Shahidul Islam Chowdhury, NewAge, May 21, 2009
Water resources experts, economists and environmentalists on Wednesday dismissed India’s claim that the Tipaimukh multi-purpose dam would have no harmful impact on Bangladesh, the lower riparian country.
They said the twin dams — one at Tipaimukh and another at Phulertal, on the cross-boundary river Barak — would dry up the rivers and the water bodies in the north-eastern districts of downstream Bangladesh, upsetting the ecological balance and destabilising the livelihood of the millions of people there.
‘India has started multi-purpose interventions at the Tipaimukh on the river Barak. It will also construct a dam at Phulertal, which is 100 kilometres downstream from Tipaimukh. These twin interventions on the Barak will have multifarious adverse impacts on nature and livelihood in the north-eastern districts here,’ Tauhidul Anwar Khan, an expert on regional water resources, told New Age on Wednesday.
He said any interference with the natural flow of rivers is bound to have adverse impacts — sociological, hydrological and morphological — on the downstream country.
Tauhidul Anwar, also a former member of the Joint Rivers Commission of the two countries, made this statement when his attention was drawn to India’s claim that the Tipaimukh project across the Barak would not harm Bangladesh.
Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, however, claimed in Dhaka, ‘The barrage by no means will have any adverse effect on Bangladesh…It will just regulate the river’s flow. It is a project aimed at producing hydro-electricity, not at irrigation, so no water will be withheld from Bangladesh.’
But Tauhidul Anwar said the Phulertal dam would have extremely adverse impacts on the Surma, Kushiyara and Meghna rivers due to diversion of water for irrigating north-eastern India.
He said Bangladesh had made both formal and informal protests in bilateral and JRC meetings. ‘But they [India] never paid any heed to our protests,’ he said.
India is constructing the Rs 6,000 crore 1,500 megawatt Tipaimukh multi-purpose projects at the confluence of the Barak and Tuivai rivers in its eastern states of Manipur, Assam and Mizoram in spite of heightened fears in Bangladesh about its impact on water flow to the Meghna river system.
The Barak feeds the Surma and Kushiyara rivers in Sylhet that flow into the Meghna, one of the three major rivers in Bangladesh.
Experts said India would build one of the world’s highest ‘Rock Fill Dam’ (162.80 metres high) to harness the Barak’s water for generating electricity.
Quazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Economic Association, said Bangladesh needs to ask India to provide adequate information on the projects in question. ‘We hardly know what India is constructing on the river Barak. If it is an electricity generation project, we will not be affeced. But if it is a dam, it will definitely harm Bangladesh.’
M Shafiqur Rahman, a Dhaka University teacher of soil, water and environment, said the extent of damage would depend on India’s response to Bangladesh’s demand. ‘It is a major question whether India will give us water when we are in serious need of it,’ he said.
Bangladesh is criss-crossed by nearly 300 rivers, with 54 major ones originating from India. It gets 7 to 8 per cent of its total water from the Barak that flows through India’s north-eastern states.
‘Construction of the proposed high dam in a geologically very sensitive zone above the long recognised Taithu Fault Line will only serve to provoke frequent and major earthquakes, inviting a major tsunami-like disaster and endangering the lives, land and forests of both India and Bangladesh,’ said the Dhaka Declaration, adopted at the International Tipaimukh Dam Conference (ITDC-2005) in Dhaka with participants from both India and Bangladesh expressing deep concern.