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Bangladesh team to visit M’pur; assess hydel project
Published on 14 Jul. 2009 12:38 AM IST
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A 10-member Bangladesh parliamentary delegation is expected to visit the Tipaimukh dam in Manipur this week in the backdrop of concerns over the project's possible ecological impact in that country. The Bangladesh delegation led by parliamentary standing committee chairman on water resources Abdur Razzak is likely to arrive in New Delhi on a week-long visit July 15, a Bangladesh government official told IANS in Agartala. The delegation will first meet India's Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in New Delhi and then go to Manipur to study the project, the official added. The Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydel Project on the Barak river, some 200 km upstream of the Bangladesh border, is under attack in Bangladesh with opposition parties and environmentalist groups saying it could cause desertification downstream. Part of the Brahmaputra river system, the Barak bifurcates on entering Bangladesh into the Surma and Kushiyara rivers. Bangladesh's opposition leader and former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia wrote to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month, asking him to stop construction of the project. Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna is understood to have told his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni at a meeting in New Delhi last week that India would not harm its neighbour's interests. The state-owned North Eastern Electric Power Corp (Neepco), which is developing the Rs.81.38-billion ($1.7-billion) hydel project to generate 1,500 MW of power, too defended the dam. "It will regulate excess water, control floods in Sylhet district of Bangladesh, western Manipur and southern Assam, and open a new waterway from Haldia port in West Bengal to northeast India via Bangladesh," said Neepco executive director T.C. Borgohain. "The project would also lead to the development of two national highways - NH 53 and NH 150 - and thereby improve the connectivity between Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura," Borgohain told IANS. "Water used for generating electricity will be released back into the river." The project, cleared by the Manipur government, is awaiting approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). "The project is scheduled for commissioning within 87 months from the date of the CCEA clearance," Borgohain said. Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty had earlier this month said that the critics of the project did not have "basic data" about it. The project, one of the largest in north-eastern India, is also facing opposition from within the country over fears of displacement.

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