The Indian government is going ahead its proposed 1,500-MW Tipaimukh hydel power project in Manipur despite objections from NGOs in India and opposition parties in neighbouring Bangladesh. Quoting Prem Chand Pankaj, chairman-cum-managing director of the state-owned North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd. (Neepco), IANS said “All apprehensions are baseless. The mega hydel power project would be commissioned despite opposition within the country and outside.” A section of environmentalists and activists in Manipur and Bangladesh fear that rivers in that country could be adversely impacted by the project. Originally conceptualised and awarded to Neepco in 1999, the giant power project was handed over to a consortium comprising National Hydroelectric Power Corp (NHPC) and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) and the Manipur government last year. Pankaj said: “We would soon ask the government to hand back the project again to Neepco for its early commissioning. The delay in execution of the vital power project would create numerous problems.” “Some so called environmentalists and NGOs for the past few years have been campaigning against the project and misleading people,” said Pankaj, who took over as Neepco CMD last month. Setting aside fears, the senior electrical engineer said only 74 families would be rehabilitated elsewhere due to the implementation of the Rs.8,138-crore ($1.7-billion) Tipaimukh project. The project, located on the Barak river under Churachandpur district in western Manipur, is under attack from opposition parties and environmental groups in Bangladesh, which say it could cause desertification 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. IANS said Bangladesh’s opposition leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia in a letter also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to stop construction of the project. Incidentally, at the end of the three-day India visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in January last year, a joint communique by the two countries had said: “The prime minister of India reiterated the assurance that India would not take steps on the Tipaimukh project that would adversely impact Bangladesh.” Additionally, a 10-member Bangladeshi parliamentary delegation conducted an aerial survey of the Tipaimukh dam in July 2009 after opposition over the hydel project’s possible ecological impact intensified in Dhaka.
-With UNB/The New Nation input