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Bangladesh wants dam details in 'full transparency'

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

/ Published by Simon L Infimate
[caption id="attachment_5413" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Image:Hmar Putar Sr."][/caption]

Dhaka: Bangladesh on Tuesday asked India to ensure "full transparency" in sharing details of steps taken by it on the cross border Tipaimukh dam project, after a controversy erupted here following the signing of an agreement to set up a joint venture company for the project.

In a statement here this evening, the foreign office said a proper sharing of information was critical in allaying concerns in Bangladesh.

The statement came hours after India's external affairs ministry sought to assure Bangladesh that the 500 MW Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Project would not involve diversion of water while also stating that Promoter's Agreement had been signed with regard to the project.

"Given the most cordial relations existing between the two countries, Bangladesh would hope that the Government of India would share all relevant details of the proposed Project in full transparency and also about any further step that it may take in connection with the (hydroelectric) project," said the foreign office statement here.

"This is would be critical in avoiding any gap in understanding or allay concerns in Bangladesh," it said.

The statements came against the backdrop of media reports in Bangladesh over the controversial project and criticism that the Bangladesh government was not aware of the developments on the dam.

The statement by India's External Affairs Ministry said earlier in the day: "The only recent development pertaining to the project has been the signing of a 'Promoter's Agreement' with the purpose of setting up a Joint Venture Company (JVC) between the Government of Manipur, NHPC Ltd and Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVN) on 22nd October, 2011".

It also said that the project was a hydro- electric project with provision to control floods and that this would not involve diversion of water on account of irrigation. The reiteration came in the wake of media reports on the signing of the promoter's agreement for the project that is being opposed by environmentalists.

However, since the deal was signed without knowledge of the Bangladesh government, analysts and opposition parties criticised the government.

Bangladesh's opposition BNP called for a general strike today in northeastern Sylhet region where the Barak enters into Bangladesh to protest what it called the "inaction" of the government against the deal signed by Indian government for constructing the Tipaimukh Dam.

BNP declared the dawn-to-dusk hartal and demanded that India scrap the project as it would cause "serious havoc in the northeastern region of Bangladesh".

The Bangladesh foreign ministry statement said Dhaka would "like to underscore the need for prior consultation before initiating any intervention on common rivers like the Barak".

It also reminded New Delhi of its earlier assurance that India would not take steps on the Tipaimukh Project that would adversely impact on Bangladesh while the "assurance was again reiterated during the visit of our Prime Minister to Bangladesh in September 2011".

Furthering the statement, a foreign ministry spokesman told newsmen in Dhaka that Indian external affairs ministry conveyed about the development on the Tipaimukh only when it issued the media statement on the issue today and "not before as it was expected".

Experts have raised concerns that the cross-border structure of the dam would expose downstream regions to severe environmental threats, intensifying the impact of climate change while a possible earthquake in that tremor-prone area could cause major damage.

~ (PTI)
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