Tipaimukh Dam is not an isolated project;
it is part of a comprehensive plan regarding use of rivers that India shares
with Bangladesh, and hence needs to be viewed in the broader context of sharing
of international rivers by these two countries;
2. In general India has
been using its upper riparian position and its economic and financial strength
to take unilateral steps with
regard to the flow of these international rivers;
3. Most of these unilateral steps have been of diversionary
character, diverting the flow of water to other destinations inside India and
thus reducing the flow of water into the rivers of Bangladesh.
Glaring example of such diversionary interventions are the Farakka Barrage on
the Ganges and
the Gozaldoba Barrages on the Teesta.
The Farakka diversion has drastically reduced the flow of Padma,
drying up south-western Bangladesh.
Gozaldoba barrages on the other hand have drastically reduced the flow of Teesta
4. The diversionary projects of India go against
the international norms regarding
sharing of international rivers. In particular they violate Bangladeshís
right to prior and customary use of
the river water. The entire economy and life in Bangladesh have
evolved on the basis of the rivers. Any major change in the volume and direction
of flow of these rivers seriously disrupt the economy and livelihood in Bangladesh;
5. There is a pent up emotion
among Bangladesh public against Indiaís
unilateral river intervention projects. They perceive Farakka as unjust.
Similarly, they perceive Gozaldoba and other intervention projects as unjust and
as proof of Indiaís
hubris. These unilateral river intervention projects are a thorn in the
Bangladesh-India bilateral relationship, which should be not only good
neighborly and mutually beneficial, but also particularly warm given Indiaís
crucial help in Bangladeshís
6. After many years of hiatus, in 1996 Bangladesh and India signed
the Ganges Water Treaty specifying
the sharing of the Ganges water
at Farakka. Though Article 10 (?) of this Treaty enjoins India not
to undertake intervention project in international rivers unilaterally, India in
practice has not shown much respect to this provision of the Treaty. Instead, it
is proceeding on a more or less unilateral basis with many major intervention
projects in rivers shared by Bangladesh.
7. Tipai is one such unilateral
intervention project to
be undertaken on the Barak river
that flows into Bangladesh from India.
Not only that India did
consent and cooperation at the stage of conception and designing of this
project, it went all the way to floating international tender inviting bids for
construction of the project without sharing the DPR (Detailed Project Report).
Only now (in May 2009), when the news of construction of Tipai has generated a
lot of civic protest in Bangladesh,
the Government of India (GoI) has apparently sent to Bangladesh foreign
ministry some information about Tipai;
8. The Government of Bangladesh (GoB)
has proved to be ineffective in dealing with India with
regard to Tipai, as it is generally true with regard to sharing of rivers in
general. The GoB did not take up the Tipai issue seriously with India in
time. The parties who are in opposition now did not play their expected role
when they were in power during 2001-2006, the period when India moved
Tipai from conception to implementation stage;
9. Even now, various ministers are giving out contradictory messages, with the
water minister often saying that Tipai can be beneficial for Bangladesh.
When the Prime Minister has told that Bangladesh reserves
its right to express opinion on Tipai on the basis of the finding of the fact
finding mission of the Bangladesh Parliamentary delegation, such preemptive
statements on the part of the water minister are not warranted. The government
is yet to make public the information on Tipai that it has received from India;
10. The GoB has decided to send an all Party delegation to visit Tipai site,
look into all the information, and make recommendation;
11. There is the possibility that the Tipai dam with its reservoir can be
helpful in stabilizing the Barak flow across seasons, as has been pointed out by
some water experts and also has been the basis for water ministerís statements.
First, Bangladesh does
not yet have the necessary facts to assess the changes in Barak flow that Tipai
will bring about.
Second, dams can also be a source of destabilization of river flow, not only in
the extreme situation of dam break, but in the often recurring situation when
the excess water needs to be released in order to protect the Dam leading to
unseasonal floods or floods of unusual depth and extent. For example, the
unusual 2008 floods in Bihar were
caused by such release of water by the dams that India has
constructed in the Ganges tributaries
near the border with Nepal.
Third, rivers not only bring water, they also bring in sediments, and
sedimentation is an important part of Bangladesh as
a delta. One major impact of Tipai will be on the sediment volume of the Barak
flow, and this impact is likely to be detrimental for Bangladesh.
Fourth, for Bangladesh to
benefit from stabilization of Barak flow, it has to have a say or control over
the release of water at Tipai. In other words Tipai should then be put under
joint control of India and Bangladesh.
As of now, Tipai will be totally under Indian control and the water release
decisions will be made by India on
a unilateral basis. Hence, Bangladesh will
be always at the mercy of Indians operating the sluice gates at Tipai. Such a
helpless situation is not in Bangladeshís
Fifth, Bangladesh has
to assess the costs and benefits for her economy the seasonal changes in the
Barak flow that Tipai will bring about. For example, current Boro is the main
crop for many in the Surma-Kushiara basin. It is cultivated in the haors or
other low lying areas which become dry due to the low winter flows of the
rivers. If now the low winter flows increase due to Tipai, cultivation of Boro
may become impossible in many areas, disrupting the economy and livelihood. Will
these losses be offset by gains in other respects? Studies are needed to answer
Sixth, apart from economy there is the issue of ecology to consider. The
ecology, flora, and fauna of the Surma-Kushiara basin have developed on the
basis of a certain seasonal pattern of the river flow, and this is going to get
disrupted by major changes in the flow. Detailed studies are necessary to gauge
All these reasons cast considerable doubt about the arguments favoring Tipai on
the basis of its potential to stabilize Barak flow across seasons.
12. Tipai project cannot be separated from the other project in the offing,
namely the Fulertal barrage project, meant to divert Barak water for irrigation
of Kachar area inAssam.
The fact that Tipai will cost about $1.8 billion making the cost of per unit
power generated irrational. Such irrational expenditure can be justified only if
Tipai is viewed jointly with water diversionary project at Fulertal or some
other point. Combined with such diversionary project, Tipai is completely
unacceptable to Bangladesh.
In such combination, Tipai-Fulertal will be a repetition of Farakka only now on
the eastern border of Bangladesh.
13. Worldwide experience shows that large scale interventions in the volume and
direction of river flows do not prove to be beneficial in the long run. The
hydro power generated often proves meager and costly. The irrigation carried out
proves wasteful and leads to salinity and deterioration of soil. Meanwhile, the
reservoir submerges huge amount of land, destroying the ecology and displacing
thousands of (often most vulnerable and adibashi) people, destroying their
culture, causing permanent problems of alienation and insurgency. The reservoir
also becomes a sources of methane undercutting the emission reducing
potentiality of hydro-power generated. Dams also destroy the natural rhythm of
the river flow, obstructs the free movement fish stock movement, obstructs the
sediment flow. Finally while these damages prove to the permanent the dams
themselves expire their life, become obsolete due to sedimentation and filling
up of the reservoir, etc. The reservoir and the upstream flow becomes a cesspool
of pollution. The diversionary projects end up harming not only the basin from
which water is withdrawn but also the basin or area to which water is redirected
and transported (at a great cost). The experiences of Amy Darya and Syr
Darya are examples. In
view of all these negative consequences BEN is skeptical about Dams, barrages
and other large scale river intervention projects. BEN is therefore skeptical
about the long term utility of Tipai too (even for India).
14. Many in India are
opposed to Tipai. NEEPCO has been able to purchase the consent of state
government by offering various ďbribes.Ē But many continue to oppose.
15. Worldwide there is a move away from the Commercial Approach to river that
degrades and destroys rivers, increases conflict and animosity among countries
of the river basin, and a move towards the Ecological Approach that preserves
the natural volume and direction of river flow and helps to foster friendly
neighborly relationship among the countries of the river basin. Instead of being
a source of discord, as the case with the Commercial Approach, rivers under
Ecological Approach become a bond of friendship and good neighborliness.
16. World wide there is a move away from unilateral approach toward
multilateral, basin wide approach that includes all countries of a river basin
in decision making regarding the use of the river.
What is it?