Saturday, August 8, 2009
Disclose Tipaimukh team's report: Hafiz
BNP leader Hafiz Uddin Ahmed has asked the government to disclose the report submitted by the parliamentary team that visited the proposed Tipaimukh Dam project site in India.
Hafiz, also a former water resources minister, said the expert committee, set to be formed at the instruction of the prime minister, should be free from party bias to be able to gauge the possible adverse impacts of Tipaimukh hydropower dam.
An expert committee is set to review the findings of a parliamentary delegation on India's Tipaimukh Dam project, along with all other available data, and give a thorough assessment of the project's likely impact on Bangladesh.
Abdur Razzak, who led the delegation to India to gather the data, told bdnews24.com on Thursday that they had submitted a report to the prime minister of their findings on the trip.
Razzak, also a former water resources minister who heads the parliamentary standing committee on water resources, returned from New Delhi just two days ago.
He said his team had sought further relevant information and Indian government officials had agreed to provide Dhaka with all it required.
BNP vice-president Hafiz said, "We had asked the Indian authority for Tipaimukh information several times in the last 31 years, but they did not provide that.
"Now the one-party parliamentary committee says they have brought along the data . So it must be disclosed to the people."
BNP did not name any member for the parliamentary committee since its proposed experts were not included in the committee.
Hafiz said, "The government has formed a one-sided committee. Now the prime minister has ordered the constitution of an expert committee. We want a committee whose members are widely accepted."
He again suggested that the Bangladesh-India Joint River Commission discuss the contentious issue.
"There is no instance of a national issue of this magnitude resolved by a parliamentary committee. The water resources ministry and the JRC should be employed to discuss the issue with India."
"That's why we are saying that the government should convene the JRC meeting. An expert opinion is urgent over the Tipaimukh project."
He also criticised the committee for being convinced that the dam project will not threaten Bangladesh's interests without being on the site in the first place.
"Their statement is unacceptable to people. What [the Indians] say they had said so during the construction of the [Farakka barrage].
"Now people know what the condition in the northern region is. The Tipaimukh dam will spell disaster not only for the Bangladeshis, but also for the northeastern people of India," Hafiz added.
The site is on the cross-border Barak River, which enters into Bangladesh as the Surma and Kushiara rivers. The two rivers are lifeline for hundreds of water bodies in the greater Sylhet region of Bangladesh.
The team failed to visit the site on two attempts, on July 31 and Aug 2, as their helicopter could not land due to bad weather. But, they said, they had been able to view the site from the air.
It met with the India's foreign and power ministers.
Delegations members said India was yet to start any construction at Tipaimukh. Three members said they believed the project's future was "not even certain." One member said the project site was so mountainous that it was "almost impossible to take construction materials there".
The delegation's main aim, Razzak told bdnews24.com before leaving for India, was to obtain India's firm word that the dam would not be used for irrigation purposes that could divert precious water resources from Bangladesh.
India had already said on a number of occasions the dam would not withhold water, but environmentalists and the people of Bangladesh, as well as Manipur state, remain concerned over the probable impact of the contentious project.
BNP, the main opposition party, has also been among the loudest critics of the proposed Indian dam, although they failed to take up the offer of sending two MPs as part of the parliamentary delegation to India.