Thursday, December 10, 2009

Expatriates and Their Rights on Bangladesh by Tayeb Husain

Expatriates and Their Rights on Bangladesh by Tayeb Husain

[Note from BEC: Mr. Husain's essay first appeared in the Financial Express on Dec 4, 2009 omitting the last portion of the article below where foreign connections/links of some leaders were alleged by the writer. Mr. Husain lives and wrote the piece from Sweden. The views expressed in the article are entirely his.
BEC's attention was drawn to the article below when it got posted in the News From Bangladesh. In this, Mr. Husain discusses a contentious subject which while being quite important to our expatriate community does not quite agree the views of the BEC and its many members. Still, we felt that our expatriates need to be exposed to dissenting opinions, ideas or thoughts that affect them. We appreciate Mr. Husain for giving us the permission to posting the NFB article. Responses on this article can be directed at the author, which appears at the bottom of the article, and/or at us.]

I vividly remember an announcement made by the then military backed caretaker government’s Chief Adviser Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed sometime in Feb or March 2008 during a visit in London in which he said that "from now on, British passport-holder Bangladeshis would automatically retain their Bangladeshi citizenships." I protested this unilateral declaration by someone who had no power base or support from the population and was holding a unique position only as a usurper. My protest note was published in Bangladesh media but I do not know if there was a slight dent in public mind or in government’s attitude regarding these rights and privileges for Non-Residential Bangladeshis (NRBs).

The term is, I believe, utterly wrong. These are Bangladeshi origin foreign citizens holding foreign passports and occasionally holders of dual citizenships and not non-residential Bangladeshi. Actually Bangladeshi NRBs are mostly those who work in Arab Countries and earn foreign currency for Bangladesh where they have no social or legal rights but only give their bloods for building Arab’s infrastructures and doing slaves’ jobs. They carry Bangladesh passport and they do not have any other home to go but poor Bangladesh only where they come from and will return there after the end of their job period. Bangladeshi origin foreign citizens, on the other side, are those people well settled in Europe, North America or Australia where again, technically, they are offered equal rights and privileges like any other citizens in their host countries.

Bangladesh offers NRBs’ many rights including no-visa entry in Bangladesh, equal social and political rights including land and business ownership, running elections, holding government offices and even special quota to participate plot allotment lottery to get a plot in Dhaka’s Uttara or Purbachal Model Town projects.

Personally, I am against all such privileges mentioned above to Bangladeshi origin foreign citizens, whether one is a British or a Nepalese passport holder. I strongly believe that poor Bangladesh belongs to Bangladeshi citizens and those who are settled in Europe, North America or Australia should not look back and expect some privileges from the country they left behind.

I strongly oppose dual citizenship, voting right, and other privileges to Bangladesh origin foreign citizens. I oppose expatriates' voting rights vehemently on principle and practical reasons, even though it is against my personal interest. I sincerely believe that no one should have divided allegiance, and one should be fully loyal to the country one lives in, earns a living and, finally, becomes a citizen of. This is the basic principles I am talking about.

I am fully aware of the fact that Bangladesh and many other countries allow dual citizenship to their former citizens, with full rights and responsibilities of a normal resident. Rich western countries do it for certain reasons. For example, many US citizens have Israeli citizenship, where they work and help the Israeli nation. They are mostly American Jews. The British and the French also allow dual citizenship, traditionally, it has been so due to colonial interests of the colonialist powers, but the practice still continues.

Bangladesh is a poor country, and it is very generous of her to offer a Bangladesh origin foreign citizen double citizenship, and even a Bangladeshi passport, knowing well that the person is a foreign citizen and has a passport from his/her adopted country.

This generosity of Bangladesh has offered good and bad opportunities to many people. To a good person it gives a sense of nostalgia, and he/she always fondly remembers his country of origin with deep gratitude and love. Such a decent person returns this generosity of his/her motherland doing good things in return when an opportunity comes. However, these types of people are rare and very few. An individual always looks after his/her personal interest, and there are many who would go to any extent to gain a little extra profit whenever he/she gets an opportunity to do so.

There are also certain criminals who use this opportunity to maximise the benefits of their many horrendous crimes. Often, the generous rules and regulations of the criminals' adopted countries offer them safe haven, and the countries of origin of the criminals cannot take any action against them for their crimes committed in the country of origin.

Many criminals from Arab countries moved to the UK on the pretext of political persecution in their home countries, and the same pretext were used by many people from former communist countries to get a safe sanctuary in Western Europe.

Some expatriates/immigrants from underdeveloped countries can be classified as political touts and ordinary criminals. Sometimes they are politically connected with political touts at home, and very often they co-operate and work with corrupt politicians of their home countries to share their ill- earned money or social or political advantages.

Some well-established expatriates also go back to their countries of origin to take part in direct politics, and hold ministerial posts by offering money to political organisations or directly to party bosses. These people are basically corrupt and live a luxurious life, mostly by corruption at the cost of poor Bangladesh.

Now, what can be done, or what rights and privileges should be offered to a Bangladeshi immigrant/expatriate? Sometime ago one even proposed that two seats of the national parliament should be reserved for the expatriates. I consider such proposal unfair, and dangerous for Bangladesh. I shall suggest that except "No visa requirement" seal, at a reasonable fee, on the foreign passport of an expatriate no other right or privilege should be offered to anybody as long as he/she carries a foreign passport.

The double citizenship business should be cancelled, and every expatriate/immigrant should declare his/her assets in Bangladesh if he/she stays in the country more than three months at any given time. No foreign citizen should be allowed to own agricultural land in Bangladesh if he/she does not use it for agriculture or farming purposes as a permanent resident.

Long time ago I read in the newspaper about an expatriate living in USA asking the government to intervene because another criminal in Bangladesh had grabbed his land. While I do not support any land-grabbing by anybody, I strongly oppose any foreign citizen owning any land in Bangladesh under any circumstances.

Bangladesh is a very small country, land per capita in Bangladesh is lowest in the world, and under such circumstances no expatriate should be allowed to own agricultural or commercial land in Bangladesh if he/she does not return home and live in Bangladesh permanently.

Regarding jobs in Bangladesh, anybody with foreign passport/citizenship should not be allowed to seek any job in Bangladesh, except those foreign experts whom Bangladesh may need for certain specific jobs. Again, anybody who is a Bangladeshi citizen with a Bangladeshi passport but did not live in Bangladesh continuously over a year or so (except those who are abroad on government duty or studying in a foreign country) should not be allowed to vote or to take part in any election, or seek any government office.

Anyone with foreign citizenship and in service with the Bangladesh government should be found out and dismissed. And in case anyone who has hidden his/her foreign connection while serving the government, he/she should be sent out of the country after checking properly his/her assets and foreign links.

Adopting such a strong and draconian measure against the expatriates Bangladesh may seem very unkind or even hostile towards her "lost" children, but these measures are very necessary to safeguard the interests of poor Bangladeshi people and to curb the ill activities of a great number of criminals who are Bangladeshi expatriates/immigrants and foreign citizens.

I take this opportunity to express my utter disgust again against some particular groups of Bangladesh origin foreign citizens who live and earn their living in foreign countries but deeply involved in Bangladesh politics. They are Awami Leaguers, BNPs or even Jamattis. That is why we see whenever the PM of Bangladesh visits any European country, her most important and must to-do-list always is to meet and to attend a reception given by the “Expatriates” (rumour goes that cost is covered by the public fund from Bangladesh) and that is invariable by the people belonging to PM’s own political party.

I have a feeling that Fakhruddin Ahmed is a foreign citizen. He has a million dollar worth house in USA. Gen Moeen has his son and brother living in USA. Former President Ijajuddin has his son living in Canada. Present PM Hasina has her son in USA with a US passport, her daughter is in Canada and her sister lives in UK with security protection from poor Bangladesh. She has again, I am told, employed some Bangladesh origin foreign citizens in top government jobs. One of such a minister sometime ago resigned and went back to USA. Another HT Imam, I am told, a retired civil servant, is reappointed as PM Hasina’s adviser with the rank of a cabinet minister or something of that kind. Who is that Imam and why Bangladesh government needs to recruit him again ignoring someone serving in the administration and looking for this post? Imam stands in someone life-long cherished job, deprived somebody of his career goal and made a long list of people unhappy by snatching from them their rightful job promotions.

I wonder what exceptional service he is capable of offering to Bangladesh government and why he is so much indispensable for Sheikh Hasina and if not for the Bangladesh government. This question I ask and all that I write now are not out of any prejudice to anybody but I consider these sorts of appointments and favour are sinful cronyism, awfully wrong and totally unfair action by the PM. These are no doubt selfish people and they not only deprive poor Bangladeshi citizens of their right to jobs but they are opportunists by nature with their dual citizenships and foreign passports and connections to ignorant and uncanny corrupt politicians. I do not know how civil society, the press and the intellectuals in Bangladesh tolerate these sorts of nonsense and keep quite. It also makes the picture clear to me why and how Fakhruddin Ahmed could so boldly and shameless tell to “his type of people” in London "from now on, British passport-holder Bangladeshis would automatically retain their Bangladeshi citizenships". He was legalizing his own standing as a usurper ruler of Bangladesh by offering little bones to his fellow greedy compatriots.


Tayeb Husain
E Mail:

How Committed is Bangladesh Government about boosting CPI?

How Committed is Bangladesh Government about boosting Corruption Perception Index (CPI)? by Habib Siddiqui

[Published also as: Question mark over govt.’s anti-corruption stance, New Age, Op/Ed, November 21, 2009,]

Nothing could be more gratifying for a government which finds itself being perceived positively in matters of fighting corruption. An improved perception can attract foreign investment. Bangladesh is one of those countries which has been able to drastically improve her corruption perception index. This year she improved her ranking to 139 out of 180 countries. She was 147th last year. Bangladesh scored 2.4 on a 0-10 scale rating (with lower numbers signifying more corruption perception), a number still below the 3.0 - cutoff value for the top 100 and bottom 80 countries, meaning corruption is still rampant. But compared to how Bangladesh began with a score of 0.3 points nearly a decade ago, it is definitely a good achievement. Nor should we forget that the country was placed at the bottom of the list for the fifth successive years from 2001 to 2005 (during the BNP rule).

In recent months, after the Mahajote came to power, the government has taken some positive measures that are bound to improve country's perception index. These include: election commitment of the current government against corruption, continuation of institutional reforms, formation of parliamentary standing committees and information commission. The government has not, thus far, interfered with the activities of the Anti-Corruption Commission giving it freedom to do its tasks independently. These are all positive signs and are sure ways to boost country's perception rating. Unfortunately, there are still areas which may put a dent to Bangladesh's image.

It was not too long ago that the ACC Chairman, Mr. Golam Rahman, had vehemently complained about the impotency of the agency. Sure enough, many of the verdicts by the High Court Bench granting bail to individuals, convicted of corruption, are making a mockery of the agency’s efforts to wipe out corruption from the country. News media accounts suggest that most of those convicts were probably freed on grounds of technicality and not on the weaknesses of the charges brought against them. If such public perceptions are true, unless the ACC is strengthened by bills passed by the parliament or presidential decree, its activities are going to result in zero-sum activities at a tremendous cost to the country’s economy.

In a widely covered interview, Mr. Rahman was bold enough to correctly call the ACC a 'toothless tiger', which finds itself in a no-win, difficult and precarious position to be state’s corruption fighting agency without the right mechanisms set in place to make it more effective. (During my meeting with his predecessor back in February, I heard similar complaints from Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury.) And in spite of such candid and correct assessment from its current Chairman and the constraints it has to work under, it is highly gratifying to see the ACC's unwavering battle to put a stopper to corruption by charging many corrupt individuals, including politicians. In recent months, the agency has been more scrupulous than anytime before in its filings of corruption cases against politically connected bigwigs that have siphoned off country’s money through shoddy deals. It is also showing great discrimination and clarity in dropping cases against some individuals who were wrongly charged by the immediate-past interim government.

But like every other things that seem to go wrong with Bangladesh when we least expect them, the recent presidential pardon of sentences against Shahadab Akbar, son of deputy leader of parliament Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, is sure to put a questionable mark on the government’s sincerity to fight corruption. Chowdhury was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment and fined Taka 1.6 crore in absentia in four cases filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission and National Board of Revenue during the tenure of the last caretaker government. News reports suggest that Chowdhury had failed to appear before the court and did not even file any appeal against his convictions and yet the President had no qualms about pardoning him. This act of clemency can’t simply be overlooked. Yes, like the presidential pardon of bigwigs under Clinton and Bush before they vacated the White House, Bangladesh’s President Zillur Rahman has all the constitutional rights to pardon anyone, even a serial killer. But when the only criterion appears to be partisanship such an act of presidential clemency gives a bad name to the government, and is neither easily forgotten nor forgiven by the public. They perceive such as an abuse of justice and presidential power. There are even charges that in pardoning Chowdhury, the President had failed to follow usual legal procedures. The ACC lawyers are also calling foul on the matter. If any of these accusations are true, the current government’s high pitched election promise to weed out corruption seems too hollow and insincere. The clemency of Chowdhury also opens the door for other convicts who had not surrendered to the court to follow this backdoor of presidential clemency under political consideration.

The High Court on July 13 this year in a verdict scrapped the 13-year jail sentence against another politician – Awami League lawmaker Dr. Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir -- in a case that was filed by the ACC, adjudging the conviction against him illegal. On Nov. 16 the ACC filed an appeal with the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict that scrapped the sentence against him in a corruption case. While no one likes to see an innocent human being falsely charged and convicted in a kangaroo court, the judiciary branch of the government must carry out its civic duty diligently, transparently and justly so that no one can question its verdicts.

No one should belittle people’s perception since such actually helps to mold our realities (even when perceptions are not always correct). And that is what corruption perception index of Transparency International is all about. All the recent gains in the CPI rating may evaporate unless the government is sincere in its declared commitment to fight corruption. I can only hope that the Hasina government will have the wisdom to take the CPI rating seriously and thus, not to take Bangladesh on a wrong track. People have long memories; it is the politicians who don’t and they are fools.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Kennedy's death - Bangladesh and her expatriates lose a great friend and mentor

It is a sad day for America. With the death of Senator Teddy Kennedy, America lost one of its most noble souls. He was an articulate advocate of human rights, an unwavering champion of peace against war, and, of course, immigration rights and health-care for all. His was a life very few could aspire for - from childhood upbringing unto death. He was able to see things very few had dared to consider. He was able to discuss things with ease very few dared to discuss. Often times the stand he took were not politically correct. Yet as a man of parts, a visionary, as one of the best citizens of our planet, he took a bold stand and tried to make America better for all its citizens and inhabitants and by that process he touched the lives of too many, even those who lived outside. He knew that we are all connected somehow. What is good for our world ought to have been good for America, too.

In deep sadness, we recall the demise of this great man whose contribution to the cause of Bangladesh should never be forgotten by our posterity.

Issues towards fostering amicable relationship between Bangladesh and the USA

The following is a list of issues which need attention from respective governments to foster a durable friendly relationship between Bangladesh and the USA. These are based on cumulative experience of many of our expats in this country and need resolutions.

A. Bangladeshis visiting the USA: What is needed -
1. Easing visitor visa process for new applicants - takes too long with too many things to fill visa application form, medical tests, etc. Note that American visitors to Bangladesh don't need to go through such tests and lengthy processes for a nominal visitor visa.

2. Easing student visa process for students - too much info beyond what is expected. It is also discriminatory when compared against other Asian countries, including next door India, whose students don't face as much hassel as ours. The F-20 form and support of financial aid/guarantee should be good enough to get them the necessary visa. A student must also have a multiple year student visa for the normative period of his/her visa; e.g., 4-5 year for BS/BA, 2-3 year for MS and 5-7 year for PhD (or overall 5-8 year for graduate students). During this time, the student should be able to visit his/her loved ones whenever he feels. Many students from Bangladesh are afraid to visit their ailing parents fearing that once they are back in Bangladesh they may not be allowed to return to the USA. [Some of our foreign students had to wait 9 years before they could go home to see their parents and siblings when they were doing graduate studies. And that too, only after they got a Green Card through their employers.] There is an obvious discrimination of our students against European students who had no problem visiting their loved ones during the summer.

3. Easing restriction on H-1 visa holders so that they could at ease visit Bangladesh and take their spouses with them upon return to the USA.

4. Easing restrictions of Green card holders to be able to bring their spouses to the USA. What is prevalent is simply inhuman forcing spouses to be separated for years before the other party is called to the US Embassy for visa interview. That process must shorten to maximum of 6 months, reducing family attrition and tension.

5. Easing restrictions of family members of U.S. Citizens to come to the USA - the current process requires almost a year for the non-US spouse to join his/her better half in the States. And that, too, after lots of tests and forms, which are required to be filled by applicants. The naturalization charges are also too high. Parents and siblings now have to wait for more than a decade before they are called by the embassy for interview. By that time, many parents and siblings have become too old and too frail to get excited to move to the USA. Even a child who is more than 18 cannot join his/her US parents immediately and have to wait years before called in for interview for green card. What the US naturalization process is doing to immigrants is simply one of the worst abuses of human right - denying company of their immediate loved ones - parents, siblings and children. It needs REFORM. The fees for the naturalization process must also be reduced significantly to make it easy for people to reunite. The process is so cumbersome with so many forms and papers and tests, very few elderly feel motivated to join their children here. Many believe that the process is made complex and difficult to discourage people to come to the USA. But that is not right from human rights perspective that America preaches.

6. The ordinary citizens should be given priority over political touts and criminals like Saqa Chowdhury. People with criminal records like Saqa Chowdhury who had endangered family properties of the NRBs must be DENIED visa to enter the USA. Such individuals who have intentionally harmed NRB families must be declared persona non-grata.

7. Given Bangladesh's vulnerability against natural disasters and man-made ones, sufficient global efforts are needed to ensure that its tens of millions would be catered from such disasters. America also needs to help Bangladesh develop its energy sector, and rein upon India so that the latter cannot harm the country. American help is crucial for dealing with contentious issues on maritime boundary, dams and barrages with our neighbors.

10. Lowering visa application fee: it has to be mutually done with Bangladesh govt. A high fee only helps the USA, and penalizes Bangladeshis and the family and friends of the NRBs desiring to visit the USA. Too few come to the Bangladesh who are Americans.

B. NRB (non-resident Bangladeshis) or Expatriate (from Bangladesh) Issues:
1. NRBs should be able to apply for dual citizenship like Israeli-Americans in this country.
2. They should be able to vote in national elections from the USA.
3. Bangladesh govt must be held accountable to safeguard their property rights in Bangladesh, esp. from deceased parents in matters of transfer of ownership.
4. Bangladeshis who had harmed NRBs cannot and should not get visa from the USA and its allies. They must be declared pariah or persona non-grata.
5. Job discrimination against NRBs must stop so that they are fairly and equally treated as valuable citizens in the USA for their work.
6. NRBs should be able to bring their immediate family members (spouse, children, parents, siblings) within the shortest possible time thereby ensuring family bondage and human rights of the loved ones.
7. NRBs should be able to bring their family asset/wealth without much restriction to their adopted country. Those emigrating must be able to bring as much money as he/she has so that all other illegal means of money laundering are stopped for good. A govt to govt agreement is necessary here to facilitate such a process. Similarly, when an NRB decides to invest in Bangladesh, there should not be any restriction either from the USA on such gainful, legal business ventures. The overall process need to be transparent, reciprocal and easy for the age of global economy we live in.
8. Visa fee for movement to Bangladesh ought to be waived for the NRBs.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Confluence Claims Unity - An article from - on Tipaimukh Dam project

Confluence Claims Unity

Anti-dam activists in Bangladesh and India have come together to protest against the Tipaimukh dam in Manipur, reports TERESA REHMAN

IN MANIPUR’S HMAR dialect, the name for Tipaimukh is ‘Ruonglevaisuo’, meaning ‘the confluence of two rivers’. The two-decade-long struggle against the proposed 1,500 MW Tipaimukh dam project, to be located 500 metres downstream of the confluence of the rivers Trivia and Barak, in Manipur’s Churachandpur district has brought about another union – that of anti-dam activists of India and Bangladesh. Activists from both countries, who are regularly in touch through emails and meetings held in Bangladesh, are extremely sceptical of the visit made to the controversial crossborder site by a 10-member Bangla deshi delegation of lawmakers and water resources experts in July this year.

According to activists, this first-time visit to the dam site by a Bangladesh team could become a turning point. If construed as a green signal for the dam from the Bangladesh side, it could overturn the long-drawn people’s movement against the dam. Activists from both countries came together at the National Tipaimukh Dam Conference (NTDC) organised in Bangladesh this year by an environmental NGO called the Angikar Bangladesh Foundation and are now planning a concerted effort to fight the 163 metre high dam.

“Ecology doesn’t observe national boundaries. Pakistan and India haven't abrogated the 1960 Indus Treaty despite three wars,” says Darryl D’Monte, Presi - dent, International Federation of Envi - ronmental Journalists. Commending activists who are planning to form a joint co-ordinating committee to oppose the Tipaimukh project, D’Monte says, “It makes great sense for environmentalists to join hands across borders — something that politicians seem incapable of doing, because they always see opposing, rather than common, interests”.

Ramananda Wangkheirakpam, a coordinator of the Manipur-based Citizen's Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD) told TEHELKA that activists’ main worry is that the two countries may come to a hurried water-and-powersharing pact, without taking into account the real issues: reduced water flow in the Barak river, destruction of wetlands and farmlands, increased seismicity and destruction of tribal territories in Manipur.

“We would like to meet the team from Bangladesh and apprise them of what is happening to other rivers in the Northeast,” says Wangkheirakpam. Identified as India's ‘future powerhouse’, the Northeast is the site of 168 proposed large dams, with a cumulative capacity of 63,328 MW.

Activists in Bangladesh draw lessons from the disastrous effect of the Farakka Barrage, built in 1974. Bangladeshi activist Habib Siddiqui refers to the November 1999 Report made by the South Asian Network on Dams, River and People to the World Commission on Dams, which has details about the massive damage the Barrage caused in Malda upstream and Murshidabad downstream.

Siddiqui feels that while the initiative to send a delegation is encouraging, it would have better if it included some technical experts as well as members of the opposition party, the BNP. Siddiqui told TEHELKA, “If this dam is constructed, Bangladesh's ecology, agriculture and environment will be severely affected. It must be resisted.”

Meanwhile, the project has changed hands yet again. On July 15, the Centre replaced power giant North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) with the National Hydro-electric Power Corporation (NHPC) as the implementing agency. The project will now be a joint venture between NHPC (69 per cent), the Shimla-based Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (26 per cent) and the Manipur Government (5 per cent). Earlier with the Brahmaputra Board, the project was awarded to NEEPCO in January 2003.

The proposed mega-dam will be the largest hydroelectric project in Eastern India. The project will have a 6 X 250 MW powerhouse. It will take at least 12 years to complete and will submerge 309 sq. km of land. Its consequences have alarmed anti-dam activists. Wangkheirakpam is firm, “We want the project scrapped.”

Activist mohammad Hilaluddin of Angikar thinks that the Bangladesh delegation’s visit highlights the complexity of Bangladesh-India relations. “In April 2009, the Indian foreign secretary visited Bangladesh, which was then reeling from the BDR mutiny and pushed the contentious issue of the Tipaimukh dam construction upon the newly-elected government,” he says. The dam-building madness prevailing in the policy-making centres of China and India, says Hilaluddin, must be replaced by collective efforts to prevent a water war.


India's Hydro-Electric Project At Tipaimukh And The Hot Debate In Bangladesh by Meer Husain, USA

A Response to Professor Bijon Sarma

We have already responded to Prof. Sarma's above mentioned article regarding the dam and earthquake issue. I found his article is based on poor judgement and violates the most basic principals of the geological, hydrological, hydrogeological, sedimentological, geochemical, structural/tectonics, engineering/environmental geological fields, demographic and socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh.

Prof. Sarma's failure to explain the following points (listed below from his article) regarding the Tipaimukh dam based on sound data and evidence will misguide the people of Bangladesh. However, if Prof. Sarma feels that he is a credible and knowledgeable professional in collecting and interpreting geological data, we will certainly be interested in examining his view points regarding the Tipaimukh dam issue. We want to know from him a professional and sound scientific explanation based on reliable data and evidence of the Tipaimukh dam related issues that he mentioned in his article.

Prof. Sarma may also review the article entitled Construction of Tipaimukh dam-A Threat to the national interest of Bangladesh,recently published in the NFB for a general idea about the advantages and disadvantages of hydro-electric dams. We would appreciate it if Prof. Sarma can offer an explanation defending his position that the disadvantages listed in the article will not be caused by the Tipaimukh dam. We are interested in sound scientific data based explanations.

Prof. Sarma Wrote in the above referenced article:

DAM AND RIVER WATER FLOW : Some people opine that the dam would reduce the flow of water in Barak river and its descending branches in Bangladesh. The fact is, after a dam for hydroelectricity project is commissioned, the authority would have to release all excess water from the dam for the safety of the dam and smooth running of the generators. So, it does not reduce water flow. The dam however, can give additional advantage of flood control by holding excess water in the rainy season and increase water flow in the winter by slowly releasing that water.

DAM AND SILTATION : Some leaders have opined that the dam would create siltation in the rivers of Bangladesh. Such statements may be given by people lacking in intelligence. In a hydro-electric project only silt-free water is fed into the turbines below, and the over-flowing water (spillway) on top cannot contain silt.

DAM AND EARTHQUAKE : Some leaders have opined that the dam would create earth quake due to weight of water or for drying of rivers. All these are wrong statement. Those who have little knowledge of geology and earth science know how huge and mighty the earth's tectonic plates are, and in comparison how tiny or insignificant the reservoir or weight of the water in it are.

DAM AND SALINITY : It is unfortunate that some of the leaders opine that the dam would result in increase of salinity in the region near the mouth of the river. Their ideas are erroneous. The salinity at the river mouth among many other factors depends upon the velocity of water emerging out through the river. In the rainy season it is pushed away due to rainy water from the origin and catchment area. The possibility of the same to move up may take place during the winter season when the flow is feeble. The release of water from the reservoir can improve the situation.

DAM AND DESTABILIZING THE NATURE : Some people always think that any new project in the nature is harmful because it destabilizes the balance of nature. It is well known that whenever the original setup of the nature is interfered, there may some problems. However, intelligent and sincere men have always been able to solve those. Only the fools may shout for keeping everything in nature unchanged for the sake of stability. Had the intelligent men followed the principle of the fools, then the world would have still remained in the same primitive state. In case Kaptai dam was not constructed at the cost of many things including miseries for the tribal people, neither Bangladesh would enjoy the huge benefit of power nor the region would become free from the propensity of flood.

On July 24, 2009. in the article Danger of Earthquakes to the Tipaimukh dam and it's adjoining areas in Bangladesh and India ( http//, we explained Prof. Sarma's misconception and misstatements about the dam and earthquake issue. We hope Prof. Sarma and other proponents of the Tipaimukh dam will consider this issue before hastily entering the Tipaimukh project. If they can produce sound data supporting the position that the Tipaimukh dam will not cause any harm to the health and safety of the people, ecosystem and environment of Bangladesh and it's adjacent areas, we would gladly accept their explanation.

The Jatia Sangsad Team is planning to visit the Tipaimukh dam site soon. After visiting it, we would request them to visit the Zipingpu dam site in China and it's earthquake affected areas to witness the damage caused by the earthquake and evaluate the danger of earthquakes to the Tipaimukg dam and it's adjacent areas in Bangladesh. Besides the Jatia Sangsad team, the scholars, scientists, engineers, journalists, environmental activists and political leaders of Bangladesh should also visit the Zipingpu dam site in China that triggered the earthquake of 8.0 M, which caused the death of 70,000 and the injury of 375,000 and left 29,000 missing and 5 million people homeless on May 12, 2008. The dam was also damaged by the earthquake.

Meer Husain, P.G.
Environmental geologist
Kansas, USA.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Protect people and nature from Tipaimukh Dam by Dr Nargis Banu

New Age, July 15, 2009

BANGLADESH is the lowest riparian country of more than 53 trans-boundary rivers. Four-fifths of Bangladesh is made up of the combined delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Barak river systems – one of the largest river basins in the world. India has 400 storage dams of various sizes and the major reservoirs have a total capacity of 2,221 billion cubic feet. Upstream diversion due to the Farakka Barrage on the Ganges in India has adversely affected the hydrology, river morphology, agriculture, domestic and municipal water supply, fishery, forestry, wildlife, industry, navigation, public health and biodiversity in north-western districts of Bangladesh. Now India has started another intervention on the international river Barak at Tipaimukh and will construct a dam at Fulertal (100 kilometres downstream from Tipaimukh) by 2012. This dam construction originally started in 2007 but had to be postponed due to protest by the surrounding villagers and pressure from international bodies. With the construction of Tipaimukh dam, India would be diverting the Barak’s water flow from its north to its south and east. It will have adverse impacts on nature and livelihood in the north-eastern districts in Bangladesh. The Barak feeds not only the Surma-Kushiara in Sylhet but also flows into the Meghna, one of the three major rivers in Bangladesh.
The proposed Tipaimukh dam is a 390m long and 162.5m high earthen core rock filled dam at downstream of the confluence of Barak and Tuivai rivers near Tipaimukh village in Manipur state of India. To produce an estimated 1,500MW electric power, the dam will permanently submerge an area of 275.50 square kilometres in India. The dam will establish a reservoir behind the dam that will catch water in the rainy season and release it in the dry season. A list of benefits such as high-class tourism, free power sharing, resettlement and rehabilitation package has been offered by the Indian project proponent (North East Electric Power Corporation) to appease the people of Manipur state.
The geology on Tipaimukh and its adjoining areas are basically made up of the Surma Group of rocks that are well characterised by folds and faults with regional strike. All these faults and fractures can cause localised shifting or deflection at the confluence of the rivers Barak and Tuivai. Such faults are potentially active and may be focal and/or epicentres of future earthquakes. The north-eastern part of India is one of the highest earthquake-prone areas in the world due to its tectonic setting. The Tipaimukh dam site has been identified at the highest-risk seismically hazardous zone. Analysis of earthquake epicentres of the Tipaimukh dam site reveals hundreds of earthquakes in the past 100-200 years. It is found that within 100km radius of Tipaimukh two earthquakes of +7M magnitude have taken placed in the past 150 years, the last in 1957 at an aerial distance of about 75km from the dam site. The expert appraisal committee of India revealed that the design of the dam contains many errors, and omissions, and falls short of compliance of standards set by the scientific and academic community in India and the world.
As part of the project planning process, India conducted detailed studies, completed the final design and environment impact assessment without consultation with Bangladesh as a downstream stakeholder. The Indian government has not clearly stated the amounts of water that will be stopped or diverted with the construction of the Tipaimukh dam. About 7 to 8 per cent of the total water of Bangladesh is obtained through the river Barak to Surma-Kushiara river basins. Agriculture, irrigation navigation, drinking water supply, fisheries, wildlife in numerous haors (wetlands) and low-lying areas in entire Sylhet division, some areas of Comilla and Mymensingh districts, and some peripheral areas of Dhaka division depends on this water.
Along with the people of India, civil society groups, government and non-governmental organisations in Bangladesh have protested against the downstream impacts of Tipaimukh dam. The following adverse impacts on nature and livelihood in Bangladesh have been identified:

Flooding pattern
The erosion just downstream of the Tipaimukh Dam would be excessively high and this erosion would continue as long as hundred kilometres downstream or more in the Surma-Kushiara system. The probable deposition during late monsoon and post-monsoon season will raise the overall bed level of the rivers, and for an extreme case it would block the mouth of certain tributaries originating from the Kushiara. Bed level would rise and will induce the average monsoon flood to become moderate to severe flood in the Surma-Kushiara floodplain. On the other hand, Sylhet and Moulvibazar have unique natural monsoon-flooding pattern.
In post-dam scenario, 30,123 hectares of inundated areas in Sylhet and 5,220 hectares in Moulvibazar would be reduced due to change of flooding pattern. About 71 per cent of the upper Surma-Kushiara basin area would no longer be flooded. The Kushiara would cut its connection with its right bank floodplain for around 65 kilometres and this part will become ‘reservoir river’ rather than a most valuable ‘floodplain river’. The Kushiara-Bardal haor (wetland) on the left bank of the Kushiara would become completely dry. The Kawardighi haor (wetland) would also lose around 2,979 ha (26 per cent).

Hydrology and wetlands
The Tipaimukh dam would lead to hydrological drought and environmental degradation. According to the Institute of Water Modelling, an autonomous research institute in Bangladesh, once the Tipaimukh dam is fully functional, average annual monsoon inflow from the Barak to the Surma-Kushiyara-Meghna system would be reduced around 10 per cent in June, 23 per cent in July, 16 per cent in August and 15 per cent in September. Water level would fall by more than a metre on average in July on the Kushiara and 0.75 metre on the Surma. During a relatively drier monsoon year, the dam would have more impact on the availability of monsoon water in the Barak-Surma-Kushiara than the average annual monsoon year.

Groundwater and irrigation
Millions of people are dependent on hundreds of water bodies fed by the Barak for agricultural activities. The dam would cause the Surma and Kushiara to run dry from November to May. Shortage of water in these few months would decrease the boost of groundwater. Over the years this would lower the groundwater level, which in turn would affect all dugouts and shallow tube-wells. Agriculture dependent on both surface as well as groundwater would also be affected. Arable land will decrease and production of crops will fall, leading to an increase in poverty.
Biodiversity and ecology
ONE of the most serious and least studied consequences of large dams is the long-term health impacts due to drastic changes in the ecological balance, displacement and loss of livelihood and sudden alterations in the demographic character of the area. These factors have not been considered at all in the process of the Tipaimukh project planning phase. It is a well-known fact that the construction of dams invariably destroys the natural riverine ecosystem. As a result, it affects the habitat of rare and endangered flora and fauna in wetland. Construction of a high dam will obstruct the migratory path of fish and other aquatic fauna, prevent the exchange of micronutrients and silt between the upper and lower reaches of a river and have an overall adverse affect on the riverine food chain. Above impacts would destroy the natural integrity of the ecosystem, losing riverine habitat and species, and a lack of enrichment of land with the nutrient-full silt. This would lead to the ultimate decline in the natural productivity of the two most abundant resources of Bangladesh – land and water.

Dam break and human catastrophes
A detailed study by the World Dam Commission published in 2000 states that the adverse impacts of any large dams are irreversible for the lower riparian region. A study on the trends of earthquakes reveals that they mostly take place in regions which have experienced earthquakes in the past. If the Tipaimukh Dam were to break, its ‘billions’ of impounded cubic metres of water will cause catastrophic floods because of its colossal structure. The faults and fractures around the Tipaimukh Dam axis belong to the category that may undergo strike-slip and extensional movements. If the dam axis is displaced by a few centimetres, serious damage may occur causing a dam disaster leading to huge loss of lives and property.

Water quality
The erosion and sedimentation just downstream of the Tipaimukh Dam would be excessively high and would continue as long as over 600 kilometres downstream in Bangladesh. This excessive erosion downstream of the dam would increase the overall siltation and water turbidity in the Surma-Kushiara system. These will adversely affect the water quality of the entire Surma-Kushiara-Meghna system in Bangladesh.
Climate change
The Tipaimukh dam will permanently submerge an area of 275.50 square kilometres in India. The dam will have warming impact due to methane degassing from the reservoir. Mass human displacement, land use change on macro and micro climate and carbon emissions of large dam construction itself is enough to reconsider constructing of Tipaimukh dam.

Violation of laws and agreement
International rivers are naturally well designated and they flow through many countries. There are international rules and conventions that guide modes of sharing waters of such rivers between countries in the riparian regions. The UN International Water Management Convention 1997 adopted two key issues, in gist stated by two words – ‘no harm’ and ‘equitable sharing’. To elaborate the implications of the two set of terms, one can safely state that the upper riparian country must not do harm to lower riparian country by withdrawing or diverting normal natural flow of water. If any such withdrawal and diversion is at all to be done, such mode must have prior sanction of the lower riparian country subject to the condition of mutually agreed equitable sharing.
Under this convention, hiding any information by the upper riparian countries about the use of common rivers is considered as violation of the UN convention. The International Convention on Joint River Water also states that without the consent of the downstream river nation, no single country alone can control the multi-nation rivers. But India does not care about these international laws despite being a signatory to this convention. The Tipaimukh Dam project was entirely developed and approved without informing the government of Bangladesh or involving its people in any meaningful exercise to assess the downstream impacts of the dam. Bangladesh was not invited to participate, fully and actively, in the decision-making process as a key stakeholder. This is clearly a gross violation of co-riparian rights of Bangladesh.
The unilateral construction of Tipaimukh dam by India on this international river Barak is a violation of UN Convention on the Law of Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses. At a Joint River Commission meeting in September 2005, India formally assured Bangladesh that they would not divert any water for their irrigation project. If India constructs the dam without the consent of Bangladesh, it will also be violation of article 9 of the Bangladesh-India Ganges Water Sharing Treaty 1996. Interestingly, a dam across the Barak was first mooted in 1928. Yet, India has failed to produce all the necessary data and research on the impacts of the dam on the people and the environment of both countries.
Economists have estimated that Bangladesh will lose up to $32 billion in a year due to the Tipaimukh dam construction. Taking into account the above impacts and recently developing objections in the both countries, the following actions should be undertaken to reach an amicable solution of this dispute:
Indian government needs to undertake a fresh review despite advancing the dam construction works. Invite Bangladesh to take part in the whole decision making process before it is too late.
India must provide access to all technical information (design, drawing, environment impact assessment) to Bangladesh to measure the total impacts of the Tipaimukh Dam on Bangladesh.
A joint team should be formed to study the adverse ecological and environmental impacts on both countries.
Bangladesh must ratify the UN convention as soon as possible in order to take advantage and for it to be effective.
As the proposed site is one of the highest potential earthquake areas in the world, so impacts from its tectonic setting risk must need to be investigated seriously.
Draw the international community’s (Asian Development Bank, World Bank, UNEP) attention to save our people and nature of Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh government, political leaders, civil society bodies, environmentalists need to join under a common umbrella to stop India constructing the Tipaimukh Dam.
The World Commission on Dams report has shown that Indian dams do more harm than help. Therefore, as per the report’s recommendation consider replacing dam-based hydroelectricity with a ‘run-of-the-river’ type project.
Abridged from a paper presented at a seminar at the Australian National University on July 3. Dr Nargis A Banu is an environmental scientist with Sydney Water Corporation, Australia.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Construction of Tipaimukh dam - A Threat to the National Interest of Bangladesh by Meer Husain


Monday July 13 2009 15:06:10 PM BDT

The govt. of Bangladesh should also form a national and international team consisting of geologists, engineers, biologists, Agriculture scientists, environmentalists, lawyers, economist etc. from Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Arab Emirate, Kuwait, Jordan, Malayasia, Nepal, Japan, German, U.K., USA, France and other nations to examine the project. This effort will help to solve the problems of the Tipaimukh hydro-electric project.

T.C. Borgohain, executive director of the North Eastern Electric Power Corp and developer of the Rs.81.38 billion ($1.7 billion) project stated in the Thaindian News in an article entitled “Manipur dam will not harm Bangladesh, Says India� on July 2, 2009, that “India will not do anything that harms the interests of its neighbouring country.�

Please read the article at:

Although Mr. Borgohain's statement sounds hopeful, however numerous questions remain. What scientific data has India presented proving that the Tipaimukh dam would not do any harm to the public health, ecosystem and environment of Bangladesh? When did they complete their study and why did they neglect to share the report of their study with the govt of Bangladesh? How might the people of Bangladesh be benefited from this project? If the project is being developed for the betterment of both Bangladesh and India, why has the govt. of India started the construction of the project without the approval of the govt. of Bangladesh? If India has good intentions, why did the Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh aggressively state, in response to opposition of the dam, that“No int’l law can stop Tipai Dam?�

Regarding the concern of environmentalists and water scientists of Bangladesh about the Tipaimukh dam, Mr. Chakraborty also stated that "It is unfortunate that there are some so-called water experts who make comments without considering some of the issues. They are basically attempting to poison the minds of friendly people of Bangladesh against India."

We fully disagree with Mr. Chakraborty, because Bangladesh is the top most secular nation in the world. The water experts and environmentalists are the protectors of water resources of Bangladesh. If Mr. Chakraborty's above statement is the word of the govt. of India, then it appears that the govt of India does not respect the people and experts of Bangladesh. The govt. of India must understand that the people of Bangladesh have the right to know about the advantages and disadvantages of the Tipaimukh dam,and the govt. of India has an obligation to provide them with correct information.

The govt. of Bangladesh should also form a national and international team consisting of geologists, engineers, biologists, Agriculture scientists, environmentalists, lawyers, economist etc. from Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Arab Emirate, Kuwait, Jordan, Malayasia, Nepal, Japan, German, U.K., USA, France and other nations to examine the project. This effort will help to solve the problems of the Tipaimukh hydro-electric project.

In the article “Construction of Tipaimukh dam and Environmental disasters in Bangladesh� we raised many questions about the adverse impacts of the Tipaimukh hydro-electric dam in Bangladesh. Can Mr. Borgohain and the govt. of India solve these problems and what resources do they have (resources must be available in the probable affected areas before the construction of dam) for the protection of the people of the Surma and Meghna basins from the environmental disasters of the Tipaimukh dam?(Please see the problems that will cause environmental disasters in Bangladesh from the Tipaimukh dam at:( These problems are life threatening and must be examined by both Bangladesh's national experts and international experts. Water Resources Minister of Bangladesh Mr. Ramesh Chandra Sen has recently said that this dam could also benefit Bangladesh. If the project really does not do any harm to Bangladesh and if the dam has the capacity benefited the country without any environmental risks, then it may be accepted as a good project. But like all major projects, we can not allow the implementation of the Tipaimukh dam without thorough review and risk overlooking the dam's potential to devastate the environment of Bangladesh. listed the following advantages and disadvantages of the hydro-electric dam, but the question is which country would be benefited most? Will Bangladesh really be benefited from this risky project at all? If so and how? The Bangladeshi and Indian govt should publish their findings of the project after visiting the site. They must examine the advantages and disadvantages listed below in the context of the geo-political, socio-economic, food sources and demographic conditions of the affected regions of Bangladesh and the Tipaimukh hydro-electric dam. This will help the people of Bangladesh and the visiting team to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the Tipaimukh dam for Bangladesh and India.

We also believe that the opposition parties of the AL govt. should also independently analyze the advantages and disadvantages of the Tipaimukh project based on correct data and evidence. They should also share their findings with the govt. as soon as possible. We strongly believe that the people of Bangladesh will appreciate their positive steps. The prime minister Sheikh Hasina has recently said that her govt. would not approve the construction of the Tipaimukh dam against the national interest of Bangladesh. Therefore, the opposition parties should trust her and extend support to oppose the destructive potential of the Tipaimuck dam and unitedly protect the national interest of Bangladesh. They should also disagree with the govt. if their support of the dam is at the expense of the wellbeing of the people and environment of Bangladesh. It is important to note that the govt. and the opposition parties must present their evaluation report of the Tipaimukh project based on sound data and evidence. No one has presented or published any data based report yet about the impacts of the Tipaimukh dam in Bangladesh. The following advantages and disadvantages of the hydro-electric dam will help everyone as a guide to evaluate the impacts of the Tipaimukh dam in the context of the geo-political, demographic and socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh.

Advantages of Hydro-electric dam:

Once a dam is constructed, electricity can be produced at a constant rate.

• If electricity is not needed, the sluice gates can be shut, stopping electricity generation. The water can be saved for use another time when electricity demand is high. The build up of water in the lake means that energy can be stored until needed, when the water is released to produce electricity.

• Dams are designed to last many decades and so can contribute to the generation of electricity for many years / decades.

• The lake that forms behind the dam can be used for water sports and leisure / pleasure activities. Often large dams become tourist attractions in their own right.

• The lake's water can be used for irrigation purposes.

• When in use, electricity produced by dam systems do not produce green house gases. They do not pollute the atmosphere.

• Hydropower is a fueled by water, so it's a clean fuel source. Hydropower doesn't pollute the air like power plants that burn fossil fuels, such as coal, oil or natural gas.

• Hydropower is a domestic source of energy, produced locally near where it is needed.

• Hydropower relies on the water cycle, which is driven by the sun, thus it's a renewable power source so long as the rain keeps falling on the dam catchment area.

• Hydropower is generally available as needed; engineers can control the flow of water through the turbines to produce electricity on demand.

• Hydropower is not only a cleaner source of energy than oil but is it more cost effective as well. The most efficient coal burning plants are only able to convert around 50 percent of their energy into electricity, whereas modern day hydro power turbines convert up to 90 percent of their energy into electricity.

• Hydropower can cost less than a penny per kWh (Kilowatt Hour) compared to fossil fuel power plants at around 2 to 3 cents per kWh. That may not seem like a big difference, but when factored out over a year and the millions of kW h's Americans burn, it adds up to a huge savings.

• Hydropower plants also have an added bonus as they create recreational opportunities for people as well as electricity. Hydro power dams provide not only water-based activities, but since much of the surrounding land is public they also encourage numerous other outdoor activities aside from boating, skiing, fishing, and hunting.

• Hydropower plants provide benefits in addition to clean electricity. Impoundments hydro power creates reservoirs that offer a variety of recreational opportunities, notably fishing, swimming, and boating. Most hydro power installations are required to provide some public access to the reservoir to allow the public to take advantage of these opportunities. Other benefits may include water supply and flood control.

Disadvantages of Hydro-electric dam:

Dams are extremely expensive to build and must be built to a very high standard.

• The high cost of dam construction means that they must operate for many decades to become profitable.

• The flooding of large areas of land means that the natural environment is destroyed.

• People living in villages and towns that are in the valley to be flooded, must move out. This means that they lose their farms and businesses. In some countries, people are forcibly removed so that hydro-power schemes can go ahead.

• The building of large dams can cause serious geological damage. For example, the building of the Hoover Dam in the USA triggered a number of earth quakes and has depressed the earth's surface at its location.

• Although modern planning and design of dams is good, in the past old dams have been known to be breached (the dam gives under the weight of water in the lake). This has led to deaths and flooding.

• Dams built blocking the progress of a river in one country usually means that the water supply from the same river in the following country is out of their control. This can lead to serious problems between neighboring countries.

• Building a large dam alters the natural water table level. For example, the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt has altered the level of the water table. This is slowly leading to damage of many of its ancient monuments as salts and destructive minerals are deposited in the stone work from 'rising damp' caused by the changing water table level

• Hydro power dams can damage the surrounding environment and alter the quality of the water by creating low dissolved oxygen levels, which impacts fish and the surrounding ecosystems. They also take up a great deal of space and can impose on animal, plant, and even human environments.

• Fish populations can be impacted if fish cannot migrate upstream past impoundments dams to spawning grounds or if they cannot migrate downstream to the ocean. Upstream fish passage can be aided using fish ladders or elevators, or by trapping and hauling the fish upstream by truck. Downstream fish passage is aided by diverting fish from turbine intakes using screens or racks or even underwater lights and sounds, and by maintaining a minimum spill flow past the turbine.

• Hydro power can impact water quality and flow. Hydro power plants can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in the water, a problem that is harmful to riparian (riverbank) habitats and is addressed using various aeration techniques, which oxygenate the water. Maintaining minimum flows of water downstream of a hydro power installation is also critical for the survival of riparian habitats.

• Hydro power plants can be impacted by drought. When water is not available, the hydro power plants can't produce electricity.

• New hydro power facilities impact the local environment and may compete with other uses for the land. Those alternative uses may be more highly valued than electricity generation. Humans, flora, and fauna may lose their natural habitat. Local cultures and historical sites may be flooded. Some older hydro power facilities may have historic value, so renovations of these facilities must also be sensitive to such preservation concerns and to impacts on plant and animal life.

• By 2020, it is projected that the percentage of power obtained from hydro power dams will decrease to around four percent because no new plants are in the works, and because more money is being invested in other alternative energy sources such as solar power and wind power.

It is also important to note that the people of Bangladesh have been suffering from numerous environmental disasters created by Farakka, Teesta and other dams/barrages in the common rivers of Bangladesh and India. Please see the problems listed in the article “Construction of Tipaimukh dam and lessons from the Farakka, Teesta dams/barrages in India, and Marmot dam in Oregon, USA�(

How can the people of Bangladesh trust that India's Tipaimukh dam will not do any harm to the people of Bangladesh when they have been suffering from numerous environmental disasters for the last 35 years from these dams/barrages built by India? What reason do we have to believe that this dam is any different the numerous other dams which have deteriorated the Bangladesh government? Should the govt. of India not help Bangladesh to solve these problems on their own cost since their careless and miscalculated action created numerous environmental problems in the first place? India's continual construction of dams/barrages in the common rivers of Bangladesh and India violate international law regarding common rivers and threaten the liberty and safety of the people of Bangladesh.

If the govt. of India is not aware of the environmental disasters in Bangladesh caused by Farakka, Teesta and other dams/barrages built by India, then the govt. of India will be welcome to conduct a joint investigation with the Bangladesh govt. to determine the impacts of these dams/barrages and solutions to these problems in Bangladesh. If India perceives Bangladesh as a true ally and supports the well being of its neighbor, the govt. of India should prove their support through action. India's lack of solving environmental problems created by dams and barrages they created, will only lead Bangladesh to find new partners in the region for solving these problems and protecting other national interests of Bangladesh and oppose the actions of the government. The govt. of India should anticipate the environmental implications of their dam construction and abandon the unwise and risky Tipaimukh hydro-electric project to maintain a healthy and mutual cooperation for building and maintaining a prosperous future for all.


Meer Husain, P.G.
Environmental Geologist
Kansas Dept. of Health & Environment
Adjunct Faculty-Cowley County Community College
Team Leader-WATC International Arsenic, Water, Ecosystem and Environment Research Center
Wichita, Kansas, USA.
E Mail :

Monday, June 29, 2009

Stop Tipaimukh Dam by Meer Husain

The Indian High Comissioner Mr. Pinak Chakraborty has recently reiterated that the Tipaimukh dam is hydro-electric multi-purpose project to produce electricity and that water will not be diverted for irrigation purpose. He is strongly and boldly saying that this project will not cause any environmental, agricultural and economic disasters in Bangladesh.We strongly disagree with Mr. Chakraborty and believe that the Tipaimukh dam will cause numerous problems in Bangladesh.

This dam will also cause severe social instabilities and political problems in Bangladesh. This is a national issue and a life and death problem for the Bangladeshi nation. Therefore, the govt. and the people of Bangladesh should carefully analyze and review the project.

We fully disagree with Mr. Chakraborty's above statement because hydro-electric dams cause numerous problems and in the geo-political context of Bangladesh, the Tipaimukh dam will certainly cause various environmental problems.

What are the major problems usually associated with hydro-electric projects? has listed the following environmental problems that are usually associated with the hydro-electric project and these problems are well documented problems that arise in many hydro-electric projects around the world.

1. The flooding of large areas of land means that the natural environment is destroyed.

Can Mr. Chakraborty present sound data proving that the Tipaimukh dam will not destroy the natural environment in Bangladesh and the state of Manipur in India? We would like an explanation of how much land will be affected in both countries and how the govt. of India could protect the natural environment in the affected regions from the Tipaimukh dam.

2. People living in villages and towns that are in the valley to be flooded, must move out. This means that they lose their farms and businesses. In some countries, people are forcibly removed so that hydro-power schemes can go ahead.

Can Mr. Chakraborty present data explaining how many people will be moved out of their homes due to the construction of the dam, what the total cost of property damage would be and how they would be rehabilitated?

3. The building of large dams can cause serious geological damage. For example, the building of the Hoover Dam in the USA triggered a number of earth quakes and has depressed the earth's surface at its location.

The Tipaimukh dam is located in a potential and proven earthquake zone (earthquake of 1887, and 1950, magnitude of 8.0 +) and there is a strong possibility that the dam and the tectonic activities in this area may trigger strong earthquakes at any time. The earthquakes will cause severe flash floods, property damage and loss of human life. Can Mr. Chakraborty present a map of possible future earthquake affected regions in the Tipaimukh vicinity? How may people will be affected by earthquakes and floods in the affected area and what would be the total economic loss? What type of emergency response plan for both dry and wet seasons have they developed to protect the people and property if earthquakes occur?

5. Dams built blocking the progress of a river in one country usually means that the water supply from the same river in the following country is out of their control. This can lead to serious problems between neighboring countries.

The govt. of India will fully control the water and Tipaimukh project. There is a strong possibility that in the future, India may deprive Bangladesh from fair sharing of water. What kind of assurance is the Indian government giving to Bangladesh confirming that India will not divert water and that the current natural stream flow will be maintained?

6. Building a large dam alters the natural water table level. For example, the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt has altered the level of the water table. This is slowly leading to damage of many of its ancient monuments as salts and destructive minerals are deposited in the stone work from 'rising damp' caused by the changing water table level.

Does the Indian government have the capacity to prove that the water table will not be severely affected in Bangladesh once the dam is constructed? The fluctuation of the water table warrants an explanation based on detailed past and present meteorological,hydrological and hydrogeological data in the affected areas in Bangladesh.

7. Hydro power dams can damage the surrounding environment and alter the quality of the water by creating low dissolved oxygen levels, which impacts fish and the surrounding ecosystems. They also take up a great deal of space and can impose on animal, plant, and even human environments.

Please explain with sound geological, biological and geochemical data, what type of preventive measures you have developed to control the the above mentioned problems.

8. Fish populations can be impacted if fish cannot migrate upstream past impoundments dams to spawning grounds or if they cannot migrate downstream to the ocean. Upstream fish passage can be aided using fish ladders or elevators, or by trapping and hauling the fish upstream by truck. Downstream fish passage is aided by diverting fish from turbine intakes using screens or racks or even underwater lights and sounds, and by maintaining a minimum spill flow past the turbine.

What type of plan has the govt. of India developed to protect the fish population? It is important to note that fish is the main nutrient in the affected regions of Bangladesh and the people of the Surma and Meghna basins have been eating fish as a main nutrient for thousands of years. Does Mr. Chakraborty have any data and evidence proving that the people of these regions will not be deprived from fish due to the construction and maintenance of the Tipaimukh dam? Please explain in detail the implications of the dam's construction in respect to the fish habitats based on scientific data.

9. Hydro power can impact water quality and flow. Hydro power plants can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in the water, a problem that is harmful to riparian (riverbank) habitats and is addressed using various aeration techniques, which oxygenate the water. Maintaining minimum flows of water downstream of a hydro power installation is also critical for the survival of riparian habitats.

Mr. Chakraborty how would you maintain the water quality and proper flow in the affected rivers in Bangladesh? Please present a pre Farakka and post Farakka (based on recent groundwater level data) hydrogeological map of Surma and Meghna basins and pre and post Farakka river water discharge data (both wet and dry season) of the common rivers of Bangladesh and India as well as precipitation data.

Mr. Chakraborty and the govt. of India should seriously think about these issues before constructing the dam. Millions of of people of the Surma and Meghna basins will be severely affected if India fails to maintain the current river flow and natural environment. The Bangladeshi people have been suffering from numerous problems for the last 35 years because of Farakka, Teesta and other dams. The river waters are the main source of food of these people and they have been enjoying these natural resources for thousands of years. If India fails to maintain the natural environment of these rivers then there will be severe environmental problems and social unrest. That's why we are requesting that the scholars, scientists, engineers, environmentalists, politicians, policymakers, and social scientists of India and Bangladesh reevaluate the project.

Mr. Chakraborty also stated that “No international law can stop Tipaimukh dam.” I would like to inform Mr. Chakraborty that India is an advantageous location for constructing the dam and as a result it is easy for him to make this type of unfair statement. I think if Mr. Chakraborty and the govt. of India seriously evaluate the above mentioned problems, they will find that the disadvantages of the Tipaimukh dam outweigh any benefits and will negatively affect the millions of people of Bangladesh and India. These concerns provide legitimate reasons to stop constructing the Tipaimukh dam and if Mr. Chakraborty heeds our call, no international law will be required to prevent the dam from harming Bangladesh.

I would like to inform Mr. Chakraborty and other proponents of the Tipaimukh dam that the People's Republic of China is planning to build a hydro-electric and water diversion dam in the Bramhaputra river. The construction and commission of this dam will cause severe problems for the people of both Bangladesh and the eastern part of India. Is there any international law that can stop China if they choose to build the dam? Is India capable of stopping China by force if they choose to build the dam? Does Mr. Chakraborty understand how the people of eastern India would suffer if China were to build a dam in the Bramhaputra river? If Mr. Chakraborty understands the environmental disasters of the Bramhaputra hydro-electric project in India, then he should also understand the environmental disasters of the Tipaimukh dam in Bangladesh.

Dr. Siddiqui and Mr. Rahman in their posts in NFB mentioned our theory regarding the cause of arsenic disaster in Bangladesh. If the govt. of India and Bangladesh want to know how the Farakka, Teesta and other dams and barrages created the arsenic disaster in Bangladesh, we will be happy to provide them with an explanation. Thousands of people are suffering from numerous arsenic related diseases and crops and food are being contaminated with arsenic tainted irrigation water. On the other hand, the improper disposal of arsenic waste from the arsenic removal filters and treatment units is causing and will cause severe environmental problems in Bangladesh. If India did not harvest river waters from the common rivers of Bangladesh and India, Bangladesh would not face arsenic and other environmental problems that they are facing today.

In order to maintain a healthy natural, cultural, social and economic environment in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Burma and China etc., these countries need to work together and help each other in all critical issues. The Prime minister Sheikh Hasina should form a unbiased, strong, knowledgeable and experienced team to address the Tipaimukh dam and other environmental disasters created in Bangladesh by Farakka, Teesta and other dams/barrages. The Bangladesh govt. should share these problems with the govt. of India and the Indian govt. should throughly examine these problems and take initiatives to mitigate the problems. She may also consult these issues with international experts from the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Nepal, China, Middle east and other nations to further address these problems.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is the chief executive of Bangladesh. In order to protect the people of Bangladesh and India from the environmental disasters of dams such as Tipaimukh and Bramhamaputra, the prime minister should take immediate steps to visit both India and China to stop the construction of Tipaimukh and Baramhaputra hydro-electric projects. She should also submit a report to them regarding the environmental and economic disasters caused by Farakka, Teessta and other dams/barrages which will help these countries to reevaluate the construction of the Tipaimukh and Bramhaputra hydro-electric projects and maintain a natural and healthy environment in Bangladesh and India.


Meer Husain, P.G.
Environmental geologist
Kansas Dept. of Health & Environment
Team Leader-WATC International Arsenic, Water, Ecosystem and Environment Research Center,
Wichita, Kansas, USA.
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Monday, June 8, 2009

Construction of Tipaimukh Dam and Lessons from the Farraka, Teesta & other Dams/Barrages in India, and Darmot Dam in Oregon, USA.

Construction of Tipaimukh Dam and Lessons from the Farraka, Teesta & other Dams/Barrages in India, and Darmot Dam in Oregon, USA

By Meer Husain, USA.

From Farakka to Tipaimukh – the Dams that Kill

From Farakka to Tipaimukh – the Dams that Kill
Habib Siddiqui

In recent days, Bangladesh seems to have wakened up to the danger posed by construction of the Tipaimukh Dam in the neighboring Manipur state of India. There are some in Bangladesh who have a habit of translating national issues of this kind into deplorable partisanship thereby fostering disunity when national unity is needed. In so doing they commit acts of treason.
In what follows before delving into the Tipaimukh project I would like to share some facts surrounding the Farakka Barrage. Although the construction of the Farakka Barrage was completed during the Mujib rule in 1974-5, the decision to build this dam can be traced back to 1951. In those days, hydroelectric dams were popular methods to generating electric power. India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan planned on building hundreds of hydropower dams from rivers that flowed down from the Himalayas. The Farakka dam was built to divert water from the Ganges River into the Hooghly River during the dry season (January to June), in order to flush out the accumulating silt which in the 1950s and 1960s was a problem at the major port of Kolkata on the Hooghly River. A series of negotiations between the Pakistani and Indian governments failed to persuade India into abandoning the Farakka project. The World Bank, the I.M.F and other international financial institutions financed the project. So, one wonders how could Sk. Mujib be blamed for the Farakka Barrage!
After Bangladesh’s independence the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission met over 90 times to discuss the Farakka Barrage issue, but without any results. The Bangladesh team was headed by Mr. B. M. Abbas. In April 1975, Bangladesh agreed to a trial operation of the Farakka Barrage for a period of 41 days from April 21 to May 31, 1975 to divert 11,000-16,000 cfs (cusecs) with the understanding that India will not operate feeder canal until a final agreement was reached between India and Bangladesh on the sharing of Ganges water. Bangladesh was assured of getting 40,000 cusecs during the dry season.
Unfortunately, soon after Sk. Mujib’s assassination in August 15, 1975, taking advantage of the political change in Bangladesh, India violated the agreement (MOU) by cheating and diverting the full capacity of 40,000 cusecs unilaterally. The matter was brought to the attention of U.N. General Assembly, which on November 26, 1976 adopted a consensus statement directing the parties to arrive at a fair and expeditious settlement. On November 5, 1977 the Ganges Waters Agreement was signed, assuring 34,500 cusecs for Bangladesh. The five-year treaty expired in 1982 and after several shorter extensions lapsed entirely in 1989. The JRC statistics shows very clearly that Bangladesh did not get her due share during all those years (1977-91). There was no improvement of the situation during the first Khaleda Zia Administration (1991-96) with average water share reduced to 10,000 to 12,000 cusecs, with one extreme event of only 9,000 cusecs, during the dry season.
After Sk. Hasina was elected Prime Minister, she visited India and signed a treaty with her counterpart Deve Gowda on Dec. 12, 1996. The Treaty addressed the heart of the conflict: water allocation (35,000 cusecs) during the five months of the dry season (January-May – see the Table below). During the rest of the year, there is sufficient water that India can operate the Farakka diversion without creating problems for Bangladesh. The treaty stipulated that below a certain flow rate, India and Bangladesh will each share half of the water. Above a certain limit, Bangladesh will be guaranteed a certain minimum level, and if the water flow exceeds a given limit, India will withdraw a given amount, and the balance will be received by Bangladesh (which will be more than 50%).

Period Average India's Share BD's Share

flow (cusecs) (cusecs)




1-10 107,516 40,000 67,516

11-20 97,673 40,000 57,673

21-31 90,154 40,000 50,154


1-10 86,323 40,000 46,323

11-20 82,839 40,000 42,839

21-30 79,106 40,000 39,106


1-10 74,419 39,419 35,000

11-20 68,931 33,931 35,000

21-31 64,688 35,000 29,688


1-10 63,180 28,180 35,000

11-20 62,633 35,000 27,633

21-30 60,992 25,992 35,000


1-10 67,251 35,000 32,351

11-20 73,590 38,590 35,000

21-31 81,834 40,000 41,854

The statement of Mr. I.K. Gujral, External Affairs Minister in the Rajya Sabha on December 12, 1996 on the visit of Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh to India and the signing of the treaty on the sharing of Ganges water at Farakka reads: “[D]uring the critical period within the lean season, i.e. from March 1 to May 10, India and Bangladesh each shall receive a guaranteed flow of 35,000 cusecs of water in an alternating sequence of three 10-day periods each. This is aimed at meeting the fundamental requirements of both our countries through a just and reasonable sharing of the burden of shortage. The Treaty also has the merit of being a long-term arrangement combined with scope for reviews at shorter intervals to study the impact of the sharing formula and to make needed adjustments. While the Treaty will be for 30 years and renewable on mutual consent, there is a provision of mandatory reviews at the end of 5 years and even earlier after 2 years with provisions for adjustments as required. Pending a fresh understanding after the review stage, Bangladesh would continue to receive 90% of its share in accordance with the new formula. We would thus avoid a situation where there is no agreement on the sharing of the Ganga waters between India and Bangladesh… As the House would recall, we have already taken initiatives in the commercial sphere by extending tariff concessions to Bangladesh on a range of products of export interest to them. We propose to extend commercial credits of Rs. 1 billion to enhance trade relations further.”

In the light of the above facts, it is difficult to sustain accusations that the 1996 Treaty went against the interest of Bangladesh, becoming a fait accompli. I have never heard an intelligent person say that a treaty signed with the aim of getting fair and equitable share is worse than not having one. Was the 1977-treaty silly, too? More outrageous is the implied assertion by some that the AL government that had ruled only five years in the post-Mujib era of 34 years is solely to be blamed for all the maladies facing Bangladesh today, including the Tipaimukh Dam, soon to be constructed by India.
It is true though that India had not kept her side of the bargain since signing of the treaty. The Joint River Commission (JRC) statistics, as quoted by Syful Islam in the New Nation, March 9, 2009, shows that in 1999 Bangladesh got 1,033 cusecs of water at Teesta barrage point against its normal requirements of 10,000 cusecs of water. After JRC meeting in 2000 the water flow rose to 4,530 cusecs, in January 2001 it reduced to 1406 cusecs, in January 2002 to 1,000 cusecs, in January 2003 to 1,100 cusecs, in November 2006 to 950 cusecs, in January 2007 to 525 cusecs and in January 2008 to 1,500 cusecs.
India’s behavior mimics those of Israel in dishonoring every treaty that the rogue state had signed with the Palestinian Authority. Should not she be ashamed of her iniquity?
Let’s now look at the disastrous effect of the Farakka Barrage on Bangladesh. The immediate effects have been (1) reduction in agricultural products due to insufficient water for irrigation; (2) reduction in aquatic population; (3) river transportation problems during dry season; (4) increased salinity threatening crops, animal life drinking water, and industrial activities in southwest Bangladesh. The long term effects, which are already being felt, include: (a) one fourth of the fertile agricultural land will become wasteland due to a shortage of water; (b) thirty million lives are affected through environmental and economical ruin; (c) an estimated annual economic loss of over half a billion dollars in agricultural, fisheries, navigation and industries; (d) frequent flooding due to environmental imbalance and changes in the natural flow of the Ganges. A BSS report of 2004 stated that over 80 rivers of the country dried up during last three decades due to the construction of the Farakka barrage on the Indian side of the river Ganges.
Bridge and Husain, researchers in Kansas, USA, have identified Farakka as the root cause behind arsenic poisoning with groundwater in Bangladesh and West Bengal State of India.
As to its impact in India, the South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), report (Nov. 1999) to the World Commission on Dams is quite revealing. It says, “Farakka Barrage Project taken up for the resuscitation of the navigational status of the Port of Calcutta has resulted in massive devastation in Malda on its upstream and Murshidabad on its downstream in West Bengal. Huge sedimentation, increasing flood intensity and increasing tendency of bank failure are some of its impacts. Erosion has swept away large areas of these two districts causing large scale population displacement, border disputes with Bihar and Bangladesh, pauperization and marginalisation of the rural communities living by the river and creation of neo-refugees on the chars.”
So, it is clear that even the supposed beneficiary - the state of West Bengal - did not benefit from the project. Farakka Barrage has rightly been termed by some environmentalists as the greatest man-made eco-disaster of our time. If we had imagined Farakka was the last of such criminal calamities imposed on Bangladesh, we are wrong.
Syful Islam mentions about a study conducted by the “International Rivers”, a U.S.-based NGO that protects rivers and defends the rights of communities, which revealed that India had already built 74 dams, Nepal 15, Pakistan 6 and Bhutan 5 in the Himalayan region in the recent years. It also found that 37 Indian, 7 Pakistani and 2 Nepalese dams were under construction in that area. The study also identified that India had planned to build 318 dams, Nepal 37, Pakistan 35 and Bhutan 16 to add over 1,50,000 MW of additional electricity capacity in the next 20 years. With 4,300 large dams already constructed and many more in the pipeline, India is one of the world's most prolific dam-builders. India is committed to building more than 100 dams in eight states of the north-east corner alone.
If these numbers are true, it is important that the current government issues a white paper disclosing actions taken, if any, by past and present governments to stop India from such projects that are going to be built on international rivers harming Bangladesh.
Let’s now look at Tipaimukh. Manipur needs about 140 MW of power to fulfill the unrestricted demand at the peak hours (1700 hrs to 2200 hrs). The total availability of power from all the Central Sector plants located in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura comes to around 105 MW. The Tipaimukh Dam plan, built on the river Barak, which bifurcates into two streams as it enters Bangladesh as the rivers Surma and Kushiara, has been on the drawing board for nearly 40 years. According to the implementing agency, North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), this 390-meter-long, 163-meterhigh dam would have an installed capacity of 1,500 MW. As a multipurpose project, the dam also aims at flood moderation, improving navigation, irrigation and aquaculture in the region. Efforts were made in the past to get the World Bank or JBIC (a Japanese development bank) to back the project, but their involvement is still elusive. It is costing India Rs. 6,800 crore — an escalation from the earlier estimated expenditure of Rs 5,163 crore. The foundation stone of the Tipaimukh project was laid by India’s Union minister for industries and Cachar’s representative in the Lok Sabha, Sontosh Mohan Dev, along with other central ministers, on December 16, 2006. According to a NEEPCO source there, the work in January of 2007 mainly dealt with underground drilling at the reservoir site of the project. The Brahmaputra Board, a wing of the Union water resources ministry, drilled those sites in 1997.
The proposed dam is unpopular in the Manipur State where it is being constructed. Experts there have rightly termed it a geo-tectonic blunder of international dimensions. The Indian government's decision to construct the Tipaimukh Dam in the North-east India is not only arrogant it is criminal to the core. It will have lasting devastating impact in the entire region. It will adversely affect millions of Bangladeshis living down south in the north-east corner of the country, weakening their means of livelihood, forcing them to become internally displaced people, and thereby worsening Bangladesh's overall economy. It will harm bilateral relationship between the two neighboring countries. Bangladeshi people have already suffered miserably from the Farakka Barrage and cannot afford to see another one built to threaten them.
Our experience in the past fifty years has also taught us that humanity has brought more harm than good by challenging the natural course of rivers. Man-made systems like hydroelectric dams have failed to wipe out famine and hunger. More people have become poor than rich, which often time is concentrated amongst the very few that are involved with construction project. As Arundhati Roy has once said about dams, “They're a guaranteed way of taking a farmer's wisdom away from him. They're a brazen means of taking water, land and irrigation away from the poor and gifting it to the rich. Their reservoirs displace huge populations of people, leaving them homeless and destitute. Ecologically, they're in the doghouse. They lay the earth to waste. They cause floods, water-logging, salinity, they spread disease. There is mounting evidence that links Big Dams to earthquakes.”
What really concerned me most is the stupidity of the Indian government decision to go ahead with hydroelectric dams to meet her electric demand. This decision seems too short-sighted, too irresponsible, and can only antagonize people on either sides of the border. If India cares about meeting energy needs in the north-eastern corner she would better serve the interest of her people by choosing the nuclear alternative. India has several nuclear power plants that are operating in various parts of India. It is inconceivable that she cannot afford to build one extra plant in the north-east corner of the country to meet her energy demand.
Again, I want to know: what did the previous administrations in Bangladesh do about this dam? How is the new government planning to deal with this issue? What can conscientious human beings of our planet do to stop India from building dams that kill people?
As hinted earlier, the very people targeted for drawing the benefits of the Tipaimukh dam living in the Manipur State had long been fighting a losing battle to stop this project. It is highly unlikely that demonstrations and protests inside Bangladesh would push India to abandon the project now, esp. after spending hundreds of crores of Rupees in front end loading (FEL) activities.
While we are critical of Indian government’s decision to construct dams that produce devastating results affecting tens of millions of people, we have to be self-critical of our own failure to bring world attention to the gargantuan harm that India’s Farakka has already brought upon Bangladesh. If we had succeeded in that endeavor, India today wouldn’t be building the Tipaimukh dam. Whether we like it or not, we must realize that self-interest rules the day. In our world, there are no permanent friends or enemies. We are continuously reminded that what is permanent is self-interest and that has to be pursued vigorously. That says a lot about moral bankruptcy of a world that we live in and share with our neighbors in which might is increasingly becoming right, and the powerless has no effective means to fight against powerful enemies and nations that prey upon them.
At this stage, what actions and programs are meaningful for Bangladesh? Can India be persuaded to abandon dam projects on international rivers in favor of alternative options for energy need? Given India’s long history of dishonoring her agreements on Farakka with Bangladesh, can she be trusted for keeping any new promise? Are the UN and/or the ICJ only options Bangladesh has to redress her grievances?

template=kshow&kid=691; Barrister Harun ur Rashid, The Daily Star, January 05, 2005.
See this author’s article offering an alternative recommendation for India:

Indian Government’s intention to construct the Tipaimukh Dam is criminal

Indian Government’s intention to construct the Tipaimukh Dam is criminal
Habib Siddiqui

Anyone who has visited a hydroelectric power facility knows that there is tremendous ecological impact felt on either side of the dam. One side gets flooded while the other side only sees trickling water flowing downstream, unless sluice gates are opened periodically to release and control water flow. If the flow of water is managed solely by a hostile government such can create a devastating effect on the surrounding territories, especially those living in the downstream of the river. Such a unilateral decision to construct a dam is criminal when the river is international with its water flowing through multiple countries, i.e., not limited to the country of origin.

In the 1940s and '50s many hydroelectric dams were built in the western world to produce cheap electricity. However, with time many developed countries have abandoned the process altogether and moved into more safer and environment-friendly alternatives. Nuclear technology has become one such alternative to address growing energy demand.

Unfortunately, as with almost any new technology these days, the western world has a monopoly in the nuclear technology also. Thus, while these countries know about the devastating effect of fossil fuels to our atmosphere and the grave ecological impact of hydroelectric power generation plants, they are not willing to transfer the much-needed environment-friendly nuclear technology to technologically weaker countries. Not only that as we have seen even when a developing country like Iran likes to pursue this technology to meet its growing energy needs, let alone ensuring a cleaner atmosphere, they are barred entry into the caste-ridden nuclear club. [See this author's article on "Letter from America - Obama, Israel and Iran" or "Will Obama Capitulate to Netanyahu" - for a discussion on why the USA, in particular, is against Iran's pursuit of nuclear energy.]

Suspicion runs so deep among these paranoid nuclear-Brahmins that they think that one day the untouchable nomo-Sudras will take revenge upon them, let alone demand the same Brahmin status. And this they can't allow by hook or crook. As a result of this tug of war, there has not been much progress to either technology transfer or lowering of the green-house effect. Consequently, more vulnerable countries like Bangladesh are forced to deal with devastating effect of global climate change. To these low lying countries, natural calamites like the Sidr and the Aila are now becoming regular yearly features to deal with! Experts tell us that by the middle of this century, Bangladesh will have 30 million people that will be uprooted from their homes in the coastal areas requiring relocation elsewhere. They will add to the misery of the country.

In the last several years, populous countries like India and China that have already joined the nuclear club, and yet feel that they are looked down as the nomo-Sudras by the traditional blue-eyed, white nuclear-Brahmins, have tried to extract some advantage in the form of technology transfer by promising reduction in carbon emission; but not always successfully. And as far as the real untouchables are concerned - countries that have failed to join the nuclear-club yet - there is not much that they can bargain for. They are simply ignored. And worse yet, their worst nightmares are the former nomo-Sudras like India.

Indian government's desire to construct the Tipaimukh Dam in the North-east India is not only arrogant it is criminal to the core. It will have lasting devastating impact in the entire region. It will adversely affect millions of Bangladeshis living down south in the north-east corner of the country, weakening their means of livelihood, forcing them to become internally displaced people, and thereby worsening Bangladesh's overall economy. It will harm bilateral relationship between the two neighboring countries. Bangladeshi people have already suffered miserably from the Farrakah Barrage and cannot afford to see another one built to threaten them. The proposed dam is also unpopular in the Manipur State where it is being constructed. Experts there have rightly termed it a geo-tectonic blunder of international dimensions.

The Indian government decision seems too short-sighted and can only antagonize people on either sides of the border. If India cares about meeting energy needs in the north-eastern corner she would better serve the interest of her people by choosing the nuclear alternative.

India has several nuclear power plants that are operating in various parts of India. It is inconceivable that she cannot afford to build one extra plant in the north-east corner of the country to meet her energy demand.

Reference: Ref:;