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Source: Hueiyen News Service

Imphal, July 31 2009: A 10-member all-party delegation of parliamentarians from Bangladesh today arrived at Tipaimukh and studied the project site, official report said.

The report said, the delegation led by Abdur Razzak who arrived in Guwahati yesterday proceeded to the project site located at Tipaimukh by helicopter from Guwahati today.

They landed at Parbung in Churachandpur district by the chopper this morning and proceeded to the site by vehicle under security protection provided by the state government.

Meanwhile, stating that the Barak river has been the source of livelihood for the Hmar people for generations and would affect the source of their livelihood once the Tipaimukh dam is constructed, Hmar Students' Union has strongly warned the authority against initiating any work without prior consent of the people of the areas to be affected by the dam.

The Citizens' Concern on Dam and Development also warned the authority that if the construction of the dam is taken up without the consent of the people to be affected, they, with the support of other like minded people, will block construction of the dam under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, agency reports from New Delhi said, the delegation, led by parliament water resources standing committee chairman Abdur Razzaq, held a meeting with Indian Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in New Delhi Thursday before arriving in Manipur Friday.

"The Indian Power Minister told the visiting delegation that the Tipaimukh project is not an irrigation project or a water diversion scheme, it is a hydel project and in no way will harm Bangladesh's interest," an official told journalists here.

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 environmental groups saying it could cause desertification downstream.

"We will ask the Indian authorities not to implement any project that diverts or withdraws water from the Barak river," Razzaq said.

He said they proposed to request India to launch a joint survey on the proposed Tipaimukh multi-purpose dam before beginning construction.

The delegation, comprising of six lawmakers, three officials and a water expert, during its five-day tour was scheduled to meet Indian officials associated with water resources, power and environment.

The state-owned National Hydro-electric Power Corporation (NHPC)is developing the Rs.81.38 billion ($1.7-billion) hydel project to generate 1,500 MW of power.

Part of the Brahmaputra river system, the Barak bifurcates on entering Sylhet district of eastern 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, urging him to stop construction of the project.

External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna is understood to have told his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni at a meeting in New Delhi earlier this month that India would not harm its neighbour's interests.

"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 T.C.Borgohain, a senior engineer associated with the project.

"The project would also lead to the development of two national highways - NH 53 and NH 150 - and thereby improve the connectivity among 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) of the central government.

"The project is scheduled for commissioning within 87 months from the date of the CCEA clearance," Borgohain said.

The project, one of the largest in northeastern India, is also facing opposition from within the country over fears of displacement.

Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD), Committee on Land and Natural Resources (COLNAR) and Action Against the Tipaimukh Dam Project (ACTIP), in a joint statement on the visit of the Bangladesh parliamentary committee to the dam site, said: "The Tipaimukh project must be scrapped.".

Meanwhile, following the Manipur government's request, the central power ministry last month appointed the state-owned NHPC as the implementing agency for the multi-purpose Tipaimukh hydro-electric project replacing power giant North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) which had earlier been awarded the project in January 2003, but the construction work had failed to take off for various reasons.

Source: e-pao.net

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