No hasty decision on construction of Tipaimukh dam: Pala

Shillong, July 16 (IANS) Union Minister of State for Water Resources Vincent H. Pala Friday said opinions of all sections of people will be taken into consideration on the proposed construction of the 1,500-MW Tipaimukh hydel power project in Manipur.

The mega-power project, one of the largest in northeastern India, is vital for meeting the increasing electricity demand in the region but has been opposed by environmental groups and opposition parties in Bangladesh.

‘Views of the local indigenous people in those areas will be taken into consideration on the project,’ Pala told reporters here.

However, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh told legislators in the state assembly July 12 that his government was committed to go ahead with the controversial Tipaimukh project.

The public sector power utilities National Hydroelectric Power Corp (NHPC) and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) would develop the Rs.8,138-crore Tipaimukh project.

The project, located on the Barak river in western Manipur, is under attack from opposition parties and environmental groups in Bangladesh, which say it could cause desertification downstream in their country.

Part of the Brahmaputra river system, the Barak bifurcates into the Surma and Kushiyara rivers on entering Sylhet district in eastern Bangladesh.

The Sinlung Indigenous People Human Rights Organisation (SIPHRO), an anti-dam group in Manipur maintained that any plans to build large hydro dams should take into consideration the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD).

‘Indigenous peoples in different parts of the world have already disappeared due to sea-water rise and erosion and have also become environmental refugees due to big dams,’ SIPHRO Secretary Lalremlien Neitham said.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Khaleda Zia had sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to abandon the project.

A 10-member Bangladeshi parliamentary delegation conducted an aerial survey of the Tipaimukh dam last July after opposition over the hydel project’s possible ecological impact intensified in Dhaka.

‘Even the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) has categorically assured that no hasty decision will be taken on the issue. India will take into confidence Dhaka before going ahead with the project, so as not to hamper the friendly India-Bangladesh ties,’ Pala said.

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