The New Horizon

A new world explored with a rational view

Tipaimukh Dam FAQ : Effects and Politics

with 46 comments

Of late I have been reading about Tipaimukh dam and a lot more about dams themselves. I have gathered a lot of information about that dam in particular. I would like to share it with the readers. If anyone is afraid of reading the whole article, he/she can get a short form of the same from a Bangladesh expert – published in 2006 in the Daily Star and an article by an independent economist published in The Independent BD in 2009. My latest article on this is available here.

Where is Tipaimukh Dam located?

Tipaimukh is located at South-Western Manipur bordering Mizoram. Most of the people living here are actually of minority Hmar tribe. The proposed Tipaimukh dam is to be located 500 meters downstream from the confluence of Barak and Tuivai rivers. It is a huge earth dam (rock-fill) having an altitude of about 180 M above the sea-level with a average reservoir capacity of 15.5 BCM. (Proposed dam site at Wikimapia)

What is the technical purpose of the dam?

The Flood prone areas in East India

The Flood prone areas in East India

There are a couple of basic purposes – flood control and hydropower generation. It has been projected as a hydropower dam because of political purposes. Most of the inundation is in Manipur and Mizoram states, whereas it would moderate floods in lower Assam. To ensure fare share of benefits to those two states, hydropower generation is also taken into account. The states in North-East are having severe power shortage over years (peak shortage upto 25% in Arunachal). Once Arunachal starts producing hydroelectricity from giant Subansiri projects, the North-East India will become energy sufficient. On the other hand, there are no alternative to dams for flood-control of a rainfed river. Incidentally, both flood-control and hydropower generation reservoirs work in similar way – they retain water during Monsoon and release more during lean season, i.e. reservoir is filled up during rainy season and used up in dry season.

The Barak valley, consisting of three of the forty highly flood prone districts in India, goes under water three to four times (2002, 2004, 2007) in a decade. In 1995, plan for flood control Dam in Tipaimukh and reactions in Bangladesh were reported. Very often Barak flood is more devastating than that of Brahamaputra. A detailed assesment (2007 flood report) of floods in Assam can be found here. It has long been alleged that North-East has been neglected in terms of development and lack of flood control is one of the evidences.

The Tipaimukh dam is planned to produce 450MW in lean season and 1500MW in peak. All three states would have 12% share of the electricity and rest would go to the North East grid.

What are the objections to this dam in Indian side?

  1. Displacement of people especially of vulnerable minorities
  2. Vast forestland to be inundated along with the biodiversity
  3. Dams are not fruitful solution to any problems
  4. Possible earthquake could have devastating effect

What are the objections to this dam in Bangladesh?

  1. Possible river drying and devastation of wetland (Haor)
  2. Possible flood in summer/winter in lowlands causing damage to agriculture

Are Dams bad?

Shasta Dam, California

Shasta Dam, California

There is a widespread belief in India that dams are useful. On the other hand, the World Commission on Dams report on Indian dams has shown that they do more harm than help.

The report has a lot of loopholes in it. While reading, I saw it projects loss of Government (for example – tax on irrigated land did not produce as much revenue as projected) after building the dam as one of the key factors. However, in India, these are calculated as subsidies, i.e., where Government pays on behalf of its citizens. Also, it undermines the food security that has been obtained through irrigated land. It categorizes the agricultural land in two major divisions – rain-fed and irrigated. It shows that irrigated land has little contribution (~20%) to overall growth production. I don’t know how they classify land in West Bengal, where most of the agricultural land uses rainwater in in rainy season and irrigation in winter.

The Central Water Commission report praises dam-oriented water planning and plans for building more dam to hold onto monsoon water in big reservoirs. The purpose is to reuse the precious freshwater resource in dry season and moderate flood in rainy season.

Both of these reports fail to discuss in length the alternative of dams for these purposes and a comparative analysis of dams vs other methods of achieving the benefits. Hence, the entire policy calls for a widespread survey and comparative analysis.

One example of the above set of suggestion is to replace dam based hydroelectricity with a “run-of-the-river” type project. The former does not require a dam to hold water and depends on natural river-current. The problem with that in India is very low flow in the lean season and virtually no water flows through them during that period. The former projects are only feasible to work during rainy season and not over the year.

For flood control, the alternative proposal is to dredge the river and maintain the depth. While the dredging itself is a costly affair, this could also add to the lower riparian problems. If river channels are deep in India, the lower riparian Bangladesh would face the floodwater since the river needs land to dissipate its additional water. It’s the see-saw climate in India that makes the dams viable, not in other countries.

There are reports that advanced nations are not interested anymore in building dams. This is actually true. But this does not necessarily be replicated by India. Most of those advanced nations also have abundant resources. By resources I do not only indicate alternative sources of energy and water, but also per capita land availability and skills required to effectively utilize these. India gets only 1800 cubic meter water per person per year. India has already over 4000 large dams. The only comparable country with similar resources is China, who has built 22,000 of them. At the same time, there is a significant decrease in dam building efforts in India. Between 1971 and 1990, the number of large dams constructed was 2256 and the same after 1990 is only 695. Nowadays, the dams are built only if there is a compulsion for it.

Does the Dam reduce water flow in the river?

Not necessarily. If the dam also have one or more reservoirs attached to it and they actually hold the excess water during rainy season and release them in the dry season, then the dams don’t actually change the total water released.

A picture taken when the dam is not releasing water can be daunting to the lower riparian and is a material of propaganda. The picture of the Shasta Dam, California shows the case. Although this dam augments lean season flow, the picture projects it as a “take all” dam.

One proposal from Bangladesh (when Farakka was being built) was to add a reservoir dam in Nepal to augment the flow of Ganges during the lean season. It would generate electricity also. Water experts from Bangladesh are still in the view that it is the best possible solution for problems in lower Ganges in dry season. If dams were such that they always reduce water flow, they would not have proposed it.

To counter the propaganda, I had to post a separate article on this very topic.

What’s the possibility that Tipaimukh would end up drying the Surma-Kushiyara rivers?

A Typical Flood Control Dam outflow graph

A Typical Flood Control Dam outflow graph

It’s highly unlikely. The dam can be used in its full potential without withdrawing any river water. A dam with a reservoir actually augments the flow of a river during dry season, while it withdraws the same during rainy season. One typical flood control dam outflow graph is shown in the picture.

Also, to consider Hydropower generation, a limited discharge has to be there during lean season also. This discharge will add to the flow and increase lean season flow. (See the portion excess water coming out of reservoir)

Is there any other dam in nearby region that achieves similar goals?

Inflow Outflow graph for Karnaphuli

Inflow Outflow graph for Karnaphuli

Yes, the Kaptai dam (Bangladesh) on Karnaphuli achieves the similar goals with a much larger reservoir. It controls flood, generates hydropower and increases navigability in downstream Chittagong port. The Karnaphuli river is also a rainfed river and has high seasonal variation in discharge. A reservoir with a dam was able to moderate and coltrol its flow. (source)

It is interesting to note that this dam did not “dry up” the downstream flow at all, rather it augmented the flow during the lean season and buffered the additional flow during the rainy season.The picture shows the inflow (blue pillars in the graph) to Kaptai lake (the reservoir) and outflow (maroon pillars in the graph) from the dam . The inflow amount would have been the same as the outflow, had there been no Kaptai dam. In the second picture, one can see how the total volume of water in the river basin has been augmented using a reservoir. It shows the Karnaphuli river before and after the dam has been erected and the area inundated to create space for reservoir water.

Another river in context can be discussed since it has also been planned to moderate floods. It’s the Damodar river in West Bengal. It used to be the “sorrow of Bengal” in pre-Independence Bengal but was controlled successfully after DVC project with a series of dams and barrages. There are many periods in several years when the reservoir acted as a cushion and prevented catastrophic floods downstream.

The picture below shows the reservoir filling pattern in one of DVC’s storage facility named Maithon (source). Kaptai and Tipaimukh should follow similar patterns to fillup reservior. From October to May the reservoir releases more water than it receives, hence the reservoir water volume goes down. The rest of the period, the reservoir gets filled in.

Maithon reservoir filling strategy

Maithon reservoir filling strategy

To understand what is live storage and what is dead storage, one can refer to this simple picture.

Why is there such a huge difference between lean season and rainy season flow?

Cherapunji rainfall variation by month
Cherapunji rainfall variation by month

The Barak river basin region receives a lot of rainfall. The highest rainfall area – Cherapunji – is located nearby. However, virtually all of these rain comes during three months of rainy season due to Monsoon. The picture shows monthly variation of rainfall in Cherapunji. The flow in these rivers, apart from a small component of water resulted from glaciers, is from monsoon rain. Hence, in the rainy season the rivers exceed the capacity of the channel and overflow. In the lean season (summer and winter), the same river is barely seen. It is estimated that the contribution of glaciers in Himalayan rivers is mere 5%. The rest is rain water.

What could be the effect of Fulertal barrage 100 km downstream?

A barrage can be thought as a tool of diverting water. In this case, water could be diverted to irrigate the Barak valley farmlands. This could be done during the lean season when the river flow is augmented, i.e., we have more water than we used to have. This would make good use of the additional flow coming out of the reservoir.

However, the amount of water to be withdrawn at the barrage site, is the key criteria whether it would harm the downstream. If it takes away the augmented portion of the lean season flow – it should not cause any issue. If it takes more, damages are done. (Fulertal/Phulertal barrage – location)

At this point we can do a reality check on how much water can be withdrawn for irrigation. We need to remember that irrigation is not for inundating the landscape, but for effective use of additional water during dry season. Hence, there is an optimal limit of how much water can be withdrawn of a river. The area under cultivation in Barak valley is 220,000 Hectares (in 1992-93, source). I found that Sudan has similar area under irrigation and uses 1.6 BCM of water per year (source, pg 21) from river Nile. Although, Barak valley is not as arid as Sudan is, we can assume at most similar amount of water will be withdrawn from the river. At the same time, the river water volume would be augmented by 15.5 BCM, of which at least 10 BCM would be live storage water. From another angle, India uses 500 BCM water per year to irrigate 54 million hectares. For North East, it’s almost  the half of National average due to high rainfall. So, it requires only a half BCM to irrigate Barak valley arable land. Even after withdrawal for Barak valley irrigation, the flow downstream would be much higher in dry season. I am sure that no one is thinking about the effect of an inter-basin transfer. The cost to transfer Barak water to the next basin, incidentally India’s “water-richest” Brahmaputra Basin, would be very high and benefits will not justify the cost. It had to be pumped from one basin to the other. This is why even Indian great river interlinking plan did not take this channel into account.

There is a widely held belief among lower riparian states that any amount of water could be diverted from the river upstream. This is not true. The amount of water diverted from a barrage is proportional to the Population (drinking and sanitary needs) and agricultural land available in the river basin. In this case, neither of these two are large enough to take even the water volume augmented by the reservoir.

Why Farakka causes damages downstream, where this barrage should not cause similar harm?

Farakka does not have any reservoir upstream to augment its lean season flow. So, it’s merely the same amount of water that comes to farakka a significant part of which is then diverted to the feeder canals. This results in reduced flow downstream.

As i mentioned earlier, one of the proposals from Bangladesh side when Farakka was being built, was to add a reservior dam in Nepal to augment the flow of Ganges during the lean season. The World Bank was ready to fund the project. It did not happen because India stuck to its position to augment flows from Brahamaputra basin. Interestingly, I read that India has of late initiated works on what Bangladesh had proposed. Had this been done a little earlier, Bangladesh would not probably been hurt so much.

In case of this (Fulertal) barrage, the flow is augmented in the lean season. Hence it should not reduce the downstream flow in Surma and Kushiyara. Of course, there should not be any desertification with full potential dam and barrage as I argued in the previous section. The irrigation potential can be fully utilized without harming the lower riparian.

Another aspect of Farakka makes it different from Tipaimukh. The water diverted in Farakka is sent to the Bay of Bengal through a separate channel (Bhagirathi-Hugli). However, the flow of Barak can not be diverted in similar fashion to any of other areas – it has to come downstream. Apart from that small amount of water taken for irrigation of 220,000 Ha of land, the rest is virtually non-consumptive use, i.e. it would be passed downstream. The Tipaimukh dam would only change the temporal distribution of river flow.

What’s the possibility that an Earthquake would cause the dam to collapse or at least create a few cracks in it?

Damage due to earthquake cannot be ruled out though the possibility is remote. In case there is a really high intensity earthquake, it could cause the dam to have cracks. I believe Indian designers would take necessary steps to prevent any damage to the dam since it is known to be located on a geo-tectonic faultline. A basic text literature on dams says –

“If the dam site is located in a seismic zone, the most suitable type of the dam is one which can resist the earthquake shock without much damage. Earth dams and rockfill dams are generally more suitable for such sites, provided suitable modifications are made in the design. However, by adopting suitable measures and considering various forces and factors affecting the seismic design, other types of dams can also be provided.”

To add to the above literature, the Tipaimukh dam is indeed a rock-fill dam to mitigate the risk of a possible earthquake. The Kaptai Dam in Karnaphuli is an Earth Dam.

I would also like to add here that Japan has more than 2000 dams even though the whole of Japan is Earthquake prone. There were many earthquakes in Japan for last 100 years and no news of dam failures due to earthquake yet. Last 150 years of history did not record any incident of dam failure anywhere in the world due to an earthquake. In these days, building an earthquake safe dam is merely a choice of technology.

How the 15.5 BCM capacity of the reservoir would be filled up and what would be its consequence?

The first time it would be filled up from the empty position. Hence, it would require 15.5 BCM of water. Most likely, it would be filled up over a few years depending on flow during the rainy season. However, till the fill up is completed, the downstream flow will be lower. Dam fill up is generally done during high flow so that the effect is moderated downstream.

It also needs to be mentioned that reservoir fill up is a one time process. This would have no effect over long term yearly flow of the river. Some of the experts projected (pg 21) that 15.5 BCM of reservoir would cause 491 cumec (which is equivalent of 15.5 BCM per year) reduced flow downstream. This is not true. The dam is filled up only once and the water is used dynamically to fill up in rainy season and to release in dry season (look at Maithon reservoir graph and Karnaphuli inflow-outflow statistics).

Recently there was a contention between India and Pakistan regarding this first time fill up of the reservoir.

How would this affect the ecological balance of the region?

Dams, like all other man-made infrastructures, are actually disasters for ecological balance of a region. When a dam creates it’s own rule of ecology, the existing one is demolished. A brief overview of how Dams cause damage to ecological balance can be found here.

In this particular case, there are a couple of major ecological balance shifting. In India, this could potentially cause destruction of a vast forestland. In Bangladesh, it could potentially damage a vast natural wetland, known as Haor. Although, the extent of the damage to the Haors could not be measured at this point, the damage due to inundation is obvious.

I need to add a point on ecological balance in general. Shift in ecological balance does not always mean a problem in short term. It causes problem in the long term. Any flood moderation structure would cause damage to ecology – be they embankments or dams – as floods are part of ecological balance. There are two options – the first is to allow people to live with the floods and cause no damage to the ecology. The second is to establish a flood moderation embankment and damage the ecology for the long term. In this part of the world, building a flood moderation structure is more popular because of high population density in the floodplains. The problems of flood affected people generally exceed by far the concern of damaging the ecology even in the long term. People assume that by that time, they would probably have sufficient technology to counter the backlash of Nature. Also, the democratic society creates pressure on the Administration to act proactively towards moderation of human problems. If humans are illiterate and unaware of long term damages, the short term solutions get political preference.

Of late, there are a lot of proposals floating against traditional flood moderation structures like river training, embankments and dams. However, the alternatives floated with those arguments are not significantly different than the structures they argue against and the alternatives do actually retain a lot of problems those are created by current structures. Although the alternatives are claimed to be more sustainable in Nature, a complete feasibility study along with their long term effects are yet to be observed, i.e. they are not yet tested to be sustainable, only claimed to be sustainable.

What are the Haors and how they are going to be damaged by this project?

A haor is a wetland ecosystem in the north eastern part of Bangladesh which physically is a bowl or saucer shaped shallow depression, also known as a swamp. It receives surface runoff water by rivers and channels. Consequently, a haor becomes very extensive water body in the monsoon and dries up mostly in the post-monsoon period. The haor basin is an internationally important wetland ecosystem, which is situated in Sunamganj, Habiganj and Moulvibazar districts and Sylhet Sadar Upazila, as well as Kishoreganj and Netrokona districts.

Haors in flood season - villages are islands

Haors in flood season - villages are islands

During the rainy season, haors turn into a vast inland sea within which the villages appear as islands. Occasional high winds during July to September generate large waves in the haor, which may cause considerable damage to homesteads. During the dry season, most of the water drains out leaving one or more shallow beels which become mostly overgrown with aquatic vegetation or completely dry out by the end of dry season exposing rich alluvial soils extensively cultivated for rice. As population increased in Bangladesh, boro (a rice variety) cultivation expanded onto these haors, leading to a large area being drained. Thus, the very existences of these wetlands are now threatened.

The wikipedia entry for beels clearly says – “Typically, beels are formed by inundation of low lying lands during flooding, where some water gets trapped even after flood waters recede back from the flood plains. Beels may also be caused by filling up of low lying areas during rains, specially during the monsoon season.”

As the dry season flow would increase and rainy season flow decrease due to the dam – these wetlands would be impacted. The amount of inundation during the rainy season would reduce the water-logging of villages. At the same time, during boro cultivation, less water would be drained out, i.e. less land would be reclaimed to start cultivation. So, there are both threats and opportunities with the new seasonal variation of flow. A lot has been said on effect of Tipaimukh on haors. It is argued that the change in flow would eventually cause haors to dry up. I do see a possibility of haors getting dried up but not as a result of change in flow variation. The haors are already drying up as more and more population is trying to reclaim them. A few of articles (link1, link2, link3, link4, link5) on this topic can make my point clear.

Birds eye view of Haor Basin

Bird's eye view of Haor Basin

A brief look at the Government of Bangladesh priorities throws light into some different aspects of haors. As per the Daily Star report (latest report), Govt has started a massive flood control measure in Sylhet. This includes raising embankments and creating irrigation channels to divert water from the river flow. An editorial in the Daily Star reported how the embankments were able to save haor crops from destruction. These would also do the same with the haors, reduce the inundated area dry up haors as flood water would not be allowed to enter those. The long term flood action plan (FAP, also known as FCD) of Bangladesh clearly mentions eleven goals of flood moderation. The clause (7) says –

“Reduction of flood flows in the major rivers by diversion into major distributaries and flood relief channels; “

However, this goal also would have adverse effect on haors since river diversion implies less water for wetlands. Bangladesh Government’s own Flood control plans have significant adverse effect on its ecology and especially fishing. In a paper published in Cambridge Journals it was argued that structural changes made under Flood Action Plan actually reduced the fishing. Another paper by Jim Scullion mentions that :

“Whenever flood control projects reduce the area of flooded land there will be a loss of habitat for fish production. FAP 17 results from free-flooding areas showed that there would be an annual loss ranging from 68 kg to 202 kg with a mean of 119 kg of fish for each hectare of flooded land lost. … In only one of eight projects studied by FAP 17 was full flood control achieved and river flooding prevented to increase the production of HYV rice. This resulted in a reduction in annual catch per unit area (CPUA) of 81% and a significant reduction in fishing effort. Species diversity was reduced by 33% mainly due to the blockage of fish movements between rivers and flood- plains. Migratory species were almost eliminated from floodplains (95% reduction in CPUA).”

Although there are efforts to mitigate these side effects of Flood Control Plan by promoting farm-fishing, it was only able to reduce the damage done. So, why Bangladesh is going ahead with such plan that destroys ecology and fishing? It’s the demand of population that drives Flood Action Plan. Preventing loss due to floods is clearly a priority over ecology of Bangladesh due to high population density.

Bangladesh Flood Map

Bangladesh Flood Map

Tipaimukh dam would do the same that Government of Bangladesh already planned for – it would damage the current water cycle of haors. Haors are replenished by the floods and any effort to moderate the flood would cause the same – be it is done in India or in Bangladesh. The choice between “letting people to live with the floods” and “saving haors” – is open to individual personal views. It’s a choice with threats and opportunities. I am afraid one cannot achieve both “save Haor” and “Stop floods in Haor basin” – choice is limited to only one.

To know more about Haors – link, link2, link3, link4.

The image beside shows the flood map of Bangladesh. The Haor basin is subjected to Flash Flood frequently. This type of flood is
characterized by rapid rise and fall in water levels. Flash flood can occur within a time-period between few minutes to few hours. (Source) The Bangladesh Govt has taken steps to control this flood so far. With Tipaimukh dam in operation, the probability of this kind of flood would reduce significantly. One important addition to this is Haors do exist in India (Barak Valley) also and people of those regions are also affected by floods regularly.

In fact, Bangladesh Flood Action Plan (part 6) categorizes Tipaimukh as a flood control plan. It also writes –

“Operation of the proposed Tipaimukh Dam/Cachar Plain Project on the Barak in India would moderate flows along the Kushiyara River and upper Surma River, decreasing monsoon flood levels and substantially increasing dry season flows. Impacts during reservoir filling could be even more significant. Ramifications for biophysical and socioeconomic environmental components include changes in monsoon cropping, reduced infrastructure and homestead flood damage, slower post-monsoon drainage, increased dry season in-channel fisheries habitat and improved migration access in the pre- and post-monsoon seasons, and so on.”

To know more about Bangladesh hydrology, read a banglapedia article.

To know more about Bangladesh flood, read a paper from BUET. This one puts utmost importance on Early Warning System (EWS) for flood control. If tipaimukh controls water, this could definitely be developed.

A Bangladesh newspaper (The New Nation) has unfortunately copied the above two paragraphs and published without even referring to my name or the blog site. And of course, forget about getting my permission. The quality of copy-paste job is also very low since they didn’t even bother to remove the links.

Are there any other effects of the Dam?

Like the haors in Bangladesh, a lot of small wetlands exist in Barak valley also. Once the flood moderation kicks in, those would also probably dry up due to lack of replenishment. The valley would become dependent on irrigation water during dry season. Since the irrigation water is more regular – it would actually improve the consistency of cultivation in that area.

Similarly, Bangladesh plan for flood moderation and river diversion can also utilize the augmented flow in dry season. But a lot of these benefits would actually depend on how efficient the irrigation planning would be.

On the other hand, a lot of sediments carried by the river would now get deposited under the reservoir. The same would have been deposited to the haors and added fertility to the land, had there been no dams present. At the same time, less sediment would mean better navigability of the river.

I also read about possibilities of Winter flood. I do not have sufficient data at this point to discuss it in length.

How does this case goes as per International Water Laws?

Neither India nor Bangladesh is a signatory of any of the International Water Laws (Such as Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses and Berlin Rules). However, neither of these are very specific laws – these are just framework of cooperation.

As I discussed in details in my earlier post, the equitable share of benefits can be claimed by any of the river basin countries. The obligation not to cause significant harm is a “best effort” clause and to achieve flood control a minimum extent of harm is justifiable. About the equitable distribution of the benefits, I am optimistic. Once the North-East India produces surplus electricity, a fair share of that can be exported to Bangladesh at a reduced price. For the time being, the barrage at Fulertal could divert some of the water to irrigate in Bangladesh, as suggested by B. G. Verghese (Member of Center for Policy Research) in his presentation to World Bank. He also noted –

“Indeed, Tipaimukh was the first flood moderation study suggested by Bangladesh when the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission was established in 1972.” (Supported by Dr Nishat, Indian HC claims the proposals were recorded in the statement of Joint River Commission meeting in 1972 and 1978.)

In this context, I need to mention that lower riparian does not have a veto power over a river development project upstream even if it harms them. For example, only 25% of Nepalese population has access to electricity. A huge population of Nepal is displaced every year due to floods. If Nepal plans to add 10,000 MW of electricity and want to achieve flood control in its rivers – the lower riparian India and Bangladesh cannot object without a mention of less harmful alternatives.

The project at Tipaimukh is still waiting for clearance from the state of Mizoram (Official status). Once that happens, I hope we would see the planners and designers would publish detailed data on the site and will not violate the obligation to exchange information. (update – Data exchange on June 19th)

Update on this — Bangladesh Flood action plan 6 (prepared in 1988 by Bangladesh experts) clearly mentions Tipaimukh as a Flood control option for Bangladesh. The same report also predicts other good effects of the same plan in Bangladesh. This proves Bangladesh was aware of Indian initiative for long.

How are the protests in India?

Protest in Manipur against Tipaimukh

Protest in Manipur against Tipaimukh

In India, protests are taking place mostly in Manipur and Mizoram, where most of the displacement would take place. Despite the promise of 12% free electricity, a lot of people stood against the dam. I saw a lot of newspaper editorials, blogs and pictures of protest from Manipur and Mizoram. However, the issue had little impact on the 2009 Indian Election as the ruling parties won again in both of these states. The Govt of Manipur has already picked up 5% stake in the project. I don’t see any reason why Barak valley in Assam is not happy with it. In fact Barak valley people are strongly in favor of Tipaimukh Dam. The author from Bangladesh noted that as many as 95% of Barak valley population are in favor of the dam. In fact when Silchar was under water in 2008, the Institution of Engineers in Silchar prepared a 13 page document to suggest mechanisms for flood control – Tipaimukh dam was the main point there too.

I mentioned in my writing that dams do have short term benefits and it seems people are more interested in those.

Why are there so many protests in Bangladesh against this dam?

I saw protests has basically two categories. The first one is by environmentalists – who always protest any dam construction as they oppose damage to ecology. These people are in India as well as in Bangladesh, and their voice is the same. Whereas a lot of Bangladesh based authors have emphasized on lower riparian effects (such as damages to haors), the environmentalists based in India mostly have protested the loss of forest and biodiversity.

The other section of protest in Bangladesh is alarmist in nature. They project Tipaimukh to be another Farakka. They also claim that dry season flow would be significantly down after the Tipaimukh project is completed. These people mostly also attack the current Bangladesh Govt. for their alleged inaction against the dam as they clearly have political motive. I found they are similar to one launched by a lot of Pakistanis during Baghlihar dam. Later, it was cleared by International experts and one major Pakistani newspaper wrote about “Lower Riparian Alarmism.”. It discusses that any dam in upper-riparian upsets their lower counterpart with a lot of speculation about the water security. Politics actually latches on this insecurity.

The ruling party does the opposite. They try to defend the dam by merely saying it would do good for Bangladesh. That’s another extreme position and it seriously dilutes country’s ability to bargain a deal. I saw it in Pakistan and Bangladesh is merely repeating the same. Even a graduate knows that any dam can cause problems downstream. They should get all the information required and take necessary action downstream to prevent problems caused by the dam. The internal politics damages every cause of the downstream nation. I am hopeful that I won’t see it when China would dam Brahmaputra. They should get the data and take necessary action to build water-store or barrages to hold excess water of monsoon.

One important aspect of bilateral politics in Bangladesh (and India) is noticeable. The opposition does not at all own the international treaties, neither it is responsible for any international relations of Bangladesh. Only the ruling party is the international face of Bangladesh. For years, Bangladesh has asked for and got loans from ADB and UN for flood prevention and post-flood disaster recovery. The extent of damage these floods caused is also well-known. I found in UN Database, one presentation about 2004 floods claims $2.3 billion loss to Bangladesh. An Editorial on how to combat includes option of high-cost dredging operations. The same Haor region, which is supposed to be affected by this project, lost nearly 80% (in value term) of its paddy production due to flood in 2009 (report). (Someone also wrote in his blog that farmers in Haor region were able to reap their harvest 4 times in last 10 years) Not only that, Bangladesh has asked India to augment the lean season flow for years. After all these, if Bangladesh internationally disagrees with a plan that would reduce the rainy season flow as well as augment the lean season flow – it would become an example of double standard. It would weaken their position to ask for any flood recovery loans from any organization. The current Govt knows this very well and that is what is keeping them away from taking it to any international organization. It’s totally untrue that they are less patriotic than their opposition counterparts are.

I mentioned before that Farakka remains to be one of the major breach of trust by India against Bangladesh. To add to that, India had claimed Farakka would not cause any damage to Bangladesh before they started the project. A project targeted at reducing dry season river-flow by 50% had to damage the lower riparian and that’s exactly what has happened. To add to that injury, India and Bangladesh did not have a water-sharing treaty between 1982 and 1995. India channelled water unilaterally in this period, reducing the lean season flow to as low as 10,000 cusec at times. Till date, India failed to initiate any meaningful measure to the promise it made in Ganges Water Treaty to augment lean season flow in Ganges. If the affected country refuses to believe the promise by India this time, I don’t blame them.

These alarmist allegations though, most of the times, carry little fact. A widespread claim of “desertification” of Western Bangladesh is baseless. The Indian North-East region does neither have much arable land nor a huge population though it is water-surplus. Bangladesh can safely assume the water available from western rivers to be constant in lean season and plan according to them. India doesn’t have any utility of that water until it connects its’ rivers.

Interestingly, The New Nation newspaper in Bangladesh, who has copied my writing, has copied only the “Damage to ecology” part of my writing. They avoided the other parts – especially augmentation of lean season flow due to the dam. A careful pick-and-choose is signature of an alarmist nature and it betrays the true notion of debate based on facts, data and priority.

Windows are open for future politics too. All rivers in Indian subcontinent have largely varied flow in different years. I have seen the data for Ganges, where the maximum is more than three times of that of the minimum flow for a given month between 1934 and 1964. Surma, one of the affected rivers, recorded lowest flow of just 487 cusecs between 1950 and 1960. If the river flow goes down to that level once more due to natural causes, won’t these people accuse Tipaimukh? Also, wouldn’t there be an effort to project the drying up rivers once the first fill up of the reservoir happens?

I do blame Indian Government for not caring for Bangladesh’s woes. They could have done so much better. They could have modelled the input-output waterflow and predicted the effect on the environment more accurately. They could have published monthly expected water flows projected after Tipaimukh completion. They should have promised a minimum flow during first fill up of reservoir. A farmer in haor basin would have benefitted directly or indirectly from each of these data. Keeping the data closed to public eye only causes public suspicion to grow. It is also a breach of International law and in a way refusal to cooperate with the lower riparian. Last but not the least, we, as citizens of India, want more transparency in Indian way of development. I am hopeful that India Govt would look into these issues very soon.

Update

An article published in The Independent BD today highlighted a few points of gain from Tipaimukh project. The article also pointed how to avoid a water war between India and Bangladesh. A key portion of the article reads :

1. Will the reduced wet season flows adversely affect the aman crop irrigation? Probably not, as most aman crop water comes from rain. Nevertheless, there may be areas where water is extracted from the river for irrigation in the aman season. Bangladesh authorities should estimate any such losses; it may mean the costs of pumping from the river to the paddy field are higher as the river level is lower (in the wet season).

2. Will the reduced wet season flows mean that ground water recharge on the Bangladesh side is reduced? To some extent, yes; but how much? This is unlikely to be a major effect as most recharge is from rainwater.

3. Will the reduced wet season flow reduce flood loses? Almost certainly yes. In this sense the Tipaimukh dam will reduce flood caused loses of crops and assets in Bangladesh.

4. Will the increased dry season flow help irrigation? Definitely! The cost of surface irrigation will decline as the pumping cost is lower; while there will be some favourable impact on water table levels in the dry season this is unlikely to be significant.

The impact of the dam on Bangladesh can only be answered by reviewing the details of rice cultivation, irrigation methods on the Bangladesh side and the expected changes in the river flow. On balance the impact on agriculture is probably going to be favourable, reducing flood losses and improving irrigation. There is no real basis for believing that the impact of the dam will be detrimental to Bangladesh agriculture!

Another consequence of the construction of the dam is the risk of earthquakes induced by the dam. This is a serious issue for Bangladesh. The risks are complex and Bangladesh probably needs to engage an expert to prepare an assessment. However, for the size of this project the risks seem not excessive Nevertheless an assessment of such risks must be made. The Indian geologists are particularly strong in RIS (Reservoir induced sesmimology) but a Chinese expert would be preferred!

Use of the river for transportation would be improved with the smoothing of the water flows, in particular raising water levels in the dry season.

Finally, there are suggestions of unfavourable impact on flora or fauna. It is difficult to get excited about this.

A report from an independent personality is really helpful in order to have a neutral and fact-based debate on any issue. The article from Forerest Cookson had helped me to get that.

Also read – Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury on Tipaimukh.

Prothom alo has published something similar to this writing – written by M A Kasem, another water expert.

Acknowledgment – I was helped by innumerable blog entries and research articles to prepare this writing. If someone wants to copy contents of the above please at least notify me first.

Conclusion

After reading and answering a lot of comments, my position remains intact. The way Bangladesh Govt should approach the issue of Tipaimukh dam should be based on objective analysis. The analysis should list out all gains, losses, opportunities, threats and risks caused by this project. Then they should weigh the options to mitigate losses and risks as well as try to optimize the gains and opportunities. At the same time they should have some alternatives to Indian plans. In the end, if it turns out to be a project of net negative impact – they should notify Indian Govt of the possible adverse effects and request them to stop the dam project. If India agrees – all end well. If India disagrees, Bangladesh should request India for an arbitration under International law. If Bangladesh wins – the process should focus on asking India to stop the dam. If Bangladesh fails to win the arbitration – they simply have to focus on mitigating the dangers. But typically an arbitration results in options and not in outcome. Bangladesh should be prepared to choose best option without any bias. At the end of the day, if Bangladesh confronts India, they have to rely on this objective analysis. This won’t be published as newspaper articles to be consumed by common people but would be consumed by experts.

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Written by Diganta

June 8, 2009 at 10:29 am

46 Responses

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  1. […] New Horizon posts a detailed FAQ on the controversial Tipaimukh Dam project in India and its consequences on India and Bangladesh. […]

  2. I like the report very much.

    Khorshed Sobhan

    June 25, 2009 at 7:45 am

  3. Mr. diganta,
    I am quite impressed by your post on Tipaimukh Dam, which is pretty informative and objective. I would like to request you to prepare a Bengali text for general readers.
    With best wishes
    Shahriar

    Shahriar

    July 3, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    • Thanks!! I’ll try to prepare and publish it in my Bengali wordpress blog.

      Diganta

      July 3, 2009 at 11:42 pm

  4. This is a clever article to depict the Indian ruling class view to show tipaimukh dam and fulertal barrage as very good projects. But it fails to consider people and ecology as the ultimate target. I think its a well-paid article by the beneficiaries.

    Rubel

    July 10, 2009 at 7:58 am

    • great comment 🙂 🙂 🙂

      If ecology is the ultimate target then why flood control is required at all?

      Diganta

      July 10, 2009 at 8:44 am

  5. No way I am for dams for flood control that creates huge ecological disaster and affects life of people adversely. However dams for flood control has increased the sufferings from it by water logging and decreased the time gaps between extreme floods, Bangladesh experience clearly shows that. But so called development discourses don’t put the agenda forward. Furthermore when questioned go to the extremes and reduce the original view suitable for their attack. In fact these arrogance is due to the poverty of ideologies and it blocks real debate to come into action.

    Rubel

    July 11, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    • Any idea about any alternatives of flood control? I know one alternative (I mentioned here as well) – practice living with flood. Do you think that’s a better one in Bangladesh perspective? That’s what ecologists suggest.

      Bangladesh experience clearly shows that.
      — I don’t think so, any idea about such effects due to Kaptai dam?

      Diganta

      July 12, 2009 at 6:43 am

  6. 1) According to Mr. Diganta the objections to Tipaimukh Dam in Bangladesh is the following two:
    1.Possible river drying and devastation of wetland (Haor)
    2.Possible flood in summer/winter in lowlands causing damage to agriculture
    After describing these two as the sole objections from Bangladesh part and labeled these as “Propaganda” Mr.Diganta himself manifested even a greater Propaganda by claiming that this Dam will do the opposite. By citing the example of Captai he went on to state that :

    “It is interesting to note that this dam did not “dry up” the downstream flow at all, rather it augmented the flow during the lean season and buffered the additional flow during the rainy season.”

    While it may happen that a Dam can increase water flow of down stream by discharging stored water from the reservoir, the core question is that what actually India will do in practice, what is India’s intention and what is the design and requirement of the Indian government? So the above mentioned two objections are rightly included among other concerns raised by Bangladeshi protesters but these two are in no way the MAIN objection- the main objection is the attempt of Indian government to take over the control of water flow of a international river with out taking any consent of Bangladesh….. as to Bangladeshi people, to hand over the control of river flow to India is like to hand over the responsibility of chicken-upbringing to a cunning Fox! This concern of Bangladeshi is nicely expressed in a colum:

    “The basic issue here is that flow pattern will change due to man-made Dam disrupting God-made natural flow. In a nutshell, to obtain our legitimate share of water flow we shall have to depend upon the mercy of the Indian authority who will control and regulate flow through the Dam.”

    (Source: Tipaimukh Dam: Its nuts and bolts need dovetailing by A. mannan on The New Nation dated june 28, 2009)

    May be Mr Diganto have no objection if Bangladesh has to depend upon Indian Mercy and this, despite his claim of objectivity, clearly shows which side he is on!

    But we must oppose this change of flow pattern, artificial alteration and flattening of the natural “flood pulse” and resulting impact on the ecology for our own existence.

    And if India, according to Mr Diganta’s claim, works like a flood-controller of Bangladesh for free of cost(!), still there is danger of sudden flashing of flood when there is risk flooding out India’s own areas and dangers of DAM breaking. Dr Jahir Bin Alam, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Shahjalal University of Science & Technology rightly expressed this danger:

    “The dam may control some of the annual flooding. But when there is a really big rise in water levels, the gates will have to be opened to save the dam itself. That will lead to a much bigger flood downstream.”

    Mr. Diganta slyly avoids these concerns!

    2)
    And to negate the concern of Bangladeshi protestors about DAM failure at seismically active zone of Tipaimukh region, Mr Diganta cites the example of Japan without mentioning specific information of Hight, Location and other specifications:

    “I would also like to add here that Japan has more than 2000 dams even though the whole of Japan is Earthquake prone. There were many earthquakes in Japan for last 100 years and no news of dam failures due to earthquake yet. Last 150 years of history did not record any incident of dam failure anywhere in the world due to an earthquake. In these days, building an earthquake safe dam is merely a choice of technology.”

    No news of Dam failures caused by earthquake in Japan or any where in the world? Is it true? But how I get these news from net :

    #The 1978 Izu-Ohshim-Kinkai earthquakes in Japan caused two tailings dams owned by the Mochikoshi gold mining company to fail as a result of liquefaction of the tailings materials behind the dams. The earthquake consisted of a main shock with magnitude of
    M7 and a large after shock of M5.8.
    (source: http://www.civil.ubc.ca/liquefaction/Publications/Hyropower&Dams.pdf)

    #In 2001, the Howard Hansen Dam located northwest of Enumclaw was damaged by the Washington Earthquake. The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.8. The damage consisted of cracks in the embankment and movement of instrument housing buildings on the dam (USGS 2001).
    # During the Santa Barbara Earthquake of 1925, the Sheffield Dam in California failed due to liquefaction apparently in the area just below the dam embankment containing silty sand. Little damage and no loss of life resulted. The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.3 and the dam was constructed in 1917 (Bonilla 1991).
    #The Lower San Fernando Dam located northwest of Los Angeles, California was damaged by the San Fernando Earthquake of 1971. The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.7.
    # In 1994, the Los Angeles Dam was damaged by the Northridge Earthquake. It had a magnitude of 6.6

    Source: http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/student/dahms3/web1.htm

    If I can find these, why Mr Diganta did not find? Or, may be he actually found but just hid these to misguided/misinformed us and thus support the cause of Indian imperialism.

    kallol

    July 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    • 1. Not a valid point. One cannot internationally object a dam only because it will give the upper riparian more power to withdraw, or because something else by the same country has caused damage sometimes back.

      the core question is that what actually India will do in practice
      – Yes because that’ll give India the maximum benefit.

      “The dam may control some of the annual flooding. But when there is a really big rise in water levels, the gates will have to be opened to save the dam itself. That will lead to a much bigger flood downstream.”

      – This is of course true. Now the assumption behind your argument is “when there is a really big rise in water levels” – “how big” is purely a technical matter.

      Let me explain you – no dam can absolutely stop flood. The dams are designed to withstand upto a certain level of water, and to release the rest. It’s like a buffer – that only moderates – does not stop anything. So, if there is really a big rise in water level – it will cause flooding even now – isn’t it?

      But the difference is, that flood will have warning before it actually happens. This is the additional benefit. The additional risk is that the extent of flood is higher than it could be before. Judging by risk and benefit, it looks fair to me.

      2. Japanese mine dam was an embankment dam – somthing that is raised in the sides of the river. It’s not at all comparable with the structures perpendicular to river flow.

      For all other examples, the dams were damaged and did not fail. You can get a list of dam failures here :
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dam_failures

      You have put examples of Lower San Fernando Dam (Los Angeles) twice. That actually will strengthen my argument.

      You can read :
      http://quake.usgs.gov/prepare/factsheets/LADamStory/
      “In 1971, the near-failure of a dam during a magnitude 6.7 earthquake forced 80,000 people to evacuate their residences. In 1994, the replacement dam survived an almost identical earthquake with little damage. Underlying this progress in designing critical structures are years of research on the powerful shaking during large earthquakes. ”

      This supports my core claim – “In these days, building an earthquake safe dam is merely a choice of technology.”

      Diganta

      July 16, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    • Last one, I am neither a supporter nor a protester of this dam. I was irritated at a lot of confusing article on various newspapers those project desertification. The actual damage is done to the ecology and not by drying up rivers. At the same time there are some upsides of this too. A rational argument should consider both and take care of it technically and not emotionally.

      Diganta

      July 17, 2009 at 6:42 am

  7. Although, you, Mr Diganta, are claiming that you are neithier supporter nor a protester of this Dam, that you are for rational and objective argument, your position and data presentation seems to me irrational and biased especilly when you reject the “Controlling issue” by saying that this not a valid point. A great porion of water resource of Bangladesh will be dependent upon the mercy of indian govermnet, which is infact a question relating to sovirienity, and you say this is not a valid point! I think now any reader will understand which side are you on.

    And about the question of Dam breaking/failure of point 2, my intention was to argument against your claim that no Dam failed during last 150 years…

    Now you are saying that japaneese dam was river side embankment, not a perpendicural dam or those are not failure just damage etc etc. My argument is that if an reiverside embankment can fail then a perpendicular dam also can failed and if a dam can be damaged it can also be failed especially in earth quake prone area. Then Why and how, the lower reparian people should take thses risks for the benift of a upper riparian country?

    Your postion shows that you are unwilling to take these issues seriously and hence are labeling this technical issues simply as emotional.

    Now I will show how you misinformed the reader about the water withdrawal capacity of the proposed Fulertal Barrage:

    By using lots of assumption and fictitious data you claimed that “So, it requires only a half BCM to irrigate Barak valley arable land. Even after withdrawal for Barak valley irrigation, the flow downstream would be much higher in dry season.”

    Lets see what will be amount of water withdrawn from Barak River with respect to the water flow of Barak following Indian EIA report:

    Chapter I of EIA states that:

    “There is a proposal to construct a pick-up barrage at Fulertal, 95 km down stream of dam site, which will act as diurnal storage of 1120 cumec inclusive of power release to irrigate subsequently a gross command area of 1,20,337 ha.”

    It means that the barrage can withdraw 1120 cumec i.e cubic meter water/second to irrigate an area of 1,20,337 ha. Lets see what is percentage of this pick-up water with respect to the peak discharge of water of Barak River during monsoon.

    According to the chapter 3 table 3.16 of the EIA report, safe carrying capacity of Barak near Lakhipur of Assam is 2760 cumec and near Badarpurghat (10 km distance from bifurcation point where the Barak divides into Surma and Kushiara) is 3440. From this data we can see that, if full functional, in every second Fulertal barrage will withdraw 41% of water of the Barak river with respect to the capacity of the river near Lakhipur and 33% with respect to the capacity of the river near Badarpurghat.

    And this is the scenario of wet season. Naturally, this loss of 1120 cumec water will be felt more heavily during dry season.

    Now, Mr. Diganta, is it really that negligible amount of water?

    So, stop misguiding and misinforming the people with the disguise of objectivity and rationality.

    kallol

    July 17, 2009 at 9:06 am

    • “My argument is that if an reiverside embankment can fail then a perpendicular dam also can failed and if a dam can be damaged it can also be failed especially in earth quake prone area. ”
      – You are wrong. The embankment dams are never made to be earthquake safe. I told you that it’s a matter of technology. The reason they are not made that way is because they don’t damage much even if they fail. By the way, there are long embankment dams in Bangladesh too.

      I will answer your points related to water control in another comment.

      Now let me dive into that barrage issue. If you think my estimate of river water use for irrigation is fictious then you can read estimates by a BUET engineer here :
      http://www.sachalayatan.com/socol_zahid/25720
      Read the comment 3.1.1.1 – he estimates the water required to irrigate 1,20,000 hectres to be 45 cumec. The flow of Barak varies from 170-250 cumec in dry season which would be augmented to 500 cumec now. Out of that, even if 50 cumec is withdrawn, the reamining water turns out to be 450 cumec. Isn’t that still much higher than previous (170-250)?

      Coming to the technical point of “diurnal storage of 1120 cumec ” – it explains a lot. Diurnal store is temporary storage of water effected by barrage. The actual amount withdrawn depends on canal size. The feeder canal in Farakka can divert at most 1133 cumec water even though the diurnal storage capacity of the barrage is much higher.

      To divert more water India needs to build more infrastructure and maintain it which will cause the cost to rise. But the benefits will not be equitable since more irrigation water doesn’t bring more benefit after that 50 cumec water.

      If you want to argue that India will pay from own pocket and withdraw more water only to harm Bangladesh and not for its own benefit – I am not ready to accept it right now.

      Diganta

      July 17, 2009 at 8:53 pm

      • If india could pay from its own pocket to build a feeder canal to divert 1133 cumec water, then surely it can and will build feeder canalas to divert 1120 cuemec water. Thats why India is planning to build a diurnal storage of 1120 cumec. Who ensures that india will confine to 1,20,000 hecter, specially when its long term goal is interlinking revers and diverting water for irrigation whereevr needed!

        And the aggumentation of the flow of Barak is only an estimation of FAP6 which is a world bank cordinated project. It is not mentioned how long period by discharging the 15.5 BCM storage water can mantain the increased peak of the Brak river to a level of 500 cumec. If india decides not to produce electricity in dry season but only to divert water using Fulertal barrage then there will be no question of increased flow.

        kallol

        July 18, 2009 at 8:50 am

    • I missed out one of your points – “my intention was to argument against your claim that no Dam failed during last 150 years”. Let me quote once more what I wrote – “Last 150 years of history did not record any incident of dam failure anywhere in the world due to an earthquake.” – I was pointing to earthquake failures and not of any other reason.

      Now coming back to “control” of water – the “more control” argument is neither rational nor internationally accepted one. The rivers flow from India to Bangladesh even now. So, India is only adding to its control, that is permissible. You can read about France vs Spain Lake Lenoux arbitration regarding this.
      http://www.lfip.org/laws666/lakelanoux.htm

      The riparian states have two different positions. The upper riparian claims that they can do whatever they want to do with the river since it is inside their geographic area and modern nation states are sovereign inside that area. The lower riparian claims that the upstream state may do nothing that could affect the natural flow of the water into the downstream state. Both of these two nations are false. The actual position followed by the international law is in the middle of these two – is called equitable solution. The upper riparian has right to develop watercourse as per their wish as long as it takes equitable benefit out of it, but it has to inform the lower riparian of possible adverse effects. You can read the laws here –
      http://untreaty.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/conventions/8_3_1997.pdf

      Diganta

      July 17, 2009 at 9:17 pm

      • Thanks for the correction regarding the quotaion where I did not mention earth quake( but I left some dots to show its incompleteness) but still the argument is same which you can read like below:

        “And about the question of Dam breaking/failure of point 2, my intention was to argument against your claim that no Dam failed during last 150 years by earth quake.

        Now you are saying that japaneese dam was river side embankment, not a perpendicural dam or those are not failure just damage etc etc. My argument is that if an reiverside embankment can fail then a perpendicular dam also can failed and if a dam can be damaged it can also be failed especially in earth quake prone area. Then Why and how, the lower reparian people should take thses risks for the benift of a upper riparian country?

        Your postion shows that you are unwilling to take these issues seriously and hence are labeling this technical issues simply as emotional.”

        You raised the issue of DAM vs embankment in a way that DAM is not breakable by earth quake but embankment is… but technically you missed another issue– Dam induced siesmicity. Already lots of experts both from bangladesh and india have raised this issue that there is high probability of Dam induced siesmicity in an earth quake prone area hence dam break and other earth quake related disastaur.

        And to an Imperialist country like india, which has already been showing its attitude towards the question of equitability by unilateral withdrawal of water from GANGA TEESTA etc, it is utterly foolish to expect equitability or whatever it is.

        kallol

        July 18, 2009 at 9:19 am

    • You can read a summary of international water agreements here –
      http://ressources.ciheam.org/om/pdf/a31/CI971551.pdf

      Diganta

      July 18, 2009 at 12:41 am

  8. Diganta, I find your arguments run counter to established scientific thought which say dams are harmful to the environment. Even the World Commission on Dams which had representatives of the Dam building companies on the committee admitted this. There are too many ifs and buts in your piece.

    For an objective analysis based on the Indian EIA report on Tipaimukh dam, and a thorough study of the downstream ecology, I would suggest this Daily Star piece.

    http://www.thedailystar.net/magazine/2009/07/02/cover.htm

    Tariqul Islam

    July 17, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    • I never denied in my whole article that dams that dams as well as the present tipaimukh dam would be a disaster to environment. In fact my first line started with “Dams, like all other man-made infrastructures, are actually disasters for ecological balance of a region. When a dam creates it’s own rule of ecology, the existing one is demolished.”

      My argument is – going by the environment is not always the best way. You need to change it for better way of living. That’s what is done when you build a city, control flood/drought, reclaim land from sea or build bridges across rivers. All of these hampers environment in one way or the other, but the benefit it gets is outweighs the damage.

      The “World Commission of Dams” report does never tell us that big dams are bad. They only say that we need to closely scrutinize our effort to build large dams in terms of cost-benefit ratio. I am completely in agreement with them and I have quoted one article from their report on India. You can read it here –
      https://horizonspeaks.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/controversy-are-large-dams-good/

      If we get good and sustainable return from dams, we should establish them. That’s what has been the philosophy of human civilization. But the study should be made in favor of objective analysis of all criteria including social and environmental aspects. You’ll get it in the conclusion section of the report on India.

      I read the article, and it again shows the polarization effect. The loss of environment is focussed, but never ever it was mentioned the problems they currently face – i.e. flood, lack of irrigation water in dry season and lack of navigability in dry season.

      An objective analysis should show both and come with a conclusion weighing the options. The analysis should also be able to offer a lot of mitigation efforts and alternatives. I am still waiting for that. An international river plan should take care of the concerns of both India and Bangladesh’s concerns and share the benefits equitably among them.

      Diganta

      July 17, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    • http://www.thedailystar.net/magazine/2009/07/02/cover.htm

      — I read the article, and it again shows the polarization effect. The loss of environment is focussed, but never ever it was mentioned the problems they currently face – i.e. flood, lack of irrigation water in dry season and lack of navigability in dry season. The sufferings of human beings today are as real as the problems projected. A rational argument should take care of both.

      An objective analysis should show both and come with a conclusion weighing the options. The analysis should also be able to offer a lot of mitigation efforts and alternatives. I am still waiting for that. An international river plan should take care of the concerns of both India and Bangladesh’s concerns and share the benefits equitably among them.

      Diganta

      July 18, 2009 at 12:10 am

  9. Mr. Diganto

    Why you are writing in favor of Dam like Maha Bharat ? You represent data, chart, analysis, etc.; what these really indicate? The day is not far from today when you have to figure out the adverse consequences of those dams you all built through out India. You Indians are fool bcz you denied natural river systems and its tributaries that originates from the Himalaya and ppl of these river basins are living by the blessings of these rivers for ages. In the name of green energy you have turned the river dead, you’ve thus welcomed desertification.

    Russell Imran

    July 17, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    • 1. If you have problems only because I am an Indian I can’t really solve your problem :).

      2. The natural river system you mention was sufficient to feed (?) us (both Indians and Bangladeshis) for thousands of years because we were less in number. In the beginning of last century our population (undivided India) was 238 million. Only Bangladesh has 150 million population now (Indian population is 1120 million). How could the same natural river system feed us?

      Also, I know how we were in those natural days. In 1770, one third of Bengal province died in a drought. Also I wish to remond you of the 1876–1877 famine, in which over five million people died; and the 1899 famine, in which over 4.5 million died. These were well before 1942-43 Bengal famine once more. You can read about how India was in those days –
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_major_famines_in_India_during_British_rule_(1765_to_1947)
      There were famines before these also, where entire provinces used to get depopulated.

      Natural way is not always the best way :). That’s what has been the mantra of Human civilization.

      Diganta

      July 17, 2009 at 9:31 pm

  10. Diganta, thank you for at least admitting “I never denied in my whole article that dams as well as the present tipaimukh dam would be a disaster to environment.” You, as an Indian, are still in favour because you think it will bring benefits to your economy. But we, as bangladeshis, will have to pay a terrible price in terms of ecology destroyed and food security threatened. So we are determined to oppose it. As a “good neighbour” India should listen to our objections.

    You write “The loss of environment is focussed, but never ever it was mentioned the problems they currently face – i.e. flood, lack of irrigation water in dry season and lack of navigability in dry season”. I dont think you read the Star article. I did read it, and I think it invalidates most of your points. The Surma-Kushiara-Kalni basin are wetlands where the seasonal rhythm is important – there are no navigational problems here as you mentioned. But thank you for at least agreeing that India is trying to do this without a proper impact study of lower riparian environment.

    The World Commission on Dams did say that although “dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development, in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms” In this case, the equation is simple. You Indians want the development, and are happy to let us Bangladeshis keep the environmental damage. What an equation!

    Sabrina Ahmad

    July 18, 2009 at 1:20 am

    • I think your comment is too arrogant. To reply, let me start from your last comment.

      “You Indians want the development, and are happy to let us Bangladeshis keep the environmental damage. ” – Please excuse me, both India and Bangladesh want development. It’s your arrogance that makes you think Bangladesh doesn’t want the same. And with every development in Bangladesh (or in India) – the environment is damaged.

      World commission of dams made the report on the dams when no one used to even think that dams can cause environmental damage. So, it is very normal that the dams were built indiscriminately and we paid a lot of cost. By the way, they surveyed only 8 Indian dams out of 4500 🙂 . In the same report they concluded with which measures India should take to mitigate damage by dams and how to asses future dams. It is clear that they are in favor of dams but with more scrutiny.

      “The Surma-Kushiara-Kalni basin are wetlands where the seasonal rhythm is important – there are no navigational problems here as you mentioned.”
      — Surma-Kushiyara are non-navigational during dry season.

      Diganta

      July 18, 2009 at 7:02 am

  11. Mr. Diganta

    You have no right to kill rivers. Dams causes to the environment which is irreversible to cure. Calculate the difference between how much energy you’ve obtained from these dams, and how much environmental disasters you’ve faced and say which one outweighs; dam or disasters? Where do you find the civilization mantra that states, you have to ruin your own nature if you need civilization? You need water isn’t it? Then create your own river systems and tributaries parallel to these existing rivers, research more about how the river originates from the glacial ices of the Himalaya.

    We will protest this Tipai dam and never let you to make this dam on the river Barak.

    Russell Imran

    July 18, 2009 at 7:52 am

    • In my assessment, dams did better than what it took. The popular evaluation is also the same. Every day dam based hydro-electricity is better than coal based one.

      “You need water isn’t it? Then create your own river systems and tributaries parallel to these existing rivers, research more about how the river originates from the glacial ices of the Himalaya.”
      – May be this is the future of mankind. Large scale desalination of water and reprocessing glacial ice. Technology should take us there.

      Diganta

      July 18, 2009 at 10:08 am

  12. @Kallol – India paid for farakka diversion because the gain is proportional to the diversion. For an irrigation project, it’s not the case. The water required for a constant area can be estimated. The estimate is 50 cumecs. There is no question of river interlinking to shift Barak water into another basin since it has to go over a 700mt mountain range.

    Augmentation is reality since the water has to be released to produce electricity as well as to ensure enough space in the reservoir. If India decides to produce hydroelectricity in Monsoon only, then dams are not at all required 🙂 – run of the river projects are sufficient. The peak demand of electricity is dry season, hence the plan for dams come in :).

    “My argument is that if an reiverside embankment can fail then a perpendicular dam also can failed and if a dam can be damaged it can also be failed especially in earth quake prone area.”
    Now understand the followings –
    1. Any structure – be it a tall building – or a dam/embankment – can collapse if a sufficiently strong earth-quake hits it.
    2. If the earthquake risk is known to them then they’ll build it as earthquake resistant to certain extent.
    3. In case of an embankment dam, the possibility of damage due to dam-failure is low. So these structures are generally not made to be earthquake resistant.
    4. Failures of Dam can take lives. So, dams are made to be safe from earthquakes. That’s how Japanese dams are built.

    “which has already been showing its attitude towards the question of equitability by unilateral withdrawal of water from GANGA TEESTA etc, it is utterly foolish to expect equitability or whatever it is.”
    – To ensure equitable share of benefits Bangladesh should access International arbitrators.

    Diganta

    July 18, 2009 at 9:58 am

  13. 1. What is truly arrogant is the “big brother” attitude that makes India think it can take the development and inflict the ecological damage on lower riparian Bangladesh. If it were the same country, your argument might hold some water.

    2. The World Commission on Dams studied the impact of dams around the world – old and new. The report was prepared in 2000 – not that long ago. Your argument that “modern” dams are eco-friendly is a fallacy. Just look at the ill effects of Three Gorges dam in China.

    3. I come from the Surma-Kushiara basin area. The idea that those rivers dry up in winter – I can describe it with one word. False! However, the river flow does drop and we need it do drop. Otherwise the farmers wont be able to plant rice before the monsoon rains. So we are happy with our ecology. Kindly refrain from trying to “improve” it with the Tipaimukh dam.

    Sabrina Ahmad

    July 18, 2009 at 12:52 pm

  14. 1. Ecology is not confined to Bangladesh. When Bangladesh chops off trees – that harms India too because we are the part of the same ecology. Bangladesh has low cover of forest compared to population density. Isn’t that causing damage to Indian ecology? The whole point of damaging ecology of neighbor is not valid because it harms us too. The same way the argument “If it were the same country, your argument might hold some water.” – is not true as the ecology is connected and not isolated by international border.

    2. That’s the crux – the report were prepared in 2000 but considered only old dams in India. I am not concerned about what it says about the world since I am sure that a lot of US dams (and also Chinese) has no purpose. Read the India specific study and reply to my points. Please read my quoted portion from the report –
    https://horizonspeaks.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/controversy-are-large-dams-good/

    I am sure you are not ready to read the opposition view though – from ICOLD – another competing organization who supported dams.

    3. You mentioned a good point about Boro crops. Do you know that those crops are damaging ecology? The banglapedia article says – “As population increased in Bangladesh, boro (a rice variety) cultivation expanded onto these haors, leading to a large area being drained. Thus, the very existences of these wetlands are now threatened.”

    Now coming back to the point, if floods are stopped, the cultivation can go on throughout the year because a lot of area won’t be flooded at all. On the downside, the Boro plantation would be delayed by a month or so since extra water would be released by the dam. The net return would be much higher that what it is today because 71% of the area would be flood-protected in some way or the other after the river flow goes down (as per IWM report). That is why Bangladesh Govt is running massive flood protection cum management plans in those areas.

    Diganta

    July 18, 2009 at 3:52 pm

  15. I see that it is useless to reason with you. You think you can “improve on nature” by damming the Barak – even though all the scientific evidence from around the world shows that dams damage – often irreversably – lower riparian countries. If the Tipaimukh dam is such a good idea, why is your government not holding a referendum in Manipur, Mizoram and Assam about it? The Bangladesh government could hold a similar one in Bangladesh. Let the people speak! Otherwise, I have a simple answer to your offer to “help” us by building this dam. Thanks, but no thanks!

    Sabrina Ahmad

    July 18, 2009 at 4:28 pm

  16. Assam is in favor of the dam because they’ll get both flood control and electricity. Manipur is in middle because it gets electricity and leaves out land for reservoir. Manipur Govt blocked the dam plan till 1997 when the offer of 12% free electricity was offered to them. With that the cost-benefit is adjusted. Still there are a lot of people who oppose it in Manipur. Mizoram is not an affected state.

    The majority population lives in Barak valley area lower down the river. They are Bengalis. The planner of the dam I. Islam (ex-chief of Brahamaputra Board – an organization that takes care of flood control in North-East India) himself from the same area. You can read about popular opinion in Barak valley about the dam here –
    http://www.somewhereinblog.net/blog/shamsshamimblog/28966803

    Any kind of referendum would go in favor of the dam. That’s why it is not needed. Bangladesh can decide whether to oppose it after calculating gains and losses and I am open to it.

    Once the stance is decided, if Bangladesh decides to oppose – an arbitration should be arranged between India and Bangladesh under International Law to decide whether India can go ahead with it unilaterally. International law does provide riparian nation to go ahead with their plans unilaterally if it is “equitable”. One thing to remember is – Bangladesh has to prove that their loss outweighs the gain to the arbitrator and the loss is “significant”. In other words, Bangladesh is getting a non-equitable share of the entire project.

    Diganta

    July 18, 2009 at 8:47 pm

  17. Dear Bloggar,

    I am the webmaster of the site secularvoiceofbangladesh.org. I am very much interrested to publish your “Tipaimukh Dam FAQ : Effects and Politics” in our website. I need your permission.
    Thanks in advance.

    Best regards,

    Sabbir Khan
    sweden

    Sabbir

    July 19, 2009 at 8:37 pm

  18. You are always welcome. I would request you the following –
    1. Please let me know any comments/reactions of my post and I hope you would help me to reply to their concerns.
    2. Please publish the article with all links, text and added conclusion section.

    Diganta

    July 20, 2009 at 8:26 am

  19. Thanks for a most objective article. Do you have any reports/articles on how the flow of these rivers will be affected by the melting of Himalayan glaciers and what role the dam then plays?
    Thanks.

    Mehrin

    July 21, 2009 at 7:35 am

    • The river Barak is not fed by glaciers and hence does not carry a risk of glacier melt. A similar dam in Kosi river should have the same problem.

      Diganta

      July 21, 2009 at 7:53 am

  20. Why we are spending so much time behind this???

    All we need from India
    1. Detail project report and Design of the project
    2. Environmental Impact Assessment.
    3. Sharing actual Information
    Later examine by Bangladeshi Expert. if they find the dam will be harmful for us then Government should open dialogue with india to stop the project. In the mean time India should stop all the activities in the site.
    Also India should should make commitment that they will not construct any barrange in 100 km upstream of Tipaimukh.

    Anisuzzaman

    July 22, 2009 at 8:06 am

  21. balanced view.one alternative might be joint ventre btwn india and bd.

    kevin fernandes

    July 28, 2009 at 2:42 pm

  22. Tipaimukh dam can trigger a devastating earthquake ..please read an article an interesting article

    Tipaimukh Dam is a water bomb
    Arshad H Abbasi
    A strong earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale and of long duration, was the fifth in a row in last 40 days, which hit northeastern India on Sept 22, 2009. Located in foothills of Himalaya, northeastern India is bracketed in the highest seismic zone of South Asia, where the three Eurasian, Indian, and Myanmar tectonic plates collide in a subduction mechanism. With this unique tectonic setting and coupled with massive geo-tectonic movements recorded during the past several years, geo-scientists have placed this region in the most fragile zone in the seismic map of the continent. Northeastern India has experienced some of the most devastating earthquakes during the past hundred years. Statistics shows that between 1897 and 1952, there were 44 earthquakes that measured 6.5 or more on the Richter scale. Similarly, between 1953 and 1992, the region had 21 earthquakes of similar intensity. Ignoring the geological and seismic vulnerability and recent warning of the rapid melting of the Himalayas, India is going for a 162.8 meters high Dam on the Barak River of northeastern India, with a storage capacity of 15,900 million cubic meters. Besides this seismic vulnerability with its hidden dangers of a massive disaster dam, it has also sparked another serious controversy on water sharing between India and Bangladesh in relation to the Farakka Barrage conflict. India is taking advantages of its regional hegemony and geo-position as upper riparian, causing colossal damage to the agro-economy of Bangladesh by unilateral and disproportionate diversion of the Ganges’s water by the barrage. The case of Tipaimukh dam is, however, different from Farakka Barrage, as it would have a huge storage reservoir. The geological constraints of the dam site have been reported by Dr. Soibam of Earth Sciences, University of Manipur, India. According to report, the tectonic features of dam site has developed geological faults and fractures around Tipaimukh dam that may undergo strike-slip and extensional movements if loaded self weight of dam alone. Therefore, these geological faults could be further displaced with accelerate rate by any moderate and large earthquakes and if the dam axis is displaced by a few centimeters a massive disaster leading to huge loss of lives and property in downstream areas could occur. Putting all seismic and geological constraint aside, no heed is being paid to the protest of local communities and lower riparian Bangladesh while completely ignoring the UN Convention on International Watercourses. The enormous weight the 15.9 billion tons of water will bear on the substrata of the dam site could not have been taken into consideration, as scientists today have identified more than 100 cases of earthquakes triggered by reservoirs. The most serious precedence of dam or reservoir–induced Seismicity is the 7.9-magnitude Sichuan earthquake in May 2008, linked to the construction of the Zipingpu Dam. The case of Sichuan Earthquake was presented at the American Geophysical Union and, findings also published in the Chinese Geology and Seismology Journal. The devastating earthquake killed 68,000, and left about 11 million people homeless. China is spending $146.5 billion to rebuild areas ravaged by the earthquake. In the recent study, it was found that Zipingpu Dam Project is the cause of this devastation. Earthquakes were very unusual for the area as no previous seismic activities were ever recorded. Indian authorities ought to remember that the most powerful earthquake recorded triggered by filling of a dam is a magnitude 6.3 tremor which flattened the village of Koynanagar in Maharashtra, western India, on 11 December, 1967, killing around 180 people, injuring 1,500 and rendering thousands homeless. The dam was seriously damaged and power cut off to Bombay, causing panic among its populace, who felt the quake 230 kilometers from its epicenter. The epicenter of the tremor and numerous fore– and aftershocks were all either near the Koyna Dam or under its reservoir. The author participated in a seminar on “Water dispute in South Asia” held in Dhaka on 18-19 August, in which the Secretary Water Resources of Government of Bangladesh disclosed that the dam was conceived in 1955 but the then erstwhile Pakistani Government never allowed its construction. But, lust of more water prevailed and immediately after liberation of Bangladesh the Indian Prime Minister rushed to Dhaka to set Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) and in the very first meeting of the JRC, India informed Bangladesh about Tipaimukh project. And, since the same meeting Bangladesh continuously has been asking India for data on the Tipaimukh Dam project. However, Indian authorities did not share any study report or design on the dam. This attitude of India shows that there is no technical or scientific study detail behind the theoretically redundant project to share with all stakeholders except agenda to impose its hegemony over South Asia The height of Zipingpu dam is 150m and total weight of filled water was 1.12 billion, thirteen times less than the proposed capacity of Tipaimukh Dam. Above all sub-geological features were more stable than Tipaimukh dam site. In the light of findings of Sichuan earthquake, seismic vulnerability, tectonic plate formation and the presence of geological faults, Tipaimukh Dam is technically and financially not viable. In these scenarios, pursuing a project blindly would be not only sheer waste of public money, but also a potential seismic bomb for the region. The objective of a dam which is to control floods and provide hydel power generation can also be achieved by adopting alternate means. There is no doubt that frequency and intensity of floods are on the rise in the region but its root-cause is massive deforestation, compounded with rapid population growth and uncontrolled development in Brahmaputra Basin. In the wake of another warning of Himalayas warming, the solution to floods in the Basin lies in integrated watershed management. This would necessitate immediate afforestation to increase vegetative cover and coupled with rain-water harvesting techniques. It could achieve the same objective with less investment and above all without disturbing the ecology of a fragile and fractured region. Similarly, hydel power can be generated by run-of-river option requiring minimal water pondage. Indian authorities need to shelve Tipaimukh dam project immediately to avert the lurking danger of a massive earthquake in the region. ahabasi@gmail.com

    A. W. Franks

    October 1, 2009 at 8:10 am

  23. I am agreed with the expert opinion of Bengali geologist/ Author. The contractor of Tipaimukh dam doesn’t know and alien to the fact that the India Plate is currently moving northeast at 5 cm/yr (2 in/yr), while the Eurasian Plate is moving north at only 2 cm/yr (0.8 in/yr). This is causing the Eurasian Plate to deform and the India Plate to compress at a rate of 4 mm/yr (0.15 in/yr). The collision with the Eurasian Plate along the boundary between India and Nepal formed the orogenic belt that created the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya Mountains, as sediment bunched up like earth before a plow. had

    S'h.Singh

    October 4, 2009 at 11:33 am

  24. I m using your post as main source of my term paper.I will just copy the information.What you have written is perfect I think.So I won’t do any major editing.

    Shanta

    December 15, 2009 at 1:50 pm

  25. […] old articles on Tipaimukh – The Tipaimukh FAQ Tipaimukh : The Impact Assesment Tipaimukh : The Conclusion Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

  26. As an article it sounds brilliant. But seems paid. Anyway we would like to read an article regarding “China’s mighty Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet dam.” We hope that will be as positive as this is.

    Tipaimukh Dam

    January 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

  27. Government should govern the policy a welfare of the society but government also seriously collect the voice of the people too.

    Moirangthem Somorjit singh

    April 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm


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