india's recent decision to initiate the construction of the Rs 5,000 crore Tipaimukh dam project on River Barak on the Assam-Manipur border is facing stiff opposition from Bangladesh. Dhaka's disapproval of the project, envisaged way back in 1955, is not new and now it has decided to raise the matter at the January 2005 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (saarc) summit. Opponents of the project, some of them on the India side too, believe the government hasn't assessed the damages it would cause in Manipur as well as Bangladesh.
"The Central Electricity Authority gave a techno-economic clearance in July 2003. Now, its time to implement the project," Union heavy industries minister Santosh Mohan Dev said recently. The North Eastern Electric Power Corporation claims the Tipaimukh dam will revolutionise hydro-power generation, flood control, navigation, irrigation and pisciculture in the region. It will generate 1,500 megawatt power and have a reservoir capacity of 15.5 billion cubic metre.
Bangladesh alleges that New Delhi has not kept its promise of informing it before going ahead with the project. It had expressed its reservations first at the Joint River Commission (jrc) level in the 1980s. It claims that since then, there has been no exchange of information on the matter. It had also registered its protest in the 1990s and demanded the formation of a joint committee to look into the matter, but got no response. It also raised the issue at the last jrc meeting in September 2003, when India assured it that it would be informed about any structural interventions.
Bangladesh fears the dam would exacerbate flood during the rainy season and deprive it of the required flow in the dry season. It suspects a barrage proposed at Phultala may dry up river Meghna (Barak's Bangladeshi name). It has said it would discuss the issue at the jrc meeting in January 2005.