Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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

Ref: http://www.newsfrombangladesh.net/view.php?hidRecord=274285

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: http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/enviornment/manipur-dam-will-not-harm-bangladesh-says-india_100212181.html

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:(http://bangladeshexpatriates.blogspot.com/). 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.

Wikianswer.com 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�(http://bangladeshexpatriates.blogspot.com/).

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 : matribhumi_bd@yahoo.com

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