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.

17 comments

  • […] First published in Global Voices Online on July 30, 2009. […]

  • Following is my four step solutions: (1) Barrister Harun ur Rashid’s suggests the construction of Ganges Barrage at Pangsha (90 miles west of Dhaka) to offset the adverse effects of Farraka Barrage. (Ref: Daily Star, May 31, 2008). It was first conceived in 1963 and next in 1984 and after feasibility report of 1997 the Joint River Commission approved it. Immediate steps must be made to implement this and next Bangladesh experts should undertake another study to construct another similar Barrage in the Sylhet region to offset the Tipaimukh Dam effect. Only after an agreement is made with India for construction of these two Barrages, should our Government think to cooperate with India. (2) Dr.Aiun Nishat suggests that positive politics, mutual understanding and the Prime Ministers of both India and Bangladesh should be involved. (Ref: NewAge Xtra June 12,2009). (3) From all three states, Women’s participation must be ensured and their opinions recorded and taken into consideration. (4) I fully endorse the suggestions, the Non-resident Bangladeshis in Los Angeles, have forwarded to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through the Consul General; they recommended that a team comprising of five countries be formed: Bangladesh, India, China, Nepal and Myanmar to find the right solution(.Ref: zshare.net/audio/616901121db0d245/Huda reading memorandum sent to Sheikh Hasina).

    At the sidelines of NAM Conference, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has confirmed to Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina that India won’t take any steps that might affect ties. Earlier in an exclusive interview Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh had stated “It is my sincere belief that a strong and prosperous Bangladesh is in India’s fundamental interest.”(Ref: Daily Star, Nov.15,2005). Let the Honorable Prime Minister prove his intentions. It would be great if Sonia Gandhi also takes a keen interest and joins Dr.Singh in this venture. I am confident that Bangladesh and India relations will improve.

  • Ali

    We should want to perfect solution of this problem which aim is minimize maximum disadvantage from both country. It is not a political matter. So it’s not supperted to direct opposition of this dam. It is true without any confution that Indian government has take this project for there own need.So BD governmebt should honour Indian decision and Indian government should keep mind environmental problem of Bangladesh and take proper step to protect those problem. Because we should want to a clear relation between Bd & India.

  • LunthuiYang Riamei

    Construction of Tipaimukh Dam will drastically change the Topography in the North Eastern Region of India including Bangladesh. 0ne-third of Zeliangruang Naga’s land will be submerge in the water. All the legendary lakes, water falls, rivers will be gone. Thousands of people will be displace. Is this is Government of India called ‘development’? What is being democracy for if the Government do not hear the peoples’ voice!

  • […] the local people. Online campaigns were launched to protest the construction of the dam. Bloggers questioned the transparency of the process of negotiation between the two governments regarding Tipaimukh and discussed about hidden […]

  • […] state lanciate delle campagne online per protestare contro la costruzione della diga. I blogger hanno messo in dubbio la trasparenza del processo dei negoziati [in] tra i due governi riguardo Tipaimukh e ne hanno discusso i piani […]

  • […] state lanciate delle campagne online per protestare contro la costruzione della diga. I blogger hanno messo in dubbio la trasparenza del processo dei negoziati [in] tra i due governi riguardo Tipaimukh e ne hanno discusso i piani […]

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