which is now being wasted because of India's mindset for dealing with each of her neighbours bilaterally, is developed multilaterally. Bangladesh should now make a strategic shift in conducting her bilateral relations with India. Past experience of using the traditional channels alone have not worked in our favour for we were seldom given a fair deal when our Foreign Ministry and other Ministries and established channels such as the JRC have been used to negotiate with their Indian counterparts. Issues have always been bogged down by a mindset on the Indian side that neighbours cannot be trusted multilaterally and on Bangladesh's side that India cannot be trusted as a friendly neighbour. It is time that our Prime Minister takes charge to deal with the major irritants at the highest level to reach the political understanding without which it would be very difficult to improve and strengthen Bangladesh-India relations.
The Tipaimukh controversy is far from over. Nevertheless, it seems that India is eager now to give Bangladesh information that was not forthcoming in the past. The meeting between the two Prime Ministers in Cairo may be the reason for the change of heart on India's part. The Indian Prime Minister is a statesman and knows the importance of a friendly neighbour. Our Foreign Ministry needs to make more use of summit diplomacy for better attention and resolution of our problems with India.
The writer is a Director, Centre for Foreign Affairs Studies and former Ambassador to Japan.
Source: The Daily Star
Dhaka, Aug 16 (UNB)
Environment experts on Sunday urged the government to hold a national convention on India’s proposed Tipaimukh Dam across the Sylhet border that will leave a perilous affect on Bangladesh.
Addressing a press conference they also demanded forming a national committee to work together on various aspects of the dam and take the decision how to ensure availability of waters of the common rivers.
New Work based International Farakka Committee (IFC), a trans-boundary water rights group, held the press conference at the National Press Club.
IFC chairman Atiqur Rahman Salu, former UN water expert Prof Dr SI Khan, former Vice Chancellor of Jahangirnagar University Prof Dr Jasim Uddin Ahmed, river law expert Prof Dr Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University and daily New Nation Editor Mustafa Kamal Majumder spoke
at the press conference.
A six-member expert-committee was formed comprising Prof Dr M Adel Mia of Arkansas University of USA, Prof Dr Monirul Kader Mirza of Toronto University of Canada, Prof Dr Khalequzzaman of Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania of USA, Prof Dr SI Khan, Prof Dr Jasim Uddin Ahmed and Prof Dr Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University.
IFC chairman Atikur Rahman said the committee will discuss and exchange views with Awami League and BNP expert teams and, if necessary, assist both of them.
At the same time the IFC expert-team will monitor the activities of other national expert teams. It will also collect information on the river water rights and arsenic problems, he added.
Prof Asif Nazrul said earlier his name was included in the BNP-expert team but he refused to work under any political organization.
He was critical of Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakraborty for his objectionable remarks on water experts of Bangladesh.
On June 21, Pinak called the water experts who are dealing with the Tipaimukh Dam as 'so called experts' at a seminar in presence of Foreign Minister Dipu Moni.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Dhaka, August 13 2009
Ahead of Foreign Minister Dipu Moni's visit to India next month during which the Tipaimukh dam issue is likely to be discussed, Bangladesh has decided to set up an expert committee to assess possible economic, ecological and environmental impacts of the cross-border hydro-power project.
Premier Sheikh Hasina ordered formation of the committee as a parliamentary delegation, which was on a week-long visit to India, submitted its findings and documents provided by authorities in the neighbouring country with regard to the mega project on Barak river in Manipur.
"The committee will evaluate the environmental, ecological and economic impacts on Bangladesh," a spokesman in the Prime Minister's office told PTI here.
His comments came as a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Foreign Minister Moni planned to visit New Delhi in the first week of September.
He did not give the dates.
The spokesman said that Tipaimukh is expected to be a major agenda of her talks during her first formal visit to India since the assumption of Bangladesh's new government after the December 29, 2008 general elections.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources Abdur Razzak, who led the high-power delegation to India to review the Tipaimukh project, last night said the tour yielded three "achievements" with regard to Bangladesh's concerns about the dam.
Emerging from a meeting of the standing committee, Razzak said India had assured the delegation that the dam was meant for a hydro-electric plant, and was not an irrigation barrage requiring withdrawal of water.
"They told us about the amount of water to be discharged into the Barak river during the dry season and how much of it will flow into the Surma and Kushiara of Bangladesh".
Leading water expert Ainun Nishat, who co-drafted the Landmark 1996 Ganges Water Treaty, supplemented Razzak saying "from the engineering and technical point of view" a well-negotiated agreement on Tipaimukh could benefit Bangladesh even if an irrigation barrage was built as part of the project.
The water flow of Barak in Bangladesh will increase in the dry season and drop in the rainy season with lessening possibility of flood, said both Razzak, also a former water resource minister, and Nishat.
Source: The Sangai Express / Anisur Rahman (PTI)
Mamunur Rashid, Ottawa
Members of the Bangladeshi community in Montreal led by the Save Bangladesh International, Global Environmental Concern and the International Farakka Committee (Canada Chapter) on Monday last paraded a long march to Ottawa protesting India's move to construct Tipaimukh Dam on Barak River.
They went at the Parliament Hill with a slogan "Cholo Cholo Ottawa Cholo" to demonstrate devotion to their motherland. The group first marched from Montreal on foot for a while then by transportation reached the Parliament Building.
The group began marching on the Parliament Hill from the location of the flame to the main building and the slogan on the placards read, "India Stop Building Dams", "India, Where is your Spirituality", "How can dam building be peaceful"? "Share Ganges water", "Stop building Tipaimukh Dam", "Save Sylhet", "Dam building is destroying the humanity", "India, be benevolent to your neighbor".
Addressing the rally near the flame in front of the Parliament building conference organiser Mamunur Rashid of the 'Save Bangladesh International' said, "India being known globally as a peace-loving country should practice what it preaches. Building dams over the Ganges, Tista and now Tipaimukh is not helping to promote peace in the region.'
Fazlee Elahi one of the organisers said, "India's unilateral action to building dams is to make Bangladesh a dependent state through desertification. Through this India is increasing shifting away from being a peaceful nation to its path to aggression."
Dr. Bahar, spokesperson for the 'Save Bangladesh International' said, "We are not against India or against Indian people but we are against India's ruling Congress Party's stated policy of dam building which Nehru called India's new temples."
Faisal Chowdhury cautioned that India's deceitful initiative is going to hurt Bangladesh.India as a big power in the region rather should work responsibly for regional harmony, he said.
The meeting was told that India is ignoring Bangladesh's and the international environmental group's concerns. Bangladeshis in Bangladesh and in abroad should continue to fight, and should keep up the pressure at home and abroad through demonstration and protests against India's destruction of eco-system of the region.
Some South Asians and some Canadian Friends of Bangladeshi members also joined in the demonstration in Ottawa.
The demonstrators also spoke with the representative of Canadian Prime Minister and informed them that India is adamantly going ahead with the plan even by ignoring expert claims that there is an increased risk of Tipaimukh dam failure due to its location in a high risk earthquake zone and in case of such a failure, the projected dam would be a tsunami like disaster for Bangladesh's eastern region.
The demonstrators sought help from the Canadian government to help mediate to settle this serious international issue that concerns the lives of millions of people.
Dimapur, August 14 (MExN)
Villages affected by the dubious Tipaimukh Dam today demanded Manipur’s entire “coolies for Delhi” 60 legislators to resign for failing to address the dam issue, for which, the villages said, there would be consequences for generations to come.
The Tipaimukh Dam Affected Villages Committee of Tamenglong today strongly condemned Manipur Legislative Assembly, for failing to take up debate in the just-concluded monsoon assembly and “leaving ways for New Delhi to decide the fate and future of Manipur.”
The villages said responsibility and accountability of the elected representative have been replaced by “a sense of servitude” and have been forced into submission and acting as “disciplined coolies of Delhi babus.”
The committee ridiculed Manipur’s MLAs: “The controversial damming of Barak River to contain flood water in Cachar Valley at the cost of Manipur and Mizoram have reached a new dimension. The British House of Commons did discuss the matter and asked the Government of India to down the damming project. Bangladesh has strongly objected and went event to the extent of sending their own parliamentary team to ascertain their apprehensions. United States of America and China too have responded for talks to resolve the conflict the dam has generated.
Whereas, these 60 odd MLAs of so-called Manipur state of India have no nothing to say!” The committee reminded the legislators that as elected representatives, their foremost obligation is to frame policies and laws that suit the people of Manipur.
They further added that it is the responsibility of the legislatures to ensure peaceful co-existence, ‘freedom from dislocations, displacement and ensure better life.’ “The very purpose of these 60 odd MLAs has been diluted, and has demeaned the office they hold,” the villages said, adding that the apathy is reflected in the “loud silence maintained by all the supporters of the CM even after the Tehelka exposure.”
Arguing with their points of contentions against the dam, the committee stated that in 1995, the Manipur Assembly learned that the proposed dam site falls under seismically active zone and that the environmental hazards to be caused is too heavy. Similarly, rehabilitation and resettlement packages are extremely inadequate. For this, the committee said, it had adopted a strong resolution opposing the damming of Barak River.
Also, in 1997, similar resolution was adopted. But on 9 January 2003, the committee noted, without taking into account the confidence of the house and people of Manipur, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Government of Manipur and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd. then with NHPC. “In other words, the Assembly have never cleared the project which was earlier rejected on two counts,” the committee.
The committee has demanded that the controversial and anti-people Tipaimukh Dam Project must be scrapped otherwise the 60 MLAs must resign en-mass. “Let the Chief Minister and Power Minister lead the way. The committee will join hands with other would-be-affected communities and other organisations demanding for scrapping of the Tipaimukh Dam project,” the committee added.
According to the website of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO) which is in charge of the Tipaimukh Project, this project will be one of the largest Hydro Electric Project in Eastern India to date and will be located 500 meters downstream of the confluence of the Tuivai and Barak Rivers in the District of Churachanpur in the State of Manipur. All statutory clearances, except forest clearance have been obtained and the project is scheduled for commissioning in 87 months time from date of CCEA Clearance.
Situated in a highly seismic zone, this project was seriously objected by the Bangladeshi experts as documented in the JRC’s commentaries in 1985 on the updated Indian proposal for augmenting the flows of the Ganges submitted to Bangladesh in 1983. After that successive Bangladeshi governments have objected to the Tipaimukh project in view of its serious environmental and economic impact in the downstream. If India sticks to its original plan of constructing a Barrage at Fulertol or elsewhere to divert the water stored in the Tipaimukh the impact would be a reminiscent of the Farakka Debacle. It may be mentioned here that In the 36th meeting of the Joint River Commission held from 19 to 21 September, 2005, Bangladesh asked whether, instead of Phulertol, the barrage would be constructed somewhere else. India replied that the answer would be furnished at the next meeting (Source: Transcript of Commission Records, Paragraph: 11.2). Since then, India has not furnished the answer to this question to Bangladesh.
India’s unilateral move to construct the Tipaimukh Dam would be a violation of its obligation under the 996 Ganges Water Treaty between Bangladesh and India as well the customary laws of international law governing the utilization of international rivers and lakes. The 1996 thirty-year Ganges Water Sharing Treaty was signed by the heads of state of Bangladesh and India and thus, according to the 1969 Vienna Convention on The Law of Treaties, it has the full backing of international law. Both Bangladesh and India are bound to abide by this treaty until 2026.
The 1996 treaty is the relevant law for assessing the validity of the proposed construction of Tipaimukh or any other structure on shared rivers between Bangladesh and India. The treaty is relevant law because in addition to making provisions for water-sharing in the Ganges, the treaty also enshrines, in Article IX: “Guided by the principles of equity, fairness and no harm to either party both the Governments agree to conclude water sharing Treaties/ Agreements with regard to other common rivers”. According to the International Laws Commissions Commentaries on the Draft of 1997 Watercourse Convention, such pledges to apply the principle of equitable utilization and no-harm essentially presupposes obligations of conducting prior consultation and conclusion of agreement with co-basin state before undertaking any planned measures on a common river like the Barak. Accordingly, construction of the Tipaimukh Dam by India on the upstream of Barak which after entering into Bangladesh continues to flow as Kushiara and Surma will be illegal, unless it is preceded by prior consensus with Bangladesh.
As part of the Tipaimukh project, if India builds a barrage over the Barak River, the resulting disastrous consequences on Bangladesh will be a graver violation of the “no harm” principle acknowledged by both countries in the Ganges treaty.
Unilateral construction of the Tipaimukh project would also be inconsistent with the customary laws of international law as reflected in the 1997 UN watercourse convention. This Convention was drafted by the International Law Commission constituted under Article 13(1) of the United Nations Charter. The draft law produced by this Commission represents either existing or emerging rules of international law (ILC Statute, Article 15); several verdicts of the International Court of Justice have already expressed such a view (for example, the 1997 ICJ verdict regarding the River Danube dispute between Hungary and Slovakia).
According to the 1997 Convention, a project with the magnitude of impact upon the environment that Tipaimukh will have, cannot be constructed unilaterally by any basin state.. Given that this Convention is ratified by Bangladesh, it could oppose projects like Tipaimukh much more effectively in the international forums or bi-lateral discussions. The 1997 convention emphasizes comprehensive cooperation for equitable utilization of the watercourses, no-harm to any watercourse stares and adequate protection of international watercourses.
In 1992, the Economic Union for Europe devised an even more comprehensive and far-reaching convention regarding utilization and management of transboundary watercourses. By the terms of this convention, there is no scope, at all, to construct structures on joint rivers without conducting a comprehensive environmental impact assessment, providing full information to all the concerned basin- states and ensuring that there are no serious harmful effects on the ecosystem and the co-riparian states.
In the last two decades, various countries in Africa (e.g. 1995 Zambezi River Protocol, 1997 Lake Victoria Program), South East Asia (e.g. 1995 Mekong River Agreement), and South America (e.g. 2004 Program for the Pantanal and Upper Paraguay Program) have all emphasized basin-wide cooperation for ensuring sustainable utilization and management of international watercourses. Even Turkey, known as a country with a low regard for international watercourse law, is now consulting Iraq and Syria about equitable utilization of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in line with the recommendation of the European Parliament on May 20, 2003.
Bangladesh and India are parties to a number of global environmental conventions, which are potentially applicable to the shared natural resources. Among them, Article 3 of Convention on Bio Diversity provides that “States have â€¦. the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.”
The principle is of fundamental importance to international rivers and shared water systems like the Barak Basin as “damaging activities upstream frequently degrade the inland or coastal waters of downstream states”.
Provisions for preventing and mitigating harm related with the utilization of shared water systems are also found in a number of conventions including the 1972 Ramsar Convention, the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate change and the 1994 convention on Desertification.
If India decides to ignore the above international rules and norms for undertaking the Tipaimukh project that might prove disastrous for India itself. The sources of several large rivers, such as the Brahmaputra, are in China who is reportedly considering undertaking construction of big dams on some of those rivers. If India claims that there is no international law prohibiting Tipaimukh, then how would India oppose China’s projects which would cause serious damage to the environment and economy of India. Indian newspapers are already warning their government about this facet of the problem.
For us, the question is: are we ready to devise the necessary strategies with a holistic vision of the problem?
(Asif Nazrul is a professor of law at the University of Dhaka. The paper was presented at a recent international conference organised by the International Farakka Committe in Dhaka.)
Kamran Reza Chowdhury
bdnews24.com Senior Correspondent
Hundreds of water bodies and small rivers in the greater Sylhet region are already facing a water crisis during the dry season, according to Bangladesh Water Development Board, even before India has begun construction of the contentious Tipaimukh dam project upstream in Manipur that has triggered widespread environmental fears for the region.
WDB officials said a huge shoal emerges every dry season, from November to April, at the mouth of the Surma river that is fed by the cross-border Barak river, over which the Indian government is planning to build its dam.
"The large shoal has been surfacing at the mouth of the Surma, at Amalshid in Sylhet, every dry season for some years past," Abul Kalam Mohd Azad, BWDB director general, told bdnews24.com on August 9.
"We have been trying to dredge the river-mouth to ease the river's flow," he said.
But water board officials say they cannot clear the shoal since it lies in the "no-man's-land" on the Bangladesh-India border in Sylhet.
They say Delhi is yet to give Dhaka the green signal to dredge the river's mouth.
The cross border river Barak enters Bangladesh through Amalshid bifurcating into the Surma and the Kushiara.
Because of the shoal at the Surma's mouth, the Barak waters now mainly drain through the Kushiara, rendering the Surma-dependent areas water-thirsty.
The Surma criss-crosses the Sylhet and Sunamganj districts. Millions of farmers and fishermen are solely dependent on the water bodies and distributaries of the Surma for their livelihood.
"Hundreds of large and small rivers and other open water bodies in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts are fed by the Surma," Syed Ahsan Ali, a superintendent engineer of the Water Development Board in Sylhet, told bdnews24.com.
"In the dry season, they face water shortages as the shoal diverts waters to the Kushiara which now carries 80 percent of the Barak waters."
Syed Ahsan Ali was authorised to talk to bdnews24.com by the board's chief of planning Md Saidur Rahman.
Rahman told bdnews24.com, "We have requested the Indian government to undertake dredging in the Surma river."
BWDB director general Abul Kalam Mohd Azad said the shoal must be cleared as soon as possible, or massive silt deposits may soon choke the whole river.
Surma flow data reveals a grim picture of the Surma river in the lean period (November to April) at Kanaighat, the Bangladesh Water Development Board's nearest observation point to the shared border with India.
In 2006, the Surma's flow at Kanaighat in the dry season was 9.18 cumec per second in April while the lowest was 4.56 cumec per second on February 13. In the rainy season that year, the same river's highest flow at the same point was 1416 cumec per second on July 10 and the lowest 670 cumec per second in August.
The Surma's highest and lowest flows in the lean period in 2007 were recorded in March. The highest flow in the dry season was just 4.6 cumec per second and the lowest 4.22 cumec per second. The same river's highest and lowest flows figures in the 2007 rainy season were recorded in August as 962 cumec per second and 670 cumec per second repectively.
In 2008, the Surma's highest and lowest flow figures for the dry season were recorded in March. The lowest flow was 6.05 cumec per second while the highest was just 15 cumec per second. The highest flow in the rainy season the same year was 1456 cumec per second on July 21.
The figures for 2009 are yet to be processed, said officials.
Environmentalists in India and Bangladesh say the proposed Tipaimukh dam, on top of such a prevailing situation, will certainly cause "environmental disaster" both in the upstream and downstream—despite repeated assurances by Delhi that it will not.
Foreign minister Dipu Moni, who is scheduled to visit India in September, told bdnews24.com on August 12, "I will discuss this further with the Indian government".
However, Sajjad Hossain, a member of the Joint Rivers Commission, which discusses river-related issues with India, refused to comment on the issue, when approached on Friday, telling bdnews24.com, "I have nothing to say".
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Dhaka, Aug 13 (IANS)
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will be in India early next month to discuss the Tipaimukh dam issue and to follow up on assurances given to a parliamentary delegation that went to study the site.
Moni told the media Wednesday that details of her visit were being worked out and that the visit could be in the first week of September.
Parliamentary delegation leader Abdur Razzaq added that the aerial visit to Tipaimukh in India’s Manipur state had yielded three “achievements” with regard to Bangladesh’s concerns about the dam that is proposed to be built on Barak river, the Daily Star reported.
India, he said, had assured the team that the dam was meant for a hydroelectric plant, and was not an irrigation project.
India would not build any barrage or structures for stopping water flowing downstream of Tipaimukh site.
Citing the third “achievement”, Razzaq said: “India told us about the amount of water to be discharged into the Barak river during the dry season and how much of it will flow into the Surma and Kushiara of Bangladesh, once the dam is built.”
The water flow of the Barak in Bangladesh will increase in the dry season and drop in the rainy season with lessening the possibility of flood, he was quoted as saying by The Daily Star Thursday.
A senior ruling Awami League leader and a former Water Resource minister, Razzaq led a 10-member team to India July 29 to collect facts and documents on the dam project.
The team met Indian ministers and officials. Its landing by helicopters at the site of the proposed dam was, however, thwarted due to inclement weather.
“No one has ever got such categorical assurance in the past from India. Indian officials assured us that the proposed Tipaimukh dam was meant for hydroelectricity generation,” said Razzaq, a lawmaker of the ruling Awami League.
“India also assured us that they would not set up any irrigation project there. Moreover, the dam will reduce the risk of floods,” he said.
The three assurances counter the points raised by protesters who have been joined by main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), analysts here said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked that a team of experts be constituted to study the details of the project furnished by the Indian side.
Quoting an Indian water expert, Razzaq said the Tipaimukh dam would help control floods in Bangladesh and increase water flow in the Kushiara and the Surma in dry seasons.
Asked whether his Indian counterparts would keep their promise, Razzaq said: “Why won’t we trust them? They helped us a lot during our Liberation War and on many other occasions.”
Citing the example of the Indus Water Treaty between Pakistan and India, Razzaq said: “If Pakistan and India being two countries involved in a number of wars can strike a water sharing deal, what is the problem for Bangladesh to have an agreement with India.”
“For the first time in the last 40 years India has agreed to provide us with such information on the dam,” said the senior lawmaker, adding that Indian authorities had given them a booklet containing facts and information on the project.
The delegation had submitted a voluminous report to Hasina on their experience and visit to the site.