Hydroelectric Dam Causes Ripples of Protests for Bangladesh

IMG_1367Protests, human-chains and rallies have emerged in Bangladeshi communities across the world this month against the building of the Tipaimukh Dam between India and Bangladesh. Bangladeshi environmentalists said the dam will affect agriculture, fishing industries, and 30 million people with possible river drying due its construction.

A joint venture was signed October 22 with India’s hydropower company National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, the Manipur state government, Manipur state enterprise Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. to continue the ongoing Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project that Indian officials said could provide electricity and help reduce flooding in Bangladesh.

A meeting was held earlier this month at the Kabob House in Hamtramck, Michigan, to discuss how Bangladeshi Americans can get involved in stopping the ongoing construction of 1,500 MW Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project by informing the US government of adverse effects in Bangladesh, and putting pressure on the Bangladeshi government to stop the project.

Professor of Finance at Eastern Michigan University Mahmud Rahman, said, India is as far as the eye can see, referring to Bangladesh’s geography. India surrounds Bangladesh on three sides. We have to approach the situation intelligently, by engaging, researching and enlisting help, he said. We need to “Unite in one voice…instead of taking separate initiatives,” in a way that “benefits both of us.”

The dam sits on India’s Barak River which becomes Bangladesh’s Surma and Kushiara Rivers. India is an upper riparian country, which has more say in how the shared bodies of water are used.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India would not support the Tipaimukh project if there was harm to Bangladesh, during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wadud’s visit to India last January. The same message was portrayed during Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September. And again to Bangladesh National Party leader Khaleda Zia, who sent a letter in November opposing the project.

Experts said politics play a role in the agreement to build the dam, while Bangladeshi people in and out of the country are against the measure. Rahman said Bangladeshi Americans need to persuade the Bangladeshi government: “There are people outside of politics, educated people…we live outside [of the country] but we look for opportunities to help Bangladesh.”

Imam Abdul Latif Azom of Masjid Al-Falah in Detroit said there are many ways to spread the word, using facts. “Do not talk without evidence…it’s like smoke which disappears.”

President of Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee, Ehsan Taqbeem said, focusing on the technical side can influence politics. “Let’s not be like Wall Street Occupy…there are steps after protests.” Let’s negotiate with India, he said.

Engineer and writer Saiful Islam of Michigan said people should talk openly. “We say we will work together but shy away from things dealing with India.” Immediate dangers should be discussed, he said.

Rahman said Bangladesh should engage in a multilateral resolution with India, by joining forces with other neighbors. “Economic power speaks.”

According to the SJVN company’s website the last roadblock in the project is approval for forest clearance near the site.


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