No irrigation project in Tipai downstream: Indian officials assure Bangladesh team

Pallab Bhattacharya, New Delhi

India yesterday assured Bangladesh of not building any irrigation project downstream of the Tipaimukh hydro power structure in Manipur.

Indian ministries of power, external affairs and water resources conveyed the message to the parliamentary delegation from Bangladesh in an hour-long interaction at the South Block of the Secretariat Building in New Delhi.

This addresses a key concern of Bangladesh, which has been worried over a possible irrigation project downstream of Tipaimukh Dam on the Borak as it could impact the flow of water in the cross-border river.

The Indian officials, including officials from National Hydro Power Corporation, also assured the visiting delegation, headed by Awami League lawmaker Abdur Razzak, of India being ready to extend all cooperation to protect the interests of the two countries regarding the Tipaimukh power project.

During the meeting with the Indian officials a video presentation was made on the Tipaimukh project. A number of the 10-member Bangladesh parliamentary delegation raised several questions about the project and the Indian officials answered them, sources said.

The lawmakers sought documents and studies conducted by India containing information about various aspects of the Tipaimukh project. The Indian officials said if Bangladesh wanted any document on any specific issue they should send a formal request before this could be processed.

A few Bangladeshi MPs raised the issue of joint inspection of the power project to which the officials said they were not authorised to make a call on this and only appropriate authorities could make such a decision.

Former water resources minister Razzak said the parliamentary team went to India to study the project and take back as much information as possible collected through discussions with Indian officials and ministers.

Indian officials said they were aware of the reservations of Bangladesh and made it clear that New Delhi did not want any bitterness in bilateral relations over the issue.

Yesterday’s interaction with the officials was the centrepiece of Bangladeshi parliamentary delegation’s visit to India because it covered the technical details of the Tipaimukh project, sources said.

Later the delegation called on Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and discussed the issue and the ties between India and Bangladesh.

The delegation would meet Indian Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today before flying to Guwahati on their way to Tipaimukh project site.

The delegation is scheduled to return to New Delhi from Tipaimukh site in the afternoon of July 31 before proceeding to Ajmer to offer fateha at the Dargah of Sufi Khwaja Moinuiddin Chisti.

The delegation is expected to return to New Delhi on August 1 before wrapping up the visit and leave for Dhaka on August 2.

The project, which is expected to generate 1,000 megawatt of electricity, is important for India because it will help usher in development in Manipur, which faces severe power shortage.

Source: The Daily Star, 30 July 2009

India won’t divert water from Tipai: Bangladesh team assured in 2nd day’s talks; site visit today

Pallab Bhattacharya, New Delhi

India yesterday assured Bangladesh that there would be no diversion of water flow due to the Tipaimukh hydropower project on the Barak river in Manipur.

The assurance came during a meeting between Indian Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and the 10-member Bangladesh parliament delegation at the Shram-Shakti Bhawan that houses the Indian power ministry.

India also said no construction work has started at the dam site in Manipur.

During the nearly 45-minute meeting, Indian officials shared with the Bangladeshi lawmakers data regarding water flow in the Barak during all seasons, including the mean water flow and lean season flow, Indian officials said.

They ruled out any diversion of water because of the project and in fact insisted that it will be beneficial for Bangladesh because it will help control the flood downstream and maintain a higher level of water in the Barak during the lean season feeding the Surma and Kushiyara rivers.

This is a significant development against the backdrop of worries in Bangladesh that the possible effects the Tipaimukh project would have on flow of water in the Barak and consequently the Surma and the Kushiyara and the Sylhet region.

The Bangladeshi MPs raised a number of queries regarding the project and articulated their concerns over certain areas, to which the Indian power minister and officials responded.

Emerging from the meeting, delegation and senior Awami League leader Abdur Razzak told reporters that, “India has once again assured us that no irrigation project would be constructed upstream or downstream of the Tipaimukh project.

Referring to his meetings with Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna Wednesday evening and Shinde yesterday morning, Razzak said both the leaders have assured that India would not do anything which would harm the interests of Bangladesh.

“Whatever they [India] do, they will do through discussions with Bangladesh,” he said, adding, “All issues can be resolved through talks.”

The delegation’s yesterday’s meeting with the Indian power minister was also attended by officials of India’s National Hydro Power Corporation, which will execute the Tipaimukh project, and external affairs ministry.

Indian officials said the Bangladeshi parliamentarians yesterday, “appeared satisfied by our replies”.

They said New Delhi has been very transparent by inviting the parliamentary team from Bangladesh and sharing with it the data on the Tipaimukh project and allowing it to visit the project site.

This was done as a “gesture of goodwill” towards the new government in Bangladesh, they said.

India is ready to share more information on specific aspects of the project if Bangladesh wishes, said the officials.

The meeting with the Indian power minister was the high-point of the second day of the five-day visit of the delegation which later left for Guwahati in Assam where they will have a night’s halt before flying to Tipaimukh project this morning.

The Daily Star, 31 July 2009


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