Advantages and Disadvantages of Tipaimukh Dam (A Critical Analysis of Dr. Banu’s Paper) By Prof. Bijon B.

Sarma First Published on Jul 31, 2009 in Source : This piece is written by Prof. Bijon B. Sarma of Khulna University. Bangladesh. The professor has given us personal permission to republish this article. Here he takes a critical look at the so-called research paper of Dr. Banu PREAMBLE : When we write in websites normally we do not write with utmost seriousness, and we know the reason. Even though lapses/problems in languages are acceptable, in the articles on serious science-based subjects, ideas and thoughts by all means should be specific and expression of intelligence. I did not have any intention to review Environmental Geologist (Kansas, USA) Mr. Meer Husain’s article “CONSTRUCTION OF TIPAIMUKH DAM – A THREAT TO THE NATIONAL INTEREST OF BANGLADESH”. I did it because he requested me to go through that. Accordingly I did and published my submission. However, the time I went through his paper I was really shocked to see that a person with such expertise uses “a high-school student’s essay” collected from source like ‘’ in his paper. Then I felt tempted to review Dr Nargis Banu’s article “PROTECT PEOPLE AND NATURE FROM TIPAIMUKH DAM”, posted by the Bangladesh Expatriate Council. Dr. Hasina Banu is an environmental scientist working with Sydney Water Corporation, Australia. It was mentioned that the paper was presented at a seminar at the Australian National University on July 3, 2009. By disclosing this information the writer has given us a scope to know what type of papers are presented in such seminars. This author has experiences of such presentations at home and abroad, including Australia. COMMENTS OF PAPER BY DR. NARGIS BANU 01. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : At the beginning (probably Introduction, where Abstract is missing) Dr. Nargis Banu narrated the background story of Tipaimukh project. Here she mentioned two notable issues: (Quoted). (a) WITH THE CONSTRUCTION OF TIPAIMUKH DAM, INDIA WOULD BE DIVERTING THE BARAK’S WATER FLOW FROM ITS NORTH TO ITS SOUTH AND EAST. IT WILL HAVE ADVERSE IMPACTS ON NATURE AND LIVELIHOOD IN THE NORTH-EASTERN DISTRICTS IN BANGLADESH. (b) NOW INDIA HAS STARTED ANOTHER INTERVENTION ON THE INTERNATIONAL RIVER BARAK AT TIPAIMUKH AND WILL CONSTRUCT A DAM AT FULERTAL (100 KILOMETRES DOWNSTREAM FROM TIPAIMUKH) BY 2012. MY SUBMISSION : The truth is, India initiated construction of a barrage at Fulertal (adjacent to Bangladesh border) long ago and the same has now been abandoned. Now India has proposed for the construction of a dam for the production of hydroelectricity at Tipaimukh, a place located at a distance of over 150 kilometres. Dam and Barrage are two different things. Where as withdrawal of water is the essential objective of barrage, a dam may or may not have such provision. India has already assured that there will be no withdrawal of water. In such a situation a comment like “WITH THE CONSTRUCTION OF TIPAIMUKH DAM, INDIA WOULD BE DIVERTING THE BARAK’S WATER FLOW FROM ITS NORTH TO ITS SOUTH AND EAST” is misleading. And if this statement is wrong, the comment based on it and expressed in the following line i.e. (quoted) “IT WILL HAVE ADVERSE IMPACTS ON NATURE AND LIVELIHOOD IN THE NORTH-EASTERN DISTRICTS IN BANGLADESH” is also wrong.

Those who are aware of the topography, soil condition and climate of Monipur region might know that this region does not really need such diversion of water for irrigation. Let me briefly explain the reason. There may be two prominent reasons of depositing water in the mountains or hills. (a) In the high rocky mountains water is deposited in cavities and on the picks as ice during the winter. In the summer season those melt and flow down. (b) The earth-made hills and mounds get wet during rains and release that water as spring or fall, resulting in small canals (local name “Chhara”). Depending of the size of the mounds, this water may flow throughout the year. While the main source of water in Barak river is the first type, that locally used in Monipur region belongs to the second type. 02. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : The author has given some information to prove that there is probability of severe earthquakes in this region. MY SUBMISSION : It is an established fact that (a) Monipur-Assam-Sylhet zone is highly earthquake prone, (b) Large deposit of water at heights intensifies vibration during earth-quake and (c) Breaking of dam during such hazard would cause havoc. It is obvious that when such a site is found economically feasible and ecologically superior (in comparison with other means of generation of electricity) for a hydro-electric project, the engineers would go for the construction of a safe dam, even if it is costly. In case of breakage of this dam the most affected country will be India due to the following two major reasons : (a) Failure of an extremely expensive project and (b) Catastrophic flooding in the 150 kilometre-stretched land within India. 03. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : The author mentioned (quoted) “THE EXPERT APPRAISAL COMMITTEE OF INDIA REVEALED THAT THE DESIGN OF THE DAM CONTAINS MANY ERRORS, AND OMISSIONS, AND FALLS SHORT OF COMPLIANCE OF STANDARDS SET BY THE SCIENTIFIC AND ACADEMIC COMMUNITY IN INDIA AND THE WORLD”. MY SUBMISSION : The fact is, the design of Tipaimukh dam has not been finalized. No one should wonder about such comments by various corners (like, expert appraisal committee) during the preliminary stage of its preparation. 04. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : (quoted) “INDIA CONDUCTED DETAILED STUDIES, COMPLETED THE FINAL DESIGN AND ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT WITHOUT CONSULTATION WITH BANGLADESH AS A DOWNSTREAM STAKEHOLDER”. MY SUBMISSION : The statement like “COMPLETED THE FINAL DESIGN” is definitely untrue. 05. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : (quoted) “INDIAN GOVERNMENT HAS NOT CLEARLY STATED THE AMOUNTS OF WATER THAT WILL BE STOPPED OR DIVERTED WITH THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE TIPAIMUKH DAM”. MY SUBMISSION : The author’s statement is not only untrue, but also misleading because the Indian government has stated that it would not divert any water. 06. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : (quoted) “THE EROSION JUST DOWNSTREAM OF THE TIPAIMUKH

DAM WOULD BE EXCESSIVELY HIGH AND THIS EROSION WOULD CONTINUE AS LONG AS HUNDRED KILOMETRES DOWNSTREAM OR MORE IN THE SURMA-KUSHIARA SYSTEM”. MY SUBMISSION : This statement is wrong. As a matter of fact, after a dam is constructed, the erosion in the down stream is reduced. Let me explain the reason in brief. Soil erosion among other factors depends upon on the velocity of water. The velocity depends among others on two principal factors : (a) Quantity of water and (b) Inclination (also known as gradient) of flow-path. After the construction of the dam, the flow of water will be less in the lower region during monsoon months (because the dam would reserve additional water) and the same would increase a little during lean period. In fact the flow would never attain the highest level that it had before the construction of the dam. As we mentioned, the flow also depends upon inclination of flow-path. A dam constructed on a river considerably reduces this inclination. The dam in fact utilizes the potential energy (in this case energy stored in water due to gravitational force) of the water in the reservoir. After the water starts its fresh journey from a considerably lower level, it loses degree of inclination. Naturally it loses velocity and eroding capability. 07. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : (quoted) “THE … DEPOSITION …. WILL RAISE THE OVERALL BED LEVEL OF THE RIVERS”. About the affects of silting she commented (01) “… AN EXTREME CASE IT WOULD BLOCK THE MOUTH OF CERTAIN TRIBUTARIES, and (02) “WILL INDUCE THE AVERAGE MONSOON FLOOD TO BECOME MODERATE TO SEVERE FLOOD IN THE SURMAKUSHIARA FLOODPLAIN”. MY SUBMISSION : All these are against the natural rule of science. The fact is, the water carried by the river after the dam would create less siltation because (i) It would erode less due to the reduced velocity of water and (ii) The dam would arrest the entire sedimentation particles coming from above. 08. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : (quoted) “ABOUT 71 PER CENT OF THE UPPER SURMA-KUSHIARA BASIN AREA WOULD NO LONGER BE FLOODED. … THE KUSHIARA-BARDAL HAOR …. WOULD BECOME COMPLETELY DRY. THE KAWARDIGHI HAOR …. LOSE AROUND 2,979 HA (26 PER CENT).”. MY SUBMISSION : If it really happens like it, then the people of this area would think them fortunate to become free from flood hazard and to get new land. 09. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : (quoted) “ … KUSHIARA WOULD CUT ITS CONNECTION WITH ITS RIGHT BANK FLOODPLAIN …… AND THIS PART WILL BECOME ‘RESERVOIR RIVER’ RATHER THAN A MOST VALUABLE ‘FLOODPLAIN RIVER” (prophesy). MY SUBMISSION : If this prophesy is based on the author’s hypothesis of “increased siltation”, then I have explained why it would not take place. However, those who have knowledge of soil structure, inconsistency of river flow etc. of Bangladesh can guess that the new situation might help in straightening the snaking and winding courses of some rivers, thus generating a number of ox-bow lakes. This should be taken as a positive contribution because the more land the rivers would release the better it would be for the country. 10. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : (quoted) “MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE DEPENDENT ON … BARAK FOR AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITIES. THE DAM WOULD CAUSE THE SURMA AND KUSHIARA TO RUN DRY FROM NOVEMBER TO MAY”. MY SUBMISSION : This is a wrong statement. The fact is, release of submerged land due to lower level of water in the rainy season and straightening of rivers may release more land, such that more people may be engaged in agriculture. Before making such a statement the author should have studied the basic principle on

which a dam for hydraulic project works. Let me explain briefly. In hydro-electric project the available height of water in the reservoir above the exit-hole is of extreme importance. For the running of the generators water has to be constantly released from the reservoir. The quantity of power generated is proportional to the height of water in the reservoir. With normal discharge let the height of water during the rainy season is (all arbitrary numbers) say, 100 Feet and that in the lean period (i.e. winter) say, 50 Feet. For optimum production and economic feasibility the designers would have to arrange generators to run by a height in between these two figures (not necessarily the average). Let us say this number is 60 Feet. In this case the generators would not be able to run at full swing unless during winter nonths unless there is arrangement for storing additional water in the reservoir. This indicates, what the Tipaiauthority would do for the smooth-running of their plant throughout the year is, storing extra water during the peak period and releasing the same during lean period. This is exactly what the experts employed by Khaleda Zia’s BNP government opined, and to which any scientist or expert would have to agree. N.B. STRAIGHTENING OF RIVER : It should be noted here that human interference is essential for initial straightening of river. In the country with soft soil, intermittent flow acts against straightening. Once the rivers are cut straight and constant flow is ensured, river may continue to flow in straight line. Such a program can release huge land on both sides. 11. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : (quoted) “SHORTAGE OF WATER IN THESE FEW MONTHS WOULD DECREASE THE BOOST OF GROUNDWATER. OVER THE YEARS THIS WOULD LOWER THE GROUNDWATER LEVEL, WHICH IN TURN WOULD AFFECT ALL DUGOUTS AND SHALLOW TUBE-WELLS. AGRICULTURE DEPENDENT ON BOTH SURFACE AS WELL AS GROUNDWATER WOULD ALSO BE AFFECTED. ARABLE LAND WILL DECREASE AND PRODUCTION OF CROPS WILL FALL, LEADING TO AN INCREASE IN POVERTY”. MY SUBMISSION : After we know the report of the expert committee formed by BNP government during FAP (Flood Action Plan) project, we have to ignore her prophesies. 12. DR. NARGIS BANU IN HER PARAGRAPH ON “BIODIVERSITY AND ECOLOGY” SAYS : (quoted) “CONSTRUCTION OF A HIGH DAM WILL OBSTRUCT THE MIGRATORY PATH OF FISH AND OTHER AQUATIC FAUNA… (AND SILT, “MICRONUTRIENTS”)”. MY SUBMISSION : This comment on FISH AND OTHER AQUATIC FAUNA is correct, the claim of preventing of “MICRONUTRIENTS” however, is not. What is true is, as soon as the flowing mountain-river water would come to a stand-still at the reservoir, there will be considerable changes in the micro-nutrients, fish and other aquatic animals. The dam would not arrest the micronutrients, even though it would not be possible for larger fish to escape. However, nowadays it is made possible by using fish-pass. 13. DR. NARGIS BANU SAYS : (quoted) “ABOVE IMPACTS WOULD DESTROY THE NATURAL INTEGRITY OF THE ECOSYSTEM, LOSING RIVERINE HABITAT AND SPECIES, AND A LACK OF ENRICHMENT OF LAND WITH THE NUTRIENT-FULL SILT. THIS WOULD LEAD TO THE ULTIMATE DECLINE IN THE NATURAL PRODUCTIVITY OF THE TWO MOST ABUNDANT RESOURCES OF BANGLADESH – LAND AND WATER”. MY SUBMISSION : From what I have explained above, the above statement is wrong. However, even though we do not know what type of changes would take place in the micro-nutrients, from the experience of Kaptai dam we may guess, it would not be anything hazardous.

14. DR. NARGIS BANU IN HER PARAGRAPH “CLIMATE CHANGE” DAYS (quoted) : “THE TIPAIMUKH DAM WILL PERMANENTLY SUBMERGE AN AREA OF 275.50 SQUARE KILOMETRES IN INDIA”. MY SUBMISSION : This one is India’s problem and they would consider it in comparison with their gain from the project. 15. OTHERS : The author’s claim on “DAM BREAK AND HUMAN CATASTROPHES” has been answered earlier. In her paragraph on “WATER QUALITY” she said : (quoted) “THE EROSION AND SEDIMENTATION DOWNSTREAM OF THE TIPAIMUKH DAM WOULD BE EXCESSIVELY HIGH AND WOULD CONTINUE AS LONG AS OVER 600 KILOMETRES DOWNSTREAM IN BANGLADESH. THIS EXCESSIVE EROSION DOWNSTREAM OF THE DAM WOULD INCREASE THE OVERALL SILTATION AND WATER TURBIDITY IN THE SURMA-KUSHIARA SYSTEM. THESE WILL ADVERSELY AFFECT THE WATER QUALITY OF THE ENTIRE SURMA-KUSHIARA-MEGHNA SYSTEM IN BANGLADESH”. I have already mentioned why the author’s conceptions of increased siltation and erosion are wrong. She also said, “THE DAM WILL HAVE WARMING IMPACT DUE TO METHANE DEGASSING FROM THE RESERVOIR”. Those who are aware of the quantity of degassing from (i) Huge marshy lands throughout the world, (ii) Water-dipped rice fields and domestic cattle in Asia and Africa, (iii) Rotten leaves and algae deposited in the oceans would just laugh to hear about the “additional methane gas generated in 275 Square Kilometre area”. I failed to understand the comment “CARBON EMISSIONS OF LARGE DAM CONSTRUCTION”. The author has mentioned some information in the paragraph “VIOLATION OF LAWS AND AGREEMENT” about which I have nothing to say. ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES OF DAM FOR BANGLADESH : DISADVANTAGES : (i) Due to the construction of the dam Bangladesh would lose silt, sand and fish coming through Barak river. By special arrangement and design, however, the movement of fish can be retained. ADVANTAGES : (i) Due to its construction it will be possible to control flood due to Barak river and its tributaries in Sylhet region. (ii) Considerable portion of land can be saved from inundation during the rainy season. (iii) During winter irrigation may be easier due to higher level of water. (iv) There will be less silting in the tributaries of Barak river. (iv) There will be less erosion in these rivers. CONCLUSION : I am least worried about the construction of Tipaimukh dam. It is a project by the Indian government, who would get cheap electricity from it. Due to its construction Bangladesh would lose silt, sand and fish coming through Barak river. With due cooperation of the authorities however, Bangladesh (i) can achieve control over flood by ensuring less flow of water during monsoon, (ii) may have easy irrigation in the winter due to higher level of water etc. This plain truth has been expressed by the expert committee employed by the BNP government long ago. When motivated politicians (like those from the opposition) shout against this project with all sorts of unscientific, imaginary, biased and non-intelligent remarks, I understand the reason. And I endeavour to expose the secret reason, where possible. But when men of science express non-intelligent remarks, I fail to understand the reason and feel the need for protest.

I however, did not protest against Mr. Meer Hosain’s writings. When he expressed his response to one of my writing I just replied. In his response he requested me to acquire knowledge on certain issues from one of his writing. I went through that and was shocked to know that he used the “answers” from computer-crazy school boys. Had I known it earlier, I definitely would not have wasted my time. In course of reading that I came across the article of Dr Nargis A Banu, an environmental scientist working with Sydney Water Corporation, Australia. I became specially interested because it was Posted by Bangladesh expatriate council and earlier presented in a seminar at the Australian National University. I got interested in it due to my experiences of similar presentations abroad including Australia. But after reading it, I came confused to differentiate between a scientific paper and an essay written by the column writer. I know how a column writer writes his essay. He picks up a running or important issue, decides in which way he wants to motivate his readers inclusive of common people, bureaucrats and political leaders and then starts writing. In doing so he picks up those data, information and comments that would help him to reach the targeted destination and at the same time avoids all those might go against. He cares least for honesty and most for fulfilling his objective. Such an endeavour is completely quite different from a scientific paper to be presented in international seminars/conferences. After such a paper is presented it comes in the discussion of the community of wise-people. And when published in the website (as happened this time due to the courtesy of the Bangladesh expatriate council) it comes within the domain of discussion of the common people. Instantly the people know what type of papers are presented in such seminars. As I mentioned, scientific papers are different from the column writer’s essays. Such papers are revelations of facts. Here the scientist does not keep any preconceived idea like “I will prove it, or disprove that”. The approach of the scientist will be, “I believe this is the truth. So I shall try to prove it with the knowledge and revelations so far made by science. In case I do not get defence from these sources, it will be my hypothesis”. A scientists’ deliberations or course of thought will be different even from that of a university teacher. The teacher of a university is supposed to teach generalized principles, applicable in general throughout the world. In doing so, most of the time he needs to simplify things. The teacher does not have the time or scope to show how those principles apply in various conditions. The duty of the researcher/scientist is to make threadbare analysis of the situation in which those principles would apply and observe how the results differ from the preconceived ones and why. Only such findings are expected to be presented in scientific papers for international seminars. From Dr Nargis A Banu’s paper it seemed to me as if she first made up her mind to show that “Tipaimukh dam would cause serious damage for Bangladesh” (alike what the column writers do). And then she started presenting information and analysis in favour of her conviction, many of which were self contradictory. I find weakness in her analysis also. For example, when someone visits the site of a dam, he usually finds water falling down from a great height, resulting in turbulence in muddy water below and then, water to rush away. That might initiate the general concept of “erosion and sedimentation” in the river. I have endeavoured to show in details, (i) why the river starting after a dam loses flow of water, (ii) why the water loses velocity and (iii) why this water carries less silt etc. Once again I beg to state that I have little interest regarding the construction of Tipaimukh. I know many important and essential projects are not taken up because “those do not fulfil the personal interests of the dishonest group among the concerned authorities”. On the other hand, a project that in no way is

justified in the overall condition of the country is taken, because it satisfies the above condition. “Underground rail line in Dhaka city” is one such project. Probably this project is going to be materialized because it is capable of ensuring financial benefit for some. For the above reason, when I write about Tipaimukh, I only endeavour to show the science-based truth to the best of my knowledge and experience. I believe, the scientists and experts should continue in their predestined track, which is so pure and true, and which is so different from those of the politicians and column writers. Seeing “column writers’ essays” as scientific papers is really painful. Lastly I express my sorrow to those who may be hurt due to my writing.