Friday, December 2, 2011

Tipaimukh Dam

With the signing of a pact between the National Hydro Power Company, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVN) and Government of Manipur on October 22 to form a joint venture, which will be the implementing body, the government of Manipur is well set to give the final push to make the controversy dogged Tipaimukh dam project a reality.

Immediately after the signing of the pact, Bangladesh which has been against this project right from its inception made its opposition to the dam known. The opposition parties there accused the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of imprudence, and for believing India on its non binding commitment.

It is widely believed that construction of the Tipaimukh dam would dry up rivers and water bodies downstream in Bangladesh, which in turn, will render vast areas arid thereby affecting its agricultural output.

Bangladesh, on many occasion and forums, had made known its apprehension to India about the proposed Tiapaimukh Hydro Electric Project (HEP) by damming the Barak river with a view to generate 1500 MW and India on its part has been assuring that nothing will be done which will be detrimental to the interest of Bangladesh.

But now, with Government of Manipur signing the, the Government of Bangladesh has officially asked India not go ahead with the construction of the Tipaimukh dam project without consulting it.

It is amply clear that in Bangladesh, across the political divide, there is no resting on the assurances given by the government of India. Bangladesh Water Resources Minister went as far as to say that, "… we will go to International Court to preserve our existence".

While the main opposition leader Khaleda Zia, understandably the most vocal opponent of the Tipaimukh, is demanding a joint survey to find out the impact of the project, while the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had assured the Bangladesh Parliament that a high-level delegation would be send to India to latest development on the issue.

If anything, it would appear that the Government of India would be finding it difficult to brush aside or ignore the opposition from Bangladesh over Tipaimukh HEP Project.

And the fact that Sheikh Hasina is in power and that she is known to be close to India will make her vulnerable to charges of selling out to India. This would force her to adopt a more tougher stand on the Tipaimukh dam, and more so considering the likely negative impact of the project.

The opposition within the country or more precisely in the state is well documented. Several studies have pointed out the social, environmental and economic impact of the project.

Of the total area of 29150 hectare to be submerged as a result of 27550 hectare is in Manipur while in Mizoram it is 1600 hectare, displacing and dislocating thousands of people from their land, livelihood, roots, history and traditional practices.

And the sad part is, the benefits from the project will be go the already well off while they make the sacrifice for 'development' and 'common good', move on to a new place, try adapting to a new environment, learn a new trade and put the scattered pieces of their life together.

Despite opposition, despite arguments against it, despite physical evidences against it, the Tipaimukh Dam is most certain to be constructed for there are too many vested interest groups which will benefit enormously from it and they will not let go of such an opportunity.

The general public will have their share of regular electric supply which of course will be a huge thing, given the present power supply scenario. Many experts have opined that Mega Projects, like the proposed Tipaimukh is detrimental to the environment and not sustainable in the long term, and need not have been taken up to met the domestic demand of Manipur.

In its place several micro sustainable hydro projects which are least likely to degrade the environment could have been taken up.

Clearly, such an option was never seriously explored, and why is that so? And why is the Government of Manipur pursuing this mega project despite clear dissuasive evidence and despite the experience of the Loktak Project which has almost laid waste one of the most pristine of lakes in the world with very little return for the state ? 

BY :  Hueiyen Lanpao Editorial :: November 29 2011