Tipaimukh dam: BNP threatens protest, Dhaka pacifies

Last Updated: Monday, August 10, 2009 - 10:58

Dhaka: With opposition BNP threatening a "mass movement" against India`s planned Tipaimukh dam project in Manipur, Bangladesh has said construction of the reservoir was unlikely to cause a "major problem" for the country, but hoped that bilateral talks could resolve the issue if it appeared "problematic".
"Tipaimukh dam does not appear to be a big issue. We can resolve it through discussions if it becomes apparent that construction of the dam will create problems for us," Minister for Water Resources Mahbubur Rahman told `New Age` newspaper.

Rahman said the government would take initiatives for holding bilateral talks to reach a solution "if it seems to us that the Tipaimukh Dam will be a problem".

His comments assume significance in the wake of Bangladesh Nationalist Party threatening to mount a "mass movement" against India`s controversial project.

"We must thwart India`s plan to set up this death-trap for Bangladesh, which is called the Tipaimukh dam," BNP Secretary General Khondokar Delwar Hossain told a discussion on the dam at the National Press Club yesterday.

About the opposition campaigns against the Tipaimukh dam, the Minister said agitations, including long march, which reflected the sentiment of the people of Bangladesh over the issue, were positive and it would help the government deal with India over the matter.

"But if any quarter tries to do politics over the Tipaimukh dam issue, the people will judge it," Rahman said.

His comments come two days after a Parliamentary Delegation submitted a report to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after its return from India following a weeklong visit, during which they held talks with senior leaders and officials.

Hasina on Saturday said her government would not give consent to anything detrimental to the country`s interests in relation to Tipaimukh Dam construction on the Barak River in
Manipur.

"We will not do or support anything detrimental to the country`s interest in relation to Tipaimukh Dam. Our prime task will be to protect the country`s interest at any cost," she said after the leader of the 10-member delegation Abdur Razzak apprised her of the talks with Indian leaders and officials.

On their return home from India last week, Razzak told newsmen that repeated assurances by authorities in New Delhi convinced them that the dam would not harm Bangladesh.

"We are absolutely convinced and confident by the Indian assurance that they will not implement any project that would harm Bangladesh," Razzak said.

He said the Indian government told them that any environmental impact would be felt by India first before Bangladesh could feel its exposure to any adverse consequence of the project that sparked wide concerns in the lower riparian country.

"India has said the project was not meant for a hydroelectric dam alone, and not for any irrigation project requiring withdrawal of waters from the Barak River," the panel said.

The Barak, which is divided in two streams, the Surma and Kushiyara entering in Bangladesh, is the main source of flow in Bangladesh`s major Meghna basin covering the
northeastern and central regions.

Bangladesh is criss-crossed by nearly 230 rivers with 54 being trans-boundary ones and mostly originates from India.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, August 10, 2009 - 10:58

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