The Indians are going ahead with the construction of the massive Tipaimukh barrage-this events collectively impinge on us in more than one ways but the one which directly affects our very ability to survive is the issue of water-sharing of some 53 common rivers between India and Bangladesh. By constructing Tipaimukh and other barrages, India is depriving us of life-giving waters, drastically reducing our ability to survive and therefore this is the issue needing immediate and continued public attention and the subject of this commentary. India has resumed construction of the Tipaimukh barrage on the Barack river just a kilometer north of Jakiganj in Sylhet; the construction work was stalled in March 2007 in the face of protests within and outside India. The barrage when completed in 2012 is supposed to provide 1500 megawatts of hydel power to the Indian state of Assam but in return its going to bring about a major disaster for Bangladesh, practically contributing to drying up of 350 km long Surma and 110 km long Kushiara rivers which water most of the north-eastern regions of Bangladesh. The Tipaimukh barrage is going to seriously affect not only agriculture in large portions of Bangladesh, particularly in winter, but is also going to bring about negative ecological, climatic and environmental changes of vast areas in both Bangladesh and India.
Indian government is constructing the dam without consultation with Bangladesh government, which is violation of International River Law. Three crores people of the northern and eastern parts of the country would be vulnerable seriously when the construction of the dam would be completed by 2012.
It’s not just this one Indian barrage that is a source of considerable concern and trepidation in Bangladesh; in 1976 India put into operation the Farraka Barrage which more or less destroyed the Ganges-Brahamaputra Basin, most of which lies in the deltaic plains of Bangladesh and in 1990 India also constructed a barrage along the Teesta river thereby virtually making ineffective much of the Teesta barrage project constructed down-stream in Bangladesh to support irrigation and agriculture in the north-west region of the country. What is even more worrying is that India has evolved plans to divert waters, from the north of the country to its drought-prone southern and eastern states, of some 53 river which flow from India to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh shares a common border with India in the west, north and east and with Myanmar in the southeast. These borders cut across 57 rivers which discharge through Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal in the south. The upstream courses of these rivers traverse India, China, Nepal and Bhutan. Trans-boundary flows, which enter Bangladesh from remote catchments extending short distance to thousands of kilometers upstream, are the important source of water resources.
Bangladesh gets 7 to 8 percent of its total water from the Barak in India’s northeastern states. Millions of people are dependent on hundreds of water bodies, fed by the Barak, in the Sylhet region for fishing and agricultural activities.
Environmentalists in Bangladesh have held many talks on the adverse impact of the proposed dam. They say the dam would dry up the river and the water bodies in the downstream, leaving millions jobless and upsetting the ecological balance.
Among the trans-boundary rivers, the ones most affected by Indian barrages and their related systems of canals, reservoirs and irrigation schemes are Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Teesta. Although the Indian and Bangladeshi governments have a water sharing agreement for the Ganges, there are none for the other 53 rivers that cross the border. With the Tipaimukh barrage now underway, India seems to be going ahead with its mega-project of diverting river waters from its north to its south and east, thereby putting Bangladesh’s very survival at stake.India is taking unilateral decisions about matters which affect Bangladesh’s core interests and if these cannot be resolved bilaterally, Bangladesh must look at options of going to multilateral forums such as the UN to get its right not only recognized but also implemented. International laws dealing with water-sharing of common rivers and sources are ambiguous, unclear and contentious and so, Bangladesh ought to vigorously pursue these matters, perhaps even garner international support for a change in those laws dealing with water-sharing – this international dimension is a crucial factor affecting the management of the trans-boundary river systems. There is thus, no scope for Bangladesh to be deflected from this core issue of water-sharing notwithstanding Indian deceitful and diversionary insistence and propaganda on “terrorists and transit”.
The Indian high commissioner has admitted that a dam will be built on the proposed Tipaimukh hydropower project over the cross-boundary river Barak but said it will not harm Bangladesh. (But I don’t know how? You will put a barrage in the river and it will not affect the nature???)
The Tipaimukh hydropower project was not like the Farakka irrigation project. A little amount of water will be diverted to produce hydroelectricity and the water will be released soon, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty said. (So he agreed that Farakka Barrage is a problem for Bangladesh. And saying that Tipaimukh will not be like that! But how Bangladesh would beleive it? India previously said many thing abouthis Farakka Barrage. But ultimately Bangladesh is suffering from it. So how will we beleive that you are talking truth? And one barrage must put it’s adverse effect on nature. And the position of the Barrage clearly indicates that Bangladesh will offcourse suffer with this project. It will be a destructive project for Bangladesh. We must protest it now!)
Bangladesh should not be wary of the project, he told.
He said bilateral discussions have long been on-going on the project. Indian government has invited Bangladesh to see the dam site and its design, Chakravarty said. A Bangladeshi organisation, International Farakka Committee, demanded suspension of ‘construction of Tipaimukh barrage’ and rightful share of the Indian river Ganges.
The organisation called upon the United Nations to form a regional river commission involving China, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Government of Bangladesh and people of Bangladesh must be aware of this project from now and must have to protest. It will come as a destructive project for Bangladesh. bangladesh will become desert if the project is completed. India is using their power to complete this destructive project. They are trying to giving wrong ideas to Bangladesh as they given at the time of constructing Farakka Barrage. They are doing the same thing here. We all now that how Bangladesh is suffering because of this Farakka Project. How our Bangladesh is affected by the Farakka Barrage. We don’t want to see more destruction in bangladeshi economy and nature. We must protest. And it is the time. Bangladeshis must be aware of this from now and this is the only way to safe our beautiful country Bangladesh.