Developing nations’ appeals unheard at UN Summit on Global Economic Crisis

June 27, 2009

AlJazeera, June 26, 2009

More than 140 countries have agreed on a blueprint to respond to the global economic crisis.

The paper calls for the inclusion of developing countries in finding solutions to the financial meltdown.

But some say the 15-page document is short on specifics, and has been undercut by indifference from the world’s largest economies.

Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner reports from the United Nations.


Tengratila blow-out victims demand full compensation

June 24, 2009

The Daily Star, June 24, 2009

Tengratila Dabi Aday Bastobayon Parishad at a press conference yesterday demanded payment of arrear compensation from Canadian company Niko for the massive damage caused by the blow-out at Tengratila on June 24 of 2005.

The blow-out took place when the Canadian company was conducting a relief well drilling at the remote location in Doarabazar upazila in Sunamganj district to seal the original one, which on January 7 the same year had suffered a huge blow-out.

“We will continue pressing the Niko to clear the arrear compensation to the villagers around. We also demand resuming activities in the gas field and establishment of a 50 MW power plant near the gas field,” said joint convener of the parishad, Nurul Amin, who read out a statement at the press conference at Sylhet Press Club.

The two separate committees formed by the government after the incident mentioned loss worth Tk 746 crore including Tk 85 crore in environmental loss but things have remained unsettled yet. The company did not even pay the total amount of agreed compensation to 616 poor families, who were forced out of their homesteads for months, goes the statement.

The parishad will form a human chain in front of the central Shahid Minar at Chouhatta in Sylhet city today (Wednesday) to press the ‘legitimate’ demands.

The June 24 blow-out at Tengratila caused destruction to huge gas and trees and croplands in the surrounding areas during the following weeks.

Thousands of people had to leave their homesteads as the huge fireball leapt 150 feet over the gas field.

The raging flames took about two months to go down totally.

Still bubbles due to gas emission are marked on the water bodies around and fish in the ponds often die due to the gas leakage, a number of locals said.


Carnival of Resistance, 2010

June 22, 2009

Carnival of Resistance, June 2009

Event, space, moment, process!

An annual three day convergence of souls striving for nirvana!

When? How about January 2010?

Keywords: Lets see if you guess it right! ………………..feminism, capitalism, neo-liberalism, obamaism, consumerism, TNCs, corporate grooms and slaves (only if they knew!), text book marxism, love, phulbari, coffee, rivers, dating, climate change, new politics, sex, butterflies, jeans, commodity, palestine, coke, Subcommander Marcos, rain, facebook, war on terror, militarization of CHT, remittance, dejuice, LGBT, profit, exploitation, accumulation, rights, water, kalpana chakma, RMG, responsibilities, english medium, pleasure, China, private universities, Lalon, Israel, YouTube, madrasa, empathy, rock, folk, pants, Iraq, lungi, war crimes trial, saree, Tv, theater, protest, solidarity, patriarchy, sexism, racism, militarism, masculinity, yasmin, India, friendship, solidarity, KFC…………………….fill in the blanks!

City: Dhaka, this time. Next? Invite us to your cities (we have a bit of urban bias) and brinndabons!

Visuals and spectators: Ok, we are talking about film screening! Don’t only be an onlooker! How long do you want to keep on purchasing “pirated” DVDs? Make your own film and send to us (we don’t mind receiving grainy clips made by cell phone cams…take command of your gadgets).

Concert: Noise is political! Shouts and murmurs! Guitars and ektars! Be yourself, don’t just try to imitate bauls. Warning: MTV clones go somewhere else!

Theatre: Bodies, space, lights and shadows!

Exhibitionism (a little bit of it isn’t that bad): photo, cartoon, posters, subversive art, and effigies (should be fun to burn it afterward, if its George the Bush…we have to wait a couple of years before we can safely burn Obama effigies…hope is so infectious)!

Rally: Don’t worry, we won’t do it on a sunny day when the city is on boiling point. Its not our fault if you forget to bring your raincoats! Disclaimer: fossil fuel fumes emitted by Japanese cars may cause respiratory and other health complications.

Talk-shop: Come out of your cocoon! Leave your stage fright behind, talk, just talk! We will listen, promise!

Fellow conspirators: YOU, and, Leela, Solidarity Workshop, Lokoj Institute, Binirman Andolon, praxis books, Gramsci Institute, Leela School of Cultural Studies…who said we are a bunch of closed door geeks?

Just appear, reclaim your space!

Carnival of Resistance on Facebook


Tipaimukh Dam: a real concern for Bangladesh

June 22, 2009

NewAge, June 23, 2009

The role of the Bangladesh government in this matter is quite confusing. Despite the rising protests from all corners, the government seems to be undermining the threats posed by the construction of this dam, writes Nadim Jahangir*

BY CONSTRUCTING the Tipaimukh Dam India is only looking into its own interest. India wants to control the water flow to facilitate irrigation of the Cacher plain. India is not at all concerned with its consequences on Bangladesh. Constructing this dam, the cubic metres of water which will be stopped is not clearly stated by the Indian government. The Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh is giving new information on a regular basis regarding the Tipaimukh Dam. According to the high commissioner, Bangladeshi journalists are making much ado about nothing. Bangladeshi journalists are writing from their nationalist point of view. The saddest part of the whole issue is that India never bothered to discuss the matter of the Tipaimukh Dam with Bangladesh. The water resources minister has recently disclosed in the parliament that Tipaimukh Dam is not like the Farraka barrage. By constructing this dam India will not divert water of the river Barak. It seems both the Indian high commissioner and our water resource minister are of the same opinion.

Bangladesh would have to face serious consequences if this dam is constructed. Even the people of Manipur and Nagaland would also have to suffer. The Barak-Surma-Kushiara is an international river. Therefore, Bangladesh, being a lower riparian country, has the right to an equitable share of the water from the river and also a right to examine the details of the construction of this dam. No detailed plan of the dam has seemingly been provided to Bangladesh to appraise its full impact on Bangladesh. India, being an upper riparian country, has an obligation under international law to discuss the construction of such a massive infrastructure on the common river with lower riparian Bangladesh.
   P

rofessor Mustafizur Rahman Tarafdar, a water resources expert, in an article titled ‘Tipaimukh Dam: An alarming venture’, discussed the ill-effects of the Tipaimukh Dam. If this dam is eventually constructed as intended, Bangladesh would have to suffer the adverse effects. This dam would lead to hydrological drought and environmental degradation. The dam would cause the Surma and Kushiara to run dry during November to May which would eventually hamper agriculture, irrigation, navigation, shortage of supply of drinking water, etc. This shortage of water in these few months would decrease the boost of groundwater which over the years would lower the groundwater level, which in turn would affect all dug outs and shallow tube-wells. Agriculture, which is dependent on both surface as well as groundwater, would also be affected. Also, any interference in the normal flow of water in the Barak would have an adverse effect on the Surma in Bangladesh that, in turn, feeds the mighty Meghna that flows through Bangladesh. This dam would hamper the cultivation of early variety of boro in the northeast. Arable land will decrease and production of crops will fall, leading to an increase in poverty. Roughly 7 to 8 per cent of total water of Bangladesh is obtained from the Barak. Millions of people are dependent on hundreds of water bodies fed by the Barak in the Sylhet region for fishing and agricultural activities. A dam-break is a catastrophic failure of a dam which results in the sudden draining of the reservoir and a severe flood wave that causes destruction and in many cases death downstream. If the Tipaimukh Dam were to break, impounding ‘billions’ of cubic metres of water, it will cause catastrophic floods because of its colossal structure.

According to an article published by Dr. Soibam Ibotombi, teacher of earth sciences at Manipur University, the northeastern part of India is one of the highest earthquake-prone areas in the world due to its tectonic setting, i.e. subduction, as well as collision plate convergence. Analysis has revealed that hundreds of earthquakes have taken place in this region in the last 100-200 years. Study on the trends of earthquakes reveals that earthquakes mostly take place in regions which have experienced earthquakes in the past. The Tipaimukh Dam site has been chosen at the highest risk seismically hazardous zone. Inhabitants of Manipur also believe that this dam would prove to be a grave threat to the flora and fauna and endangered species like pythons, gibbons, herbal and medicinal plants, and for tribal land rights. They also fear that the dam would submerge as many as 90 villages within a 311 square-kilometre radius.

Renowned water expert Dr Ainun Nishat has recently observed that construction of Tipaimukh Dam will not bring any benefits to Bangladesh. Similar concern is also being raised by another water expert SI Khan. Both of them suggested that government should have a serious discussion with the Indian government. Till the end of the discussion, Bangladesh must request India to refrain from any sort of construction of the dam in the proposed site. According to these two experts, if the dam is constructed, 16 districts of greater Sylhet will be affected. The immense natural disaster that will take place would be irreversible. Even though the Indian government is saying once the dam is constructed, electricity will be generated and Bangladesh will benefit by importing the electricity. It does not make sense to make a certain part of Bangladesh a desert area solely for the purpose of importing electricity [Dainik Destiny, May 31].

The ever-increasing demand for freshwater has propelled the construction of dams and barrages on international rivers, and it is reported that 60 per cent of the world’s largest rivers have been interrupted by artificial structures. Many of them were built in agreement with riparian countries, and about 200 treaties are now in force for the management of common water resources.

According to a UNESCO study, freshwater is getting scarce. The study reveals that the average supply of water is expected to fall by one-third within 20 years. Nearly seven billion people could face water shortages by 2020, and global warming may cause severe water shortages in 50 countries. South Asia is one of the regions to be adversely affected, partly because of melting of the Himalayan glaciers due to global warming.

In 1896, the then US attorney general Judson Harmon propounded the ‘Harmon Doctrine’ which stated that Mexico was not entitled to the water from an international river, the Rio Grande. The doctrine emphasised territorial sovereignty over an international river. It means that, within its territory, a state can do whatever it wishes with the water of an international river, and does not need to bother about the consequences of its withdrawal on a lower riparian nation. But the US discarded and discredited it in 1906 when it concluded a treaty with Mexico relating to sharing of water of the Rio Grande. India also argued in favour of this doctrine in the mid-1970s with Bangladesh. India also made a treaty with Pakistan in 1960 called the Indus Water Treaty, which gives India exclusive use of all of the waters of the Eastern Rivers and their tributaries before the point where the rivers enter Pakistan.

A river flows as an indivisible unit, without knowing any political boundaries. If it is interfered with at the upper stream, the lower riparian country will be affected. That is why international law recognises the right of each riparian country to benefit from all the advantages deriving from river waters for the welfare and economic prosperity of its people. According to international law, it is illegal to construct any dam on an international river without consent from the other side. But India has violated it by starting the construction of Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak. News of this construction has been formally confirmed in a recent statement by Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, the high commissioner of India to Bangladesh. He admitted that the Indian government has resumed the process of construction once again from the end of 2008. According to Chaktavarty, the dam would produce hydroelectricity and would not ‘harm’ Bangladesh in any way. It would only regulate the river’s flow. As it is a project aimed at producing hydroelectricity, no water would be withheld from Bangladesh. To produce electricity the water flow would have to be obstructed which means that there will be less flow of water to the riparian neighbouring country. Furthermore, he is stating that the water will not be used for irrigation purposes. But, once the water is obstructed the water flow will automatically decrease. Sadly, such assurances were given at the time of the construction of the Farakka Dam also but till date, Bangladesh is suffering the consequences.

Unilateral water diversion, or withdrawal of water from international or common rivers, has been the long-standing policy of India. India has seldom bothered to think about the impact of such policies on a lower riparian country, such as Bangladesh, in diverting water from common rivers.

Ever since India began constructing the Farakka Barrage on the India-Bangladesh border in 1972, 17 rivers in Bangladesh have already ‘died’ and another eight are on the verge of drying up due to reduced water flows. The navigable length of the river in south-eastern Bangladesh has also reduced due to low water volume. A number of tributaries have either dried up or have become too shallow for vessels to use. The low river flow has increased salinity which in turn has caused loss of vegetation. Industries in south-western Bangladesh face the problem of getting usable, saline-free water. The cost of Bangladesh’s direct losses due to Farakka is estimated at half a billion dollars a year. According to studies conducted by Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, about 80 rivers in Bangladesh have dried up within three decades after the Farakka Dam was built.

India is withdrawing waters of almost all the common rivers by building dams on the upstream, which will eventually cause Bangladesh to turn into a desert. The Padma River is drying up in Rajshahi after construction of Farakka Barrage. Twenty tributaries of the river have turned into streamlets.

The Tipaimukh Dam is not just a political issue but also a scientific one. The livelihoods of millions of people, who rely on the Meghna for freshwater, for their livelihoods, and for the overall food security of the region, are at stake. Bangladesh is already battling with water shortages due to global warming and consequent climate change. The Tipaimukh Dam would add to the environmental cataclysm already predicted by environmentalists.

The role of the Bangladesh government in this matter is quite confusing. Despite the rising protests from all corners, the government seems to be undermining the threats posed by the construction of this dam. Only recently the prime minister of Bangladesh has said the government intends to form a committee to evaluate all aspects regarding construction of the dam before making any decisions on this controversial project. It might be that the government is envisaging some benefits from the construction of this controversial dam, namely import of electricity. In April 2009, the Indian government had invited a Bangladeshi delegation to see the construction of the planned Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak.

The Bangladesh government must take a stand to clarify its position on the Tipaimukh Dam, on the basis of scientific evidence and expert opinion and not on the basis of mere assurances of the Indian government. There is evidence of the reluctance of the Indian government to fulfil its commitments in the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, in which Bangladesh in recent years has been receiving significantly less water than promised. The Indian government has not made any response even after repeated official protests by Bangladesh on the issue of water shortfalls. Therefore, it is imperative that the Bangladesh government re-examine the scientific evidence on the possible ill effects of the Tipaimukh Dam before it signals its approval.

*Dr Nadim Jahangir is associate professor, Independent University, Bangladesh


Peoples Voices: UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development

June 21, 2009

Untitled1

MEDIA ADVISORY

People Impacted by the Economic Crisis from Around the World Gather to Give Voice to the Forgotten, Marginalized

20 June 2009 – Responses to the current economic crisis have been inadequate and fail to fully address the myriad of related global crises, such as food security and climate change. An international coalition of ‘working’ people directly impacted by these crises, and civil society organizations, will meet in a public forum to deliver this message to world leaders in advance of a UN Conference on the economic crisis on 20 June from 1pm to 6pm at the historic Church of the Holy Trinity in New York.  Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, the current President of the UN General Assembly and the convener of the Conference, will deliver a keynote address.

“In the midst of the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression, we now have the opportunity and the responsibility to search for solutions that take into account the interests of all nations, the rich and the poor, the large and the small,” Mr. Brockmann has said.

The immediate impacts of the economic crisis on stock prices, private pension funds and access to lines of credit have been apparent and well-reported.  But the precise consequences of the financial meltdown for working men and women – across the globe – have been less obvious and have received far less attention.  Indeed, only recently has data been reported that describes the deep impact of the economic crisis on developing countries, who moreover played little role in the creation of the crisis, organizers say.

People’s Voices on the Crisis will give voice to those that have felt the impact of the crisis and whose stories have thus far received little attention.  The event will showcase the testimonies of grassroots activists from diverse regions of the world working with many of the world’s forgotten victims, who will give evidence on how the financial, as well as food, energy and climate change crises, are affecting their lives and their work.

“We believe that the current economic crisis is the result not merely of misinformation, lax regulation or simple hubris. Rather, it is the result of a deeply flawed system that perpetuates crises in food security, in the environment as well as in finance and economics,” says Roberto Bissio, Coordinator of Social Watch and one of the organizers.

The forum will also address a more hopeful future, as advocates will offer their proposals on overcoming the current crisis and in the process develop a new economic system that is built on the rights – and in the service – of all people.  The outcome of the Hearing will be a set of recommendations to be delivered to world leaders gathered at the UN Conference on the Economic Crisis that will begin the following Monday.

People’s Voices on the Crisis

Saturday, 20 June

Church of the Holy Trinity

316 E. 88th Street, New York, NY

For more information contact:

Jana Silverman∙Social Watch∙jsilverman@item.org.uy

Nicolas Luisani∙International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net)∙nlusiani@escr-net.org

Zak Bleicher∙UN-NGLS∙212.963.3117∙bleicher@un.org


Is West Undermining Summit on Financial Crisis?

June 19, 2009

By Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service, June 17, 2009

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 17 (IPS) – When a Western diplomat was asked whether his country would be represented by a head of state at next week’s U.N. summit meeting on the global financial crisis, his response was tinged with sarcasm and contempt.

We will send only our note takers,” he was quoted as saying.

In diplomatic jargon, “note takers” are equivalent to glorified stenographers who religiously take down everything said at a meeting but have no authority to intervene or take decisions.

The decision to hold a U.N. summit on the global economic crisis was taken by all 192 member states – by consensus – at an international conference on financing for development held in the Qatari capital of Doha last November.

The participants at next week’s summit were expected to be “at the highest political levels”, meaning heads of state and government.

But Western nations have apparently backed out of the decision which they themselves took in Doha.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Asian diplomat told IPS: “The Western states are trying to undermine the meeting by sending low-level representatives.”

“The reason is obvious,” he explained. “The West feels the General Assembly is not the appropriate forum to discuss the global financial crisis.”

“They think the crisis belongs to the World Bank, and more importantly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” he added.

Asked if there were any Western heads of state or heads of government scheduled to participate in the summit, Enrique Yeves, spokesman for the president of the General Assembly, told IPS: “None from the West.”

But there are around 30 heads of state and government (out of 192), mostly from developing nations, who have confirmed attendance, he added.

“We (will) have a strong presence of Latin America and the Caribbean – especially from the Caribbean, we have several heads of state and government coming,” Yeves said. “We’ll (also) have a good attendance, I’ve been told, from Africa and Asia.”

“And then, as they have already been said in public, the developed countries, especially the Europeans and the United States and some others, have indicated they might not be represented at the level of heads of state, but certainly at the level of ministers or whoever is the chief of delegation,” Yeves added.

The summit meeting of the General Assembly, due to take place Jun. 24-26, was originally scheduled for Jun. 1-3.

But delegates wanted more time to negotiate the draft outcome document that will be adopted at the meeting.

The negotiating process on the document has been painfully slow and is expected to continue till the eve of the summit next week.

After consultations with the various regional groups, the president of the General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, the organiser of the three-day summit, decided to postpone the meeting from the original date to next week.

Meanwhile, there have been several stories in the mainstream media, quoting Western diplomats as saying they are very unhappy with the left-wing agenda of D’Escoto, a former foreign minister in the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Asked about this, Yeves told reporters Monday: “But let me – because I have been quoted in some of these articles, as well – tell you what I find strange in the last two or three articles that we have seen, is that we keep hearing these anonymous sources quoting diplomats of the developed countries basically saying that the meeting is not a good idea.”

“It’s going to be a failure or that they don’t think it is going to accomplish anything or whatever,” Yeves said. “I would like to make two comments on this particular issue. The first one, it is very difficult to discuss anonymous sources because, you know, we don’t know who said what, and in what context.”

“However, the president (of the General Assembly) speaks for himself – or I speak for myself – on the record all the time, and our record is very clear.”

“And the second part that I wanted to say is on substance,” because the criticisms are strange, because the summit, and the entire process leading to the summit, have been approved by consensus by all 192 member states,” he said.


Farakka to Tipaimukh

June 14, 2009

Habib Siddiqui*, NewAge, June 14, 2009


IN RECENT days, Bangladesh seems to have woken up to the danger posed by construction of the Tipaimukh Dam in the neighbouring Manipur state of India. There are some in Bangladesh who have a habit of translating national issues of this kind into deplorable partisanship thereby fostering disunity when national unity is needed. In so doing they commit acts of treason.
   

Before delving into the Tipaimukh project, I would like to share some facts surrounding the Farakka Barrage. Although the construction of the Farakka Barrage was completed during the Mujib rule in 1974-5, the decision to build this dam can be traced back to 1951. In those days, hydroelectric dams were popular methods to generating electric power. India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan planned on building hundreds of hydropower dams from rivers that flowed down from the Himalayas. The Farakka dam was built to divert water from the Ganges River into the Hooghly River during the dry season (January to June), in order to flush out the accumulating silt which in the 1950s and 1960s was a problem at the major port of Kolkata on the Hooghly River. A series of negotiations between the Pakistani and Indian governments failed to persuade India into abandoning the Farakka project.
   

After Bangladesh’s independence, the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission met over 90 times to discuss the Farakka Barrage issue, but without any results. The Bangladesh team was headed by BM Abbas. In April 1975, Bangladesh agreed to a trial operation of the Farakka Barrage for a period of 41 days from April 21 to May 31, 1975 to divert 11,000-16,000cfs (cusecs) with the understanding that India will not operate feeder canal until a final agreement was reached between India and Bangladesh on the sharing of Ganges water. Bangladesh was assured of getting 40,000 cusecs during the dry season. 
   

Unfortunately, soon after Sheikh Mujib’s assassination in August 15, 1975, taking advantage of the political change in Bangladesh, India violated the agreement (MoU) by cheating and diverting the full capacity of 40,000 cusecs unilaterally. The matter was brought to the attention of UN General Assembly, which on November 26, 1976 adopted a consensus statement directing the parties to arrive at a fair and expeditious settlement. On November 5, 1977 the Ganges Waters Agreement was signed, assuring 34,500 cusecs for Bangladesh. The five-year treaty expired in 1982 and after several shorter extensions lapsed entirely in 1989. The JRC statistics shows very clearly that Bangladesh did not get its due share during all those years (1977-91). There was no improvement of the situation during the first Khaleda Zia administration (1991-96) with average water share reduced to 10,000 to 12,000 cusecs, with one extreme event of only 9,000 cusecs, during the dry season.
   

After Sheikh Hasina was elected prime minister, she visited India and signed a treaty with her counterpart Deve Gowda on December 12, 1996. The treaty addressed the heart of the conflict: water allocation (35,000 cusecs) during the five months of the dry season (January-May). During the rest of the year, there is sufficient water that India can operate the Farakka diversion without creating problems for Bangladesh. The treaty stipulated that below a certain flow rate, India and Bangladesh will each share half of the water. Above a certain limit, Bangladesh will be guaranteed a certain minimum level, and if the water flow exceeds a given limit, India will withdraw a given amount, and the balance will be received by Bangladesh (which will be more than 50 per cent).
   

The statement of IK Gujral, external affairs minister, in Rajya Sabha on December 12, 1996 on the visit of prime minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to India and the signing of the treaty on the sharing of Ganges water at Farakka reads: ‘[D]uring the critical period within the lean season, i.e. from March 1 to May 10, India and Bangladesh each shall receive a guaranteed flow of 35,000 cusecs of water in an alternating sequence of three 10-day periods each. This is aimed at meeting the fundamental requirements of both our countries through a just and reasonable sharing of the burden of shortage. The Treaty also has the merit of being a long-term arrangement combined with scope for reviews at shorter intervals to study the impact of the sharing formula and to make needed adjustments. While the Treaty will be for 30 years and renewable on mutual consent, there is a provision of mandatory reviews at the end of 5 years and even earlier after 2 years with provisions for adjustments as required. Pending a fresh understanding after the review stage, Bangladesh would continue to receive 90 per cent of its share in accordance with the new formula. We would thus avoid a situation where there is no agreement on the sharing of the Ganga waters between India and Bangladesh… As the House would recall, we have already taken initiatives in the commercial sphere by extending tariff concessions to Bangladesh on a range of products of export interest to them. We propose to extend commercial credits of Rs. 1 billion to enhance trade relations further.’
   

In the light of the above facts, it is difficult to sustain accusations that the 1996 Treaty went against the interest of Bangladesh, becoming a fait accompli. I have never heard an intelligent person say that a treaty signed with the aim of getting fair and equitable share is worse than not having one. Was the 1977-treaty silly, too? More outrageous is the implied assertion by some that the AL government that had ruled only five years in the post-Mujib era of 34 years is solely to be blamed for all the maladies facing Bangladesh today, including the Tipaimukh Dam, soon to be constructed by India.
   

It is true though that India had not kept its side of the bargain since signing of the treaty. The Joint River Commission statistics, as quoted by Syful Islam in the New Nation, March 9, shows that in 1999 Bangladesh got 1,033 cusecs of water at Teesta barrage point against its normal requirements of 10,000 cusecs of water. After JRC meeting in 2000 the water flow rose to 4,530 cusecs, in January 2001 it reduced to 1,406 cusecs, in January 2002 to 1,000 cusecs, in January 2003 to 1,100 cusecs, in November 2006 to 950 cusecs, in January 2007 to 525 cusecs and in January 2008 to 1,500 cusecs.
   

India’s behaviour mimics those of Israel in dishonouring every treaty that the rogue state had signed with the Palestinian Authority. Should not it be ashamed of its iniquity?
   

Let’s now look at the disastrous effect of the Farakka Barrage on Bangladesh. The immediate effects have been (1) reduction in agricultural products due to insufficient water for irrigation; (2) reduction in aquatic population; (3) river transportation problems during dry season; (4) increased salinity threatening crops, animal life drinking water, and industrial activities in southwest Bangladesh. The long-term effects, which are already being felt, include: (a) one fourth of the fertile agricultural land will become wasteland due to a shortage of water; (b) 30 million lives are affected through environmental and economical ruin; (c) an estimated annual economic loss of over half a billion dollars in agricultural, fisheries, navigation and industries; (d) frequent flooding due to environmental imbalance and changes in the natural flow of the Ganges. A BSS report of 2004 stated that over 80 rivers of the country dried up during last three decades due to the construction of the Farakka barrage on the Indian side of the river Ganges.
   

Bridge and Husain, researchers in Kansas, USA, have identified Farakka as the root cause behind arsenic poisoning with groundwater in Bangladesh and West Bengal State of India.
   

As to its impact in India, the South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People report (November 1999) to the World Commission on Dams is quite revealing. It says, ‘Farakka Barrage Project taken up for the resuscitation of the navigational status of the Port of Calcutta has resulted in massive devastation in Malda on its upstream and Murshidabad on its downstream in West Bengal. Huge sedimentation, increasing flood intensity and increasing tendency of bank failure are some of its impacts. Erosion has swept away large areas of these two districts causing large scale population displacement, border disputes with Bihar and Bangladesh, pauperisation and marginalisation of the rural communities living by the river and creation of neo-refugees on the chars.’ 
   

So, it is clear that even the supposed beneficiary – the state of West Bengal – did not benefit from the project. Farakka Barrage has rightly been termed by some environmentalists as the greatest man-made eco-disaster of our time. If we had imagined Farakka was the last of such criminal calamities imposed on Bangladesh, we are wrong.
   Syful Islam mentions a study conducted by the ‘International Rivers’, a US-based NGO that protects rivers and defends the rights of communities, which revealed that India had already built 74 dams, Nepal 15, Pakistan 6 and Bhutan 5 in the Himalayan region in the recent years. It also found that 37 Indian, 7 Pakistani and 2 Nepalese dams were under construction in that area. The study also identified that India had planned to build 318 dams, Nepal 37, Pakistan 35 and Bhutan 16 to add over 1,50,000MW of additional electricity capacity in the next 20 years. With 4,300 large dams already constructed and many more in the pipeline, India is one of the world’s most prolific dam-builders. India is committed to building more than 100 dams in eight states of the north-east corner alone. 
   

If these numbers are true, it is important that the current government issues a white paper disclosing actions taken, if any, by past and present governments to stop India from such projects that are going to be built on international rivers harming Bangladesh.
   

Let’s now look at Tipaimukh. Manipur needs about 140MW of power to fulfil the unrestricted demand at the peak hours (1700 hrs to 2200 hrs). The total availability of power from all the central sector plants located in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura comes to around 105MW. The Tipaimukh Dam plan, built on the river Barak, which bifurcates into two streams as it enters Bangladesh as the rivers Surma and Kushiara, has been on the drawing board for nearly 40 years. According to the implementing agency, North Eastern Electric Power Corporation, this 390-metre-long, 163-metre-high dam would have an installed capacity of 1,500MW. As a multipurpose project, the dam also aims at flood moderation, improving navigation, irrigation and aquaculture in the region. Efforts were made in the past to get the World Bank or JBIC (a Japanese development bank) to back the project, but their involvement is still elusive. It is costing India Rs 6,800 crore — an escalation from the earlier estimated expenditure of Rs 5,163 crore. The foundation stone of the Tipaimukh project was laid by India’s union minister for industries and Cachar’s representative in the Lok Sabha, Sontosh Mohan Dev, along with other central ministers, on December 16, 2006. According to a NEEPCO source there, the work in January of 2007 mainly dealt with underground drilling at the reservoir site of the project. The Brahmaputra Board, a wing of the union water resources ministry, drilled those sites in 1997. 
   

The proposed dam is unpopular in the Manipur state where it is being constructed. Experts there have rightly termed it a geo-tectonic blunder of international dimensions. The Indian government’s decision to construct the Tipaimukh Dam in north-east India is not only arrogant but also criminal to the core. It will have lasting devastating impact in the entire region. It will adversely affect millions of Bangladeshis living down south in the north-east corner of the country, weakening their means of livelihood, forcing them to become internally displaced and thereby worsening Bangladesh’s overall economy. It will harm bilateral relationship between the two neighbouring countries. Bangladeshi people have already suffered miserably from the Farakka Barrage and cannot afford to see another one built to threaten them.
   

Our experience in the past 50 years has also taught us that humanity has brought more harm than good by challenging the natural course of rivers. Manmade systems like hydroelectric dams have failed to wipe out famine and hunger. More people have become poor than rich, which often time is concentrated amongst the very few that are involved with construction project. As Arundhati Roy has once said about dams, ‘They’re a guaranteed way of taking a farmer’s wisdom away from him. They’re a brazen means of taking water, land and irrigation away from the poor and gifting it to the rich. Their reservoirs displace huge populations of people, leaving them homeless and destitute. Ecologically, they’re in the doghouse. They lay the earth to waste. They cause floods, water-logging, salinity, they spread disease. There is mounting evidence that links Big Dams to earthquakes.’
   

What really concerned this writer the most is the stupidity of the Indian government’s decision to go ahead with hydroelectric dams to meet its electric demand. This decision seems too short-sighted, too irresponsible, and can only antagonise people on either sides of the border. If India cares about meeting energy needs in the north-eastern corner it would better serve the interest of its people by choosing the nuclear alternative. India has several nuclear power plants that are operating in various parts of India. It is inconceivable that it cannot afford to build one extra plant in the north-east corner of the country to meet its energy demand. 
   

Again, I want to know: what did the previous administrations in Bangladesh do about this dam? How is the new government planning to deal with this issue? What can conscientious human beings of our planet do to stop India from building dams that kill people? 
   

As hinted earlier, the very people targeted for drawing the benefits of the Tipaimukh dam living in the Manipur State had long been fighting a losing battle to stop this project. It is highly unlikely that demonstrations and protests inside Bangladesh would push India to abandon the project now, especially after spending hundreds of crores of rupees in front end loading activities. 
   

While we are critical of Indian government’s decision to construct dams that produce devastating results affecting tens of millions of people, we have to be self-critical of our own failure to bring world attention to the gargantuan harm that India’s Farakka has already brought upon Bangladesh. If we had succeeded in that endeavour, India today wouldn’t be building the Tipaimukh dam. Whether we like it or not, we must realise that self-interest rules the day. In our world, there are no permanent friends or enemies. We are continuously reminded that what is permanent is self-interest and that has to be pursued vigorously. That says a lot about moral bankruptcy of a world that we live in and share with our neighbours in which might is increasingly becoming right, and the powerless has no effective means to fight against powerful enemies and nations that prey upon them. 
   

At this stage, what actions and programmes are meaningful for Bangladesh? Can India be persuaded to abandon dam projects on international rivers in favour of alternative options for energy need? Given India’s long history of dishonouring its agreements on Farakka with Bangladesh, can it be trusted for keeping any new promise? Are the UN and/or the ICJ only options Bangladesh has to redress its grievances? 
   

*Dr Habib Siddiqui is a peace and human rights activist, and chairman of the Board of Directors of Bangladesh Expatriate Council, USA. He writes from Pennsylvania. saeva@aol.com