The six decade old multipurpose project could not take off due to opposition from the environmentalists and naturalists as well as delayed clearance from the Ministry of Forest and Environment, besides other technical reasons.
The dam to be built at Tipaimukh on the tri junction of Assam, Manipur and Mizoram will not only generate 1500 MW of power but also contain the high floods that hit Barak Valley annually.
The delay has shot up the estimated original cost of the project from Rs 1,500 crore to Rs 7,600 crore. It is to be recollected that of the 65 point agreement signed between the two capitals, Delhi and Dhaka, during the visit of Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, to Bangladesh in September, 2011, one of them related to the construction of Tipaimukh dam, also known as Tipaimukh Hydro Electric Power Project. The Prime Minister then assured that India would not take any steps on the dam that would adversely affect Bangladesh.
But, besides facing opposition in Barak Valley and Manipur, it has also been protested by the socio-political bodies of Bangladesh. The opposition to the dam was led by Tipaimukh Dam Resistance Committee and the Sylhet Division Unnayan Sangram Committee joined by Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamat-e-Islami. From time to time, the protesters marched down to Jakiganj, opposite Karimganj, and warned of the impact on the economic and environmental losses Bangladesh would suffer once the dam came up.
Notwithstanding the opposition at home and across the border, memorandum of understanding was signed among the three states of Manipur, Assam and Mizoram. The Planning Commission approved allocation of Rs 20 crore for infrastructure build up. Even the Centre approved rehabilitation package for 350 tribal families to be affected due to submergence. Following the signing of agreement during the visit of Prime Minister of India, a 15-member Parliamentary delegation from Bangladesh came to inspect and study the dam site. Though they could not land at the site due to bad weather, they gathered the impression that the dam would in no way adversely affect the downstream areas of Bangladesh, particularly Sylhet district. The anti dam activists fear that the dam would affect two rivers, Surma and Kushiara of Bangladesh, 100 km away from Tipaimukh.
The visit of Parliamentary delegation was followed by the visit of a team of journalists from Bangladesh, a few months ago. Ironically, they also could not land at the site. In order to allay the apprehensions and misconceptions about the impact of the dam, the team of experts from both the countries are expected to examine the objections critically with particular focus on the location of the dam in a seismic zone, impact on the catchment areas and upper reaches as well as the downstream habitations, flora and fauna, biodiversity, ecology as well as economy. It has been learned from the Central Water Commission Source, the experts on hydrology, river engineering and system assisted by the water resource and flood control departments of both the countries will try to remove the apprehension which is based mostly on misinformation, it is said. The expert-meet will be an exercise to shift the myth from the reality about the dam based on the data and all the facts.
National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) will construct the dam in a joint venture with Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam. Experts in the Brahmaputra Board which was earlier entrusted with the construction allayed all the apprehensions as baseless and pointed out that the 16.80 lakh cusecs capacity reservoir of the dam would not only contain floods in both the countries but also release enough water during lean season through Barak and its tributaries, Surma and Kushiara. It is hoped that the experts would create the passage for the early start and completion of the project within the time frame of seven years to benefit not only the Northeast but also Bangladesh.