The opposition BNP last week rejected Indian assurance that it would not do anything with Tipaimukh Dam causing any harm to Bangladesh. BNP does not seem to trust Monmohan’s assurance since in the past such assurances from Delhi was never complied and Dhaka’s interest was ignored. India commissioned the Farakka barrage with the assurance that it was only for a test run but it became permanent, causing disaster for Bangladesh, BNP observed.
BNP acting secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his letter to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia claimed that Tipaimukh is not an irrigation project and that it will not impact negatively on Bangladesh and help protect floods. “But, we believe it would adversely affect the country as well as the people if the dam is built,” he added. Manmohan Singh on November 24 gave reply to Khaleda Zia’s letter requesting India for a joint technical survey over Tipaimukh dam before going for construction.
BNP last Monday reiterated its earlier stance and said if India builds the dam it would adversely affect Bangladesh. Mirza Alamgir criticised the government for not properly protesting the Indian initiative and said his party would stand beside the people who are in movement against the proposed Tipaimukh project.
“The construction of Tipaimukh dam is against the World Heritage Convention, Bio-Diversity Convention, Wetlands Convention and other international laws and conventions,” he said briefing newsmen on Monday.
Alamgir termed the project as ‘a time bomb’ as it located in an earthquake-prone zone. He said the government has failed to act in preventing the construction of Tipaimukh dam in the national interest.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his letter said the Indian government will not do anything in Tipaimukh Dam project that may cause any harm to Bangladesh as the project will basically help in flood control.
Alamgir said according to technical reports of the national and international water experts, if Tipaimukh dam project is implemented that may affect the livelihood of nearly 3 crore people of 10 districts of north-east region of Bangladesh, agriculture, economic growth, fisheries resources, environment and ecology. The government did not register any protest during the joint river commission meeting and even did not emphasize on carrying out joint technical survey, he said.
He pointed out that in 2009, the parliamentary delegation returned home without visiting the Tipaimukh site.
Meanwhile, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has publicly announced that India will go ahead with the plan of installing Tipaimukh hydroelectric project on the Barak River along the Manipur-Mizoram border. Manmohan made the statement at a public rally in Manipur state on Saturday.
“The environmental clearance for the project has been obtained and procuring clearance from forest department is underway,” Manmohan was quoted as saying by The Assam Tribune.
Hasina’s Advisor convinced
However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Foreign Adviser Gowher Rizvi on his return from New Delhi said on Monday that Bangladesh government is satisfied with the explanation given by the Indian government regarding the Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak River,
“There we have discussed with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior leaders. The Indian prime minister has assured us that no action would be taken about Tipaimukh that would harm Bangladesh in any way”, Advisor Gwhar Rizvi told the newsmen. “If Bangladesh invests in the project then we will get electricity according to our share. In this regard Bangladesh has to decide”, he added.
The Experts, however, said it was a tactical offer to legitimize Indian project by reducing Bangladesh power of bargain or to lodge any complaint to any international forum in future.
The environmentalists, both in Bangladesh and India, are opposed to the Tipaimukh project. They say the dam would significantly bring down flow of water in its tributaries Surma and Kurshiara in Bangladesh. The dam will have a negative impact on the Meghna basin.
India’s northeastern state Manipur recently signed an agreement with state-owned NHPC Ltd and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVN) on Oct 22 to construct a 1,500MW Tipaimukh hydroelectric power project in Manipur.
According to a BBC report, the anti-Tipaimukh movement leaders have said that though the project recieved environmental clearance, the protests of the locals were not taken into account during the ‘Environment Impact Analysis’.
Protest in Sweden
Bangladeshi students in Sweden have demonstrated outside Indian embassy at Stockholm against India’s plan to dam the Barak River, which flows through Bangladesh from India, to produce power.
Students, researchers and teachers from several other countries joined hands with the Bangladeshi students in front of the Indian embassy on Sunday to oppose the Tipaimukh project.
The demonstrators, carrying placards with anti-Tipaimukh slogans inscribed on them, said India being the larger country is trying to be imposing and the Bangladesh government should present the harmful sides of the project to the world.
”India said Bangladesh will face no harm if the dam is built. But, our experience with the Farakka barrage says that India only looks after its own interests. The ecology of India’s north-eastern part, along with Bangladesh, will be harmed once dam is built.” said, Javed Kaiser, a former Bangladeshi student of Stockholm University.
Ershad also accuses Monmohan :
Jatiya Party chairman Hussein Muhammad Ershad , key ally of the ruling grand coalition, has alleged that the Indian prime minister has gone back on his promise to Bangladesh on the Tipaimukh dam.
“I believe he (Manmohan Singh) has failed to keep his promises. Because they have signed agreements to build Tipaimukh dam,” Ershad said in a media briefing in the party’s Banani office on Thursday.
“The Indian prime minister had assured that India would not do anything that would harm the interests of Bangladesh. Because Bangladesh is a friendly country. Manmohan Singh had also told prime minister Sheikh Hasina that Tipaimukh dam would not be built harming Bangladesh.”
GM Kader, Ershad’s younger brother and a Cabinet Minister in charge of Commerce was also present at the press briefing.