TODAY -
Bangladesh's main opposition seeks to block dam
Source: Hueiyen News Service (Reuters)

Dhaka, June 23 2009: Bangladesh's main opposition party today demanded that the Indian High Commissioner be sent home for undiplomatic remarks over a controversial river dam that has sparked an argument between the two neighbours.

India has approved plans for a 1,500 megawatt hydroelectric dam in northeastern Manipur state on the Barak River, which flows into Bangladesh before emptying into the Bay of Bengal.

The opposition, environmental groups, and even members of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government say the dam would choke the flow of two downstream rivers in Bangladesh, the Surma and Kushiara, causing serious problems to navigation, farming and the environment.

Hasina has appointed a parliamentary committee led by former water resources minister Abdur Razzak to visit the dam site soon along with water experts, for a joint survey before Dhaka makes a formal response to the project.

Local media and private televisions quoted Indian envoy Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty as saying at a seminar on Sunday, which Foreign Minister Dipu Moni also attended, that "so-called" Bangladeshi water experts were causing confusion over the project" before the survey has begun.

That prompted an immediate objection from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

"His remarks were incompatible with diplomatic norms and disrespectful to our experts," BNP's parliamentary chief whip Zainal Abedin Faruk said.

"So we demand that this high commissioner be withdrawn from Bangladesh".

The Indian High Commission in Dhaka had no immediate comment.

The proposed dam offers the possibility that India could sell some of the power it generates to Bangladesh.

Hasina's government says it is trying to address nagging power shortages that have slowed industries and kept investors away.

Analysts say the usually friendly ties between Bangladesh and India, which helped it win independence from Pakistan in 1971, faced a new test over the dam.

The two sides have squabbled before about water.

India commissioned the Farakka Barrage in 1974 on the Ganges river along Bangladesh's northern border to divert water to the Hoogly river to keep Kolkata port navigable.

As a result, Bangladesh faced severe water shortages during its winter until a 30-year agreement was signed in 1996 to share the waters.


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