Friday, August 7, 2009

India secretly hands over Tipai project to state-owned entity

Moinuddin Naser

Just prior to the visit of the Bangladesh parliamentary team to India to discuss the Tipaimukh dam issue, India's state-owned hydro-electric entity National Hydel Power Company (NHPC) completed a deal on takeover of the 1,500 mw Tipaimukh hydel project involving Rs 9,000 crore in Manipur from the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO).

The NHPC also initiated a joint venture, Loktak Downstream Project, with the Manipur state government to construct a barrage for withdrawal of water for irrigation purpose. The hydel project with a barrage component will definitely turn Bangladesh's north-eastern part into a dry region. It is feared that the Bangladesh parliamentary team was not allowed to land at Tipaimukh as the barrage component of the project could be exposed. Though India cares a little about Bangladesh's endorsement regarding the project, they do not want to give the chance of raising a hue and cry on this issue. The NHPC has also entered into talks with the Nepali government for taking up new hydro-electric projects there, which will obstruct the normal flow of the Himalayan rivers enormously.

According to knowledgeable sources, this development in implementing the Tipaimukh Project has made the whole exercise of negotiation between India and Bangladesh over the Tipaimukh project a kind of hoax. India is more than adamant in implementing the project by giving a damn to the demand and the necessity of Bangladesh.

According to a report published in the Indian Economic Times on July 22, 2009 NHPC chairman and managing director Mr S K Garg confirmed the developments relating to implementing the Tipaimukh Dam and said: "The project Tipaimukh will now be developed jointly by NHPC, SJVL (a joint venture) and the Manipur government. This project's foundation stone was laid in 2006 but nothing else has happened since then. This forced the state government to hand it over to NHPC."

"The Manipur government has decided to hand over the project to NHPC. We will hold 69 per cent stake in the company, while SJVL will be holding another 26 per cent. The Manipur government, on the other hand, will hold the remaining 5 per cent stake in the new JV," he added.

The project is estimated to cost about Rs 9,000 crore and NEEPCO, which had originally conceived the idea of the hydel plant, already invested about Rs 5-6 crore in preparing the detailed project report, which has also been approved.

Incidentally, the NHPC has recently formed the other 74:26 JV, Loktak Downstream Project, with the Manipur government for a 66mw project.

Interestingly, the Economic Times report added: The hydel power company has firmed up investments of Rs 70,000 crore till 2020 to emerge a 20,000 mw power company. During the current Five-Year Plan period, NHPC has firmed up plans of investing about Rs 21,000 crore in 11 projects totalling 4,622 mw. During the 12th Plan period, it will take up 16 new projects totalling 14,000 mw, which will require a total investment of Rs 70,000 crore.

However, completion of these 16 projects is likely to linger to the 13th Plan period. "During the 12th Plan period, we will spend about Rs 30,000 crore, of which 70 percent will come from debt, while the rest will be in the form of equity."

"The Centre has allowed the NHPC to divest maximum 24 per cent stake. Next month, when the IPO hits the market, the government's holding will come down to 86.3 per cent. The rest of 10 per cent will be done as and when we require additional funds for our projects," said Mr Garg.

Water resources expert and Adjunct Professor of the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto, Dr M Monirul Quader Mirza, said that prior to allowing India to implement the projects certain issues must be resolved. He stressed the need for calling a meeting of the Joint River Commission (JRC) immediately to discuss the issue of Tipaimukh. He said there is no need of any new proposal for a joint study of the Tipaimukh Project, or there is no time to waste for Bangladesh government, rather the problems might be resolved if the JRC could be activated. The decision that was taken in the 14th JRC meeting should be implemented to resolve the issue.

He also said that Bangladesh should enter into an agreement with India on the Fulertal Barrage, water sharing. The water sharing should not be less than the ecological water requirements.

Monipur HPC

The Hmar People's Convention (D) of Monipur in a press release issued on July 28 last said the proposed Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project is a war imposed on the indigenous Hmar people and various other communities, who share the river downstream as well as upstream.

The power-hungry governments and dam builders in India, who were driven by capitalist interests, in their blind pursuit for profit-making and securing energy in a distant foreign land, are poised to cross into indigenous people's territory to dam the two rivers, Tuiruong and Tuivai, their lifeline. 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, it said.

The HPC (D) shall never tolerate and allow their efforts to bear any fruit, it added. The statement said: The rivers that nursed and fed our honoured generations before shall continue to flow for all the generations to come. We cannot allow the rivers to be disturbed and are obligated to see that no outsiders, their forces and might will dam, destroy or disturb the natural flow of the rivers of life.

It also appealed to the visiting Bangladeshi parliamentary delegates to steadfastly share the concern to save the rivers Tuiruong and Tuivai for all purposes; to work together for collective good; to save the rivers from irreparable damage. The HPC(D) earlier was also responsible for destroying NEEPCO's drilling machine in 2008, said a release from Lalthutlung Hmar, northern command of the Hmar Peoples Convention (Democratic).

Rally in the US

Meanwhile, the Human Rights and Development for Bangladesh held a massive demonstration on July 17 after Jumma prayer in front of the United Nations to protest the Tipaimukh Dam. More than 600 people from New York participated. Among others, the demonstration was addressed by community activists Badrunnahar Mita, Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, Mir Masum Ali, Abdul Hasib Chowdhury, Abu Samiha Md Sirajyul Islam, Professor Nurul Islam, Abdul Kadir Khan, Barrister Golam Mostafa, Mahmudur Rahman, Moulana Delwar Hossen and others.

A memorandum was also handed over to the United Nations on behalf of the demonstrators afterwards.

Meanwhile, another activist, Khondaker Abu Sufiyan organised a seminar in association with the International Centre for Advancement of Bangladesh (ICAB) and another organisation floated by a section of Bangladeshi engineers living in the USA on July 26 last at the Jewish Community Centre in Jackson Heights of New York.


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