Haroon Habib

Parliamentary panel to visit site of Tipaimukh project in Manipur

DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Wednesday that an all-party parliamentary committee would visit the site of the controversial 1,500 MW Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydel Project in Manipur.

After the committee submits its report to Parliament and a discussion it would be decided whether Bangladesh should give clearance for the construction of the dam.

Ms. Hasina made the remarks when Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty called on her. India had invited Bangladesh to visit the dam-site, study its design and ascertain whether it would cause any harm to it.

During a recent visit to Dhaka, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon invited Bangladesh to send a delegation.

But the former Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, launched a scathing attack and asked the people to unite against the dam, alleging that it was a conspiracy to destroy Bangladesh. She said the government was hatching a conspiracy to provide India a corridor through Bangladesh in the name of creating an Asian highway.

As some local environmentalists held out dire predictions for Bangladesh’s Sylhet region, the issue was quickly picked up by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the Jamaat-e-Islami and so on.

Some Cabinet Ministers also wanted the government to ask India not to go ahead with the construction.

Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith said that if the dam was constructed, the Surma and Kushiara rivers, which flow from India to Bangladesh, would dry up. Water Resources Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen said any such dam would hit Bangladesh.

Mr. Chakravarty on Wednesday explained that the dam on the Barak river would not harm Bangladesh’s interests.

According to some Bangladesh experts, the project, located barely 1 km from Bangladesh’s Zakiganj border, would hit the flow of the Surma and the Kushiara.

Many civil society leaders have joined the environmentalists, who have held many rounds of talks on the possible adverse impact of the dam.

Fears have been expressed that the project would leave the river and other water bodies downstream dry, upsetting the ecological balance and affecting many people.

During the meeting with the Indian envoy, Ms. Hasina congratulated Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for their election victory.

Mr. Chakravarty condoled the death of Wazed Miah, eminent nuclear scientist and husband of the Prime Minister.

They also discussed bilateral issues. Stressing on regional stability and development, the Prime Minister told the envoy that her government wants to improve the lot of the people of Bangladesh while maintaining friendly relations with neighbours.