Bangladesh, India: Tipaimukh Dam And Transparency

Our previous report on the damaging aspects of the Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project and protests against it generated much reader response. This post has updates on the situation.

Asadul Haque at Haque's Talking describes how this has been a hot debate in Bangladesh recently:

The Tipaimukh dam issue currently continues to dominate the domain of political, media, intellectual and civil society’s discourse in Bangladesh with a unilateral demand for revocation of India’s decision for the project. Massive public protest in different forms i.e. rallies, protest meetings, strikes and so on against the dam continue to gain momentum in Bangladesh.

Zahid at Sachalayatan writes:

বাংলাদেশ আজ একটি ভয়ঙ্কর সমস্যার মুখে পতিত, আমরা এখনো বিষয়টি পরিষ্কার বুঝতে পারছিনা তাই আসল চিন্তা না করে রাজনীতির কাঁদা ছোড়াছুড়ি করে যাচ্ছি। বিষয়টি নিয়ে ব্লগে, সংবাদপত্রে, টিভিতে, জনসভায় আলোচনা হচ্ছে, কুটনৈতিক পর্যায়ে মতানৈক্য চলছে, বিভিন্ন দলের বিশেষজ্ঞদের নাম জানা যাচ্ছে কিন্তু তার পরেও আমরা পনের কোটি মানুষ শান্তিতে ঘুমোচ্ছি। সুনামগঞ্জের হাওড় এলাকার দরিদ্র কৃষকটি, যার সারা বছরের খাবার আর জীবন যাপনের একমাত্র অবলম্বন বোরো ধান, কিংবা দরিদ্র জেলেটি যার খেয়ে পড়ে বেঁচে থাকা নির্ভর করছে বর্ষাকালের হাওড়ের মাছের উপর সেও শান্তিতে ঘুমুচ্ছে কারন সে জানেনা কি ভয়াবহ ভবিষ্যৎ অপেক্ষা করছে তার জন্য। ফাঁরাক্কা ব্যারেজের কারনে আমাদের উত্তাল প্রমত্তা পদ্মা আজ যৌবন হারিয়েছে সেই সাথে ধুকে ধুকে মরছে এর শাখানদীগুলো। ১৯৭৪-৭৫ সালে নির্মিত ফাঁরাক্কা ব্যারেজের ফলে ভারতের একচেটিয়া পানি উত্তোলনকে কেন্দ্র করে একটি চুক্তি করতে কুটনৈতিক আলোচনা গড়িয়েছে ২০ বছর, আর এই সুদীর্ঘ সময়ে আমরা হারিয়েছি আমাদের নদীর নাব্যতা, আমাদের ফসলের জমি হারিয়েছে তার উর্বরতা, লবনাক্ততা এসে গ্রাস করেছে আমাদের অহংকার সুন্দরবনকে, ইবনে বতুতার সবুজ বাংলাদেশের উত্তরাঞ্চল পরিনত হয়েছে শুষ্ক মরুভূমিতে।

Bangladesh is in a big problem. We are still not getting the real picture, so are bickering with political motives – where we should be thinking about the solution. The issue is being talked about in blogs, newspapers and rallies. Diplomatic efforts are being carried out. We are hearing about many new experts being brought in. But most of our 150 million people are still sleeping on it without any worry. The poor farmer near Sunamganj, whose livelihood and nutrition for the whole year is the boro crops, is also sleeping without knowing what future awaits for him. Our mighty Padma river has shrinked because of Farakka Barrage. The barrage was built in 1974-75 and an agreement to protect from the unilateral withdrawal of water by India took 20 years of diplomatic efforts. In the mean time our rivers have lost their depth, our lands have lost fertility, our Sundarbans forest has been tainted with salinity. The green Bangladesh as named by Ibn Battuta has become almost like a desert.

The protests have already spread in Internet. More than 80 Facebook groups have been opened, which includes: :: Stop Tipaimukh Dam ::, Protest Against ‘Tipaimukh Dam’, Tipaimukh Dam & Fulertal Barrage – Lets Stop India, Stop Tipaimukh Dam, Save Our Bangladesh Tipaimukh Dissemination. Dedicated blog sites have been launched to compile and disseminate Tipaimukh dam related news.

Anondomoye discovers [bn] from the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) report:

সবচেয়ে উলেখযোগ্য যে তথ্যটা পেলাম সেটা হলো টিপাইমুখ ড্যাম সাইট থেকে ৯৫ কি.মি. ভাটিতে ফুলেরতালে একটা ব্যারেজ নির্মানের প্রস্তাবনা আছে (যা ভারত সবসময় অস্বীকার করে আসছে)।

The most important information I gathered from the report is that there is also a plan of building a barrage in Fulertal, 95km upstream of the Tipaimukh dam (India has always denied this fact).
Image courtesy Subir Bhowmik

Image courtesy Subir Bhowmik

Navid says:

The Tipaimukh Dam project may not be harmful to us rather useful if it only consists of a Dam. The problem will arise if India makes Fulertal Barrage along with the Dam. The Barrage can really render this great country into a desert.

The recent comments of the Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh has caused much uproar in Bangladesh politics, reports An Ordinary Citizen. Indian journalist Subir Bhowmik writes in his blog that hiding of facts are fuelling more controversies. He opines:

If we leave this aside as normal compulsions of domestic politics in Bangladesh, it still falls on India to take a lower-riparian neighbour like Bangladesh into confidence when we plan such huge projects like Tipaimukh.

However, Diganta Sarkar at The New Horizons comments on the EIA and EMP documents that he “hardly finds a ground to accuse (the Indian) Government of hiding anything” as these are available online. He is also satisfied with the mitigation effort and planning to tackle the environmental damages and earthquake threats published in those documents but questions whether all of them will be implemented.

Zahid has already published five posts of his investigative six part series [bn] describing the impact of the dam and barrage refuting the Indian claims that there will be no environmental damage in Bangladesh. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5). He says:

একজন সাধারণ মানুষও যেখানে জানে যে বাঁধের কিছু না কিছু প্রভাব উজান ভাটিতে থাকে সেখানে একটি বিলিয়ন ডলারের প্রকল্পের Environmental Impact assessment (EIA) এ এর ভাটি অঞ্চলকে প্রায় সম্পূর্ণ ভাবে উপেক্ষা করা কতটা যুক্তিযুক্ত ?

A layman also knows that there are some effects of a dam in the downstream region. But how logical is this that the Environmental Impact assessment (EIA) in this billion dollar project has almost neglected the downstream region.

Indian blogger Biplob Pal says [bn]:

বিদ্যুত অবশ্যই চাই। ভারত এখন শিল্পোন্নত দেশ-সেখানে ঘন্টায় ৪-১০ ঘন্টা গড়ে লোডশেডিং নিশ্চয় কাম্য না। কিন্ত সেটা হিমালয়ের জল সম্পদকে লুন্ঠন করে কোটি কোটি মানুষের জীবিকাকে ধ্বংশ করে কেও নিশ্চয় চাইবে না ।

টিপাইমুখ কোন বিচ্ছিন্ন ঘটনা নয়। হিমালয়ের বুকে এই রকম আরো ১০০ টী জলবিদ্যুত কেন্দ্র তৈরী করার পরিকল্পনা চলছে। আফটার অল, যত বেশী বাঁধ তত বেশী ঠিকাদারি। পকেট ভরবে রাজনীতিবিদদের। দুদিকে লাভ। অর্থাগম ভোটাগম। মাশুল গুনবে ভারত -বাংলাদেশের সাধারন মানুষ।যাদের অধিকাংশই আদিবাসি। নদীই একমাত্র জীবিকা কেন্দ্র।

We of course want electricity. India is an industrialized country and nobody needs daily power outages of 4-10 hours. But to generate that there is no need to squander the water wealth of The Himalayas and destroy livelihood of millions of people.

Tipaimukh is not an isolated incident. There are plans to build about hundred more such hydro-electric plants in India. After all, the more dams the more contracts. The politicians will also cash in. The profit is multidimensional: more money, more votes. The price will be paid by the common people of India and Bangladesh. And most of them are indigenous, rivers are their only livelihood.

Jiten Yumnam at Intercultural Resources reminds that this project can spark movements in India's Manipur state:

India should refrain from constructing Tipaimukh dam to avoid multidimensional conflicts and complications as the project is potentially rife for causing conflicts between states, between state and indigenous peoples and between indigenous peoples all over control and management of resources and definition of developmental priorities. As Manipur is already rife with movements for right to self determination, any forced construction of Tipaimukh dam with its multifaceted impacts will only legitimize their movement to defend their land and resources.

A 10-member all-party delegation of parliamentarians of Bangladesh is visiting India currently to assess the situation. The Bangladesh government has requested India not to start building the dam without Bangladesh's consent. Muhammad Zamir opines in an Oped at The Daily Star:

What is required today is transparency and political will. One hopes that the visit of our Parliamentary delegation will be followed not only by intensive discussion on the basis of shared data between relevant experts from both countries but also meetings between the two political leaderships. An acceptable equation has to be reached between sovereign rights and national interests.


  • Sentu Tikadar

    The Farakka and Tipaimukh both are different. The problem is theat the common people is not understanding or not allowed to understand that Farakka dam was constructed in the junction where the Ganga was dived into two parts: one part was flowing through Bangladesh and other part was flowing through India.So after construction of the Farakka Barrage mostly all water was directed to flow to Indian side. But in the time of Seikh Hasian by the treaty with India she solved the Farakka problems. But here in Tipaimukh the situation is totally different than that of Farakka. There are no division of Barak river where Tipaimukhg Dam is proposed. Barak will flow in one river only. The Tipaimukh dam will collect water at very high altitude and release it into the water turbine blades and the blades will rotate. This rotaion will be converted to electricity.The water which shall be used to fall on the blades of the turbine, shall again go into the down stream Barak river flowing through Bangladesh.No pollution to atmosphere. So you can understand there will be no problem for Bangladesh if Tipaimukh dam is constructed.
    India need to satisfy the people of her North -East boarder states. India need to uplift them. So India want to utilize the renewable energy sources of the river Barak.So regarding Tipaimukh Dam , the people of Bangladesh need not to worry. It is at a very high altitude.It is situated at a level at very high Mean Sea Level. So no fear for flooding.Do not compare it with Farakka. Try to understand the difference between the two projects.Do not give the issue a political colour. Khaleda Zia has no other work now in office. Her work is to find out an issue to divert the common innocent people of Bangladesh to motivate them against Awami League and also against the neighbor India.It is Khaleda Zia’s one of the try to destabilize the Awami League Government.

  • Sabrina Ahmad

    Dear Friends, I have started my own blog where among other things I will regularly update and analyse latest news and views regarding the Tipaimukh Dam. Please visit, and comments are welcome!

  • Please read :
    “Tipaimukh Dam : Hidden Facts Cause Concern”
    – By renowned BBC journalist Subir Bhaumik

    ” If we leave this aside as normal compulsions of domestic politics in Bangladesh, it still falls on India to take a lower-riparian neighbour like Bangladesh into confidence when we plan such huge projects like Tipaimukh. Unless we do that, we end up providing political handle to the Islamist forces who want to fish in troubled waters… ”

    Direct Link :

  • Sabrina Ahmad

    Sentu, unfortunately it is you who is giving this a political color. It is not true that BNP is leading the protest. The protest against Tipaimukh is being driven by genuine concern among environmentalists and civil society. Tipamukh is different from Farakka, but no less harmful. The negative impact of large hydel dams is well documented.

    For an objective analysis based on the Indian Impact Assessment, I suggest you read this

  • Sabrina Ahmad

    For an objective analysis based on the Indian EIA report on Tipaimukh dam and a thorough study of the downstream ecology, I would suggest these Star Magazine articles by Syed Zain Al-Mahmood.

    The Dam Debate

    The Dam Documents

    Excellent pieces that nicely sum up the scientific data.

  • Rahat Shams

    Nice summary of published articles on Tipaimukh. However, one of the most readable and informative write-ups I have seen so far is the following cover story in Bangladesh’s Star Magazine.

    Muddying the Waters

  • What is the reasons for International Communities to not put diplomatic pressure for Transparency by the Government of India on this Project which has two as pects; 1. The Hydro Electro Dam and 2. The Fulertal barrage(India denying)- environmentalist argue that without both the construction is not effective.
    Manipur inhabitants are still protesting. Bangladesh parliament delegation in Delhi is completing dialogue. Not very hopeful.
    We need ideas to put pressure on India.

  • Sabrina Ahmad

    I wonder whose interest this visit served – India’s or BD’s?

  • It didnt serve any interest but yes if you read different newspapers of the nation you will note that the parliamentarians performed their acts very well; they should be a good cast for any story from Agatha Christe’s novel or Shakespearean drama.
    Question after their arrival in the town is why did they arrive in two different days and why did the main leader stay over for another additional day.. what was his final discussions? About Dam or his position in the Party.

  • No body’s interest was accomplished. The team gave a perfect demonstration of being selected for acting in either novel by Agatha Christie or Shakespearean play.That’ s what is the summary of all reports in the daily newspaper about their trip.
    After their return the hot discussion in the City is why the team slit in two groups to arrive Dhaka and why the main Leader stayed an additional day? Discussing Dams or his position in the party?
    We are to see more dramatics in the future.

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