Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dhaka, New Delhi to discuss Tipaimukh dam next month

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.

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