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Q. Critically evaluate the “Tipaimukh Dam” issue.

Interfrence with normal flow of water of a national river has always been seen as troublesome for a government. It becomes an inter-state dispute when such interference has impact on a neghbouring country. according to international laws, without the consent of the downstream river nation and causing environmental damage no one country can control the multi-nation rivers alone. Not only rules of international law but also good will towards a neighbour are at stake. That is why a country who plans to interfere with the traditional flow of river, whatever its purpose, should discuss the issue with neighbouring countries especially with those who are affected by the decision prior to its action. But the government of India had never officially informed the lower riparian state of Bangladesh about the construction of the Tipaimukh dam although experts fear that the dam would have adverse environmental impact on Bangladesh that share the same river basine. The construction of Tipaimukh dam by India on the international Barak river has raises a number of questions in relation to successful implementation of World Commission on Dams (WCD) recommendation on Gaining Public Acceptance (GPA) for large dams. construction of Tipaimukh Dam threatens to affect north-eastern Bangladesh the way southwestern Bangladesh had been affected by the Farakka. Despite India’s insistence that the dam has only been built to generate electricity and a lukewarm response from the government in power, in Bangladesh, citizens and environmentalists feel extremely concerned and many have vowed to resist the construction at all costs. Background: Over the past years, the issue of Tipaimukh dam has created a lot of disenchantment in regard to scientific, technical, economic and environmental feasibility of the dam. Tipaimukh Dam is a proposed Hydroelectric project, to be built on the river Barak in Manipur state India. The project has sparked off controversy as India has unilaterally planned to build the dam just 100 km off the Bangladesh border and is likely to affect two major rivers of Bangladesh, namely the Surma and the Kushiara and another 60000 Manipuri people who depend on the river for livelihood and other activities though it is being said that this dam is

Now India has started another interventions on the International River Barak at Tiapimukh village and will construct a dam at Fulertal (100 km downstream from Tipaimukh) by 2012. but that also flows into the Meghna River. across the Barak River. wildlife. public health and biodiversity in north-western districts of Bangladesh. above mean sea level with a maximum reservoir level of 178 of the largest river basins in the world. The exact location is 24°1"N and 93° 1"E. navigation. Upstream diversion due to Farakka Barrage on the Ganges River flows in India has adversely affected the hydrology. Brahmaputra. forestry. Millions of people are dependent on hundreds of water bodies. The dam will permanently submerge an area of 275. The dam will be 390m long and 162. Meghna and Barak river system . agriculture. fishery. fed by the Barak.8m high. river morphology. along with the rest of northeast India. The River Barak feeds not only the Surma. identified on account of its gene pool of endemic plant and animal species. thereby putting Bangladesh under serious consequences. Manipur. Sudden alterations in the demographic character of the area and movements of large numbers of people involved in construction and other activities would create distraction. These rivers play a vital role in keeping ecological balance.50 square kilometres. Geographical importance: Many people live in the affected area of tipaimukh dam. 500 m. India would be diverting Barak water flow from its north to its south and east. is part of the sensitive Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. downstream of the confluence of the Tuivai and the Barak on the Manipur-Mizoram border. industry.Kushiyara Rivers (>600 km) in Sylhet Division. one of the three major rivers in Bangladesh. . in the Sylhet region for fishing and agricultural activities. domestic and municipal water supply. Bangladesh is a riparian country of more than 53 trans-boundary rivers that sustain the life and living of millions of downstream Bangladeshis. Four-fifth of Bangladesh is made up of the combined delta of Ganges. It will have multifarious adverse impacts on nature and livelihood in the north-eastern districts in Bangladesh. The project will have an installation capacity of 1500 MW and a firm generation of 412 MW. The dam will be at an altitude of about 180 m. With the construction of Tipaimukh dam.being built for the greater interest of the people of North Eastern India by controlling the rivers to prevent flood in the Asam region and producing electricity. The dam was originally designed to contain flood waters in the lower Barak valley but hydro power generation was later incorporated into the project.

The river system also supports local industries like fertilizer. another barrage is to be built 100 km from the Bangladesh border at Fulertal in India on same river for irrigation purposes. Incidentally. Most of the inundation is in Manipur and Mizoram states. Once Arunachal starts producing hydroelectricity from giant Subansiri projects.e. this dam is being built for the greater interest of the people of North Eastern India. and some peripheral areas of Dhaka division depends on this water. drinking water supply. whereas it would moderate floods in lower Assam. To ensure fare share of benefits to those two states. Agriculture. The river system also supports local industries like fertilizer. some areas of Comilla and Mymensingh districts. gas etc. the North-East India will become energy sufficient. On the other hand. some areas of Comilla and Mymensingh districts. fisheries. The states in North-East are having severe power shortage over years (peak shortage upto 25% in Arunachal). irrigation navigation. drinking water supply. i. feeds the River Meghna that flows through Bangladesh would be seriously affected.There are a couple of basic purposes – flood control and hydropower generation. and some peripheral areas of Dhaka division depends on this water. Agriculture. free power sharing.About 7 to 8 per cent of total water of Bangladesh is obtained through the river Barak to SurmaKushyara river basins. there are no alternative to dams for flood-control of a rainfed river. hydropower generation is also taken into account. Threats for Bangladesh: About 7 to 8 per cent of total water of Bangladesh is obtained through the river Barak to Surma-Kushyara river basins. wildlife in numerous haors (wetlands) and low lying areas in entire Sylhet division. irrigation navigation. resettlement and rehabilitation package has been offered by the Indian project proponent (North East Electric Power Corporation. reservoir is filled up during rainy season and used up in dry season. A list of other benefits such as high-class tourism. electricity. Any interference in the normal flow of water in the Surma River in turn. fisheries. NEEPCO) to appease the people of Manipur state. electricity. All three states would have 12% share of the electricity and rest would go to the North East grid. The . Benefits for India: . gas etc. wildlife in numerous haors (wetlands) and low lying areas in entire Sylhet division. It has been projected as a hydropower dam because of political purposes. both flood-control and hydropower generation reservoirs work in similar way – they retain water during Monsoon and release more during lean season. The Tipaimukh dam is planned to produce 450MW in lean season and 1500MW in peak.

this would be around 5.following adverse impacts on nature and livelihood in Bangladesh have been identified: Impacts on Hydrology: The IWM study estimate that once the Tipaimukh dam is fully functional. respectively. average water level would drop by 0. rather than a most valuable 'floodplain river'.15 meter and 0. As a result the river at this part will become 'reservoir river'. August and September. On the other hand. flow would be reduced as much as 27%. Sherpur and Markuli station. During relatively drier monsoon year. at Kanairghat and Sylhet station on the Surma River.75 meter and 0. respectively in the same month. 71% of the Upper Surma-Kushiyara Project area would no longer be flooded during average monsoon season for post-dam condition.25 meter. 4%. average annual monsoon inflow from the Barak River at Amalshid point to the Surma-Kushiyara-Meghna River system would be reduced around 10% for month June. reach. (26 %) of its usual inundated land during average monsoon year. 23% for month July.25 meter.1 meter at Fenchuganj. while this would be around 0.220 ha. Water level would fall by more than 1 meter on average during the month July at Amalshid station on the Kushiyara River. 16% for month August and 15% for month September. total inundated area would be reduced by 30. dam would have more impact on the availability of monsoon water in the Barak-Surma-Kushiyara River than the average annual monsoon year. The Kushyiara River would cut its connection with its right bank floodplain for around 65 km. 2% and 2% higher than the volume reduction found for average monsoon year. The Kawardighi haor (wetland) would also lose around 2. For Moulvibazar district. Like for the month July. (26%) during post-dam scenario than it actually happens in pre-dam average monsoon season. Impact on Damrir haor and Hakaluki haor would be relatively less in comparison to other haors of the Sylhet and Moulvibazar district.123 ha. respectively. The Kushiyara-Bardal haor (wetland) on the left bank of the Kushiyara River would become completely dry during average monsoon year dry due to Tipaimukh dam operation. Impact on Inundation pattern and River-FloodplainWetland Ecosystem: Sylhet and Moulvibazar district in northeastern part of Bangladesh will be effected more due to the Tipaimukh Dam operation regarding their natural monsoon-flooding pattern. The above impacts on the .979 ha. 0. For Sylhet district. 16% and 14%. (11%).

its ‘billions’ of impounded cubic metres of water will cause catastrophic floods because of its colossal structure. Bed level would rise and that will induce the average monsoon flood to become a moderate to sever flood in the floodplain of the Surma-Kushiyara. and for an extreme case it would block the mouth of certain tributaries originating from the Kushiyara River.river-floodplain-wetland would destroy the natural integrity of the ecosystem involved within these physical system. Climate Change: Tipaimukh dam will have warming impact due to methane degassing from the reservoir. serious damage may occur causing a dam disaster leading to huge loss of lives and property. of Barak River downstream of the dam would increase the overall deposition in the lower Barak River. land use change on macro and micro climate and carbon emissions of large dam construction itself is enough to reconsider constructing of Tipaimukh dam. Low flow during late monsoon and post-monsoon will accelerate this deposition in the region. Mass human displacement. in the Surma. A study on the trends of earthquakes reveals that they mostly take place in regions which have experienced earthquakes in the past. The faults and fractures around Tipaimukh dam axis belong to the category that may undergo strike-slip and extensional and water. the consequences of that will be the loss of riverine habitat and species. lack of enrichment of land with the nutrient full silt leading to the ultimate decline in the natural productivity of the two most abundant resources of Bangladesh . Impact on Morphology: The erosion just downstream of the Tipaimukh Dam would be excessively high and this erosion would continue as long as hundred kilometers downstream or more. Dam Break: A detailed study by the World Dam Commission published in 2000 states that the adverse impacts of any large dams are irreversible for the lower riparian region.Kushiyara River system. There would be possibility of increasing erosion in the upper Kushiyara River. If the Tipaimukh Dam were to break. and this will cause more deposition in the downstream of Kushiyara River and in Kalni River. This excessive erosion in the first 100 or 150 km. thereby. . The probable deposition during late monsoon and post-monsoon season will raise the overall bed level of the rivers. If the dam axis is displaced by a few centimeters. thereby.

These factors have not been considered at all in the process of Tipaimukh project planning phase. It is a well-known fact that the construction of dams invariably destroys the natural riverine ecosystem. If Bangladesh fails to win the arbitration – they simply have to focus on mitigating the dangers. Arable land will decrease and production of crops will fall. Agriculture. Biodiversity and Ecology: One of the most serious and least-studied consequences of large dams are the long-term health impacts due to drastic changes in the ecological balance. The analysis should list out all gains. losses. The dam would cause the Surma and Kushiara to run dry from November to May. Bangladesh should be prepared to choose best option without any bias. Over the years this would lower the groundwater level. Then they should weigh the options to mitigate losses and risks as well as try to optimize the gains and opportunities. if it turns out to be a project of net negative impact – they should notify Indian Govt of the possible adverse effects and request them to stop the dam project. At the same time they should have some alternatives to Indian plans. At the end of the day. In the end. If India disagrees. it affects the habitat of rare and endangered flora and fauna species. prevents the exchange of micro-nutrients and silt between the upper and lower reaches of a river and has an overall adverse affect on the riverine food chain. How can Bangladesh deal with the issue: After reading and answering a lot of comments. threats and risks caused by this project. Bangladesh should request India for an arbitration under International law. opportunities. leading to an increase in poverty. This shortage of water in these few months would decrease the boost of groundwater. This won’t be . would also be affected. But typically an arbitration results in options and not in outcome. displacement and loss of livelihood and sudden alterations in the demographic character of the area. As a result. construction of a high dam obstructs the migratory path of fish and other aquatic fauna. my position remains intact. which is dependent on both surface as well as groundwater.Groundwater and Irrigation:Millions of people are dependent on hundreds of water bodies fed by the Barak for agricultural activities. The way Bangladesh Govt should approach the issue of Tipaimukh dam should be based on objective analysis. which in turn would affect all dug outs and shallow tube wells. If Bangladesh wins – the process should focus on asking India to stop the dam. they have to rely on this objective analysis. if Bangladesh confronts India. If India agrees – all end well. Despite the above mentioned impacts.

 The World Commission on Dams report has shown that Indian dams do more harm than help.  Government should immediately make public the information that it has received on the Tipaimukh dam project from India so all interested parties and scholars can conduct necessary analysis on the basis of the information.published as newspaper articles to be consumed by common people but would be consumed by experts. so impacts of its tectonic setting need to be considered seriously. the following actions should be undertaken to reach an amicable solution of this dispute:  Indian government needs to undertake a fresh review despite advancing the dam construction works. Therefore.  India must provide access to all technical information (design. drawing. Recommendations: Taking into account the above impacts and recently developing objections in the both countries. environmentalists need to join under a common umbrella to stop India constructing the Tipaimukh dam.  Bangladesh government. civil society bodies. as per the report’s recommendation consider replacing dam-based hydroelectricity with a “run-of-the-river” type project. World Bank. Invite Bangladesh to take part in the whole decision making process before it’s too late. political leaders.  A joint team should be formed to study the adverse ecological and environmental impacts on both countries. EIS) to Bangladesh to measure the total impacts of Tipaimukh dam on Bangladesh. UN) attention to save our people and nature of Bangladesh. .  Draw international community’s (Asian Development Bank.  As the proposed site is one of the highest potential earthquake areas in the world.