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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