Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tipaimukh a 'public issue, not political'

Dhaka, Aug 8 (

Former TIB chairman Muzaffer Ahmed has said India's proposed Tipaimukh Dam project is a public issue, not a political one, and the government must make its decision on the matter taking account of public opinion.

"A decision should be made based on the opinions of the people and experts of Bangladesh and India. It will not be right to make any decision without the people," Muzaffer said on Saturday, inaugurating a long march programme from Dhaka to Sylhet.

"We will stand beside the government as long as it works for people's well-being. It is a public issue, not any political issue," he said.

He said environmental groups first began protesting against the controversial dam project in 2003 under the leadership of AMA Muhith, who is now finance minister.

The 'Tipaimukh Dam Resistance Committee' and Sylhet Bibhag Unnayan Parishad set out on the long march from Shaheed Minar in the capital at around 11am. The march will end on Aug 10 at Jakiganj in Sylhet.

Among others, committee president Abed Raja, Prof Syed Abul Maksud and Jukta Front chairman MA Latif Majumder also spoke.

India's contentious dam project is planned to cross the 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.

A parliamentary standing committee went to India on July 29 to meet with Indian foreign and energy ministers and visit the dam site, but failed to land at the site due to bad weather.

Delegation head Abdur Razzak MP said on return from India that the ministers had assured them that they would not implement any project to harm Bangladesh.

Delegations members said India is yet to start any construction at Tipaimukh.

The delegation's main aim, Razzak told 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 impact of the projected dam in vulnerable downstream areas.

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