Sinlung /
08 June 2012

Bangladeshi Scribes' Dam Mission Fails To Take Off

Silchar, Jun 8 : A 10-member group of Bangladeshi journalists, who came here to visit the site of the proposed Rs 9,000-crore Tipaimukh hydroelectricity project at the confluence of the Barak and Tuivai rivers in Manipur, could not complete their objective as the helicopter carrying them couldn't land at Tipaimukh helipad, and not once but on two consecutive days.

The team, led by Bangladesh external affairs publicity wing deputy director Mohhamad Zashimuddin, were staying at a Silchar hotel for the last three days. Before arriving here, the team had visited New Delhi and met Union water resources minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and water resources secretary Dhruv Vijay Singh and were briefed about the project.

On Wednesday, the Indian government flew the journalists' group to the site of the proposed project on an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter from Silchar airport at Kumbhirgram. But the copter could not land at Tipaimukh due to "technical reasons".

On Thursday morning, the Bangla scribes once again expressed their keenness to visit Tipaimukh, situated at a distance of 78 km from here and 100 km from Imphal. But the IAF authorities failed to take them to the spot for the same reasons as the previous day.

"The IAF said that the helipad at Tipaimukh is not fit for landing of the chopper. Therefore, the team could not visit the site," said Ranjan Mandal, media liaison officer of the central ministry of external affairs to TOI on Thursday.

Sources said the Bangladeshi team left Silchar for Dhaka via Kolkata on Thursday afternoon.

In July 2009, a Bangladeshi parliamentary delegation meant to visit the proposed controversial dam on a fact-finding mission met with a similar fate as they could not land on the Tipaimukh helipad. The sources said the Bangladeshi team was on a six-day trip to India with an aim to study the project - an arrangement made by the Dhaka and Delhi governments.

However, the Bangladeshi mediapersons on Wednesday had an opportunity to look at the congruence point of the Barak and Tuivai rivers and the Tipaimukh dam site from 1,200 feet above the ground for over 20 minutes during the 70-minute chopper ride from Silchar airport to the site. They understood that India was yet to make any construction at the proposed site, the sources added.

Meanwhile, the Committee of People and Environment (CPE), a south Assam-based body of environment activists and some anti-dam organizations, on Thursday morning staged a demonstration in front of the hotel in Silchar where the Bangladeshi scribes were staying.

"The demonstration was against the NHPC, which is responsible for construction of the hydroelectric project, and not necessarily against the Bangladeshi journalists," said Pijush Kanti Das, general secretary of CPE. "We demand immediate freezing of the big dam project," he added.

Anti-dam activists allege that if the 163 metre-high dam is built, the Barak and the Kushiara will dry up. Besides, as the site is located just 180 km off the Bangladesh border, the water flow of the River Meghna in the neighbouring country will also be hampered a great deal. This will dry up the 350-km Shurma and 110-km Kushiara. As a result, the northeastern part of Bangladesh will face severe environmental and economic problems.

The dam will have a negative impact on a 9,126-sq km area in the state of Manipur as well. A large number of indigenous communities, mostly the Zeliangrongs and Hmars, will be permanently displaced and deprived of their livelihood.

New Delhi handed the responsibility to implement the project, which was mooted during the 60s, from Neepco to NHPC only to accelerate the work. Although the foundation of the project was laid by the-then Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on December, 15, 2006 amid large-scale protests, the project has witnessed no progress till now.

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