The Surma hosts the Tipaimukh Dam Parliament!

By Jalal Moin *

Sylhet: 23 April :2009 : Probably the Surma could guess the pulse already. For centuries it fed millions of its basin inhabitants, it helped establish human civilization around it, still a group of people who had even never been to it for once, had been planning to throttle the life of the river itself. The methodology is age-old, dam it, squeeze it and get electricity out of it at any cost. And the 'cost' is truly catastrophic. So the Surma agreed to host the unique form of the parliament on its bank.

The Surma originates from the Barak in the vicinity of Maosongsang area in the Manipur Hills in India. The Barak traverses about 277 km in Manipur, Mizoram sand Assam states of India and then it enters the political boundary of Bangladesh getting itself bifurcated into the Surma and Kushiara only to meet again in the downstream being renamed as the Meghna.

The Barak-Surma-Kushiara-Meghna river system stretches about 946 km, of which remainder 669 km is in Bangladesh portion. That is, about 1/3^rd is in India and 2/3^rd is in Bangladesh. India decides the fate of the whole Barak-Surma-Kushiara-Meghna river system without asking a single person of Bangladesh and any meaningful and effective opinion searching in the Barak banks in India.

India finalized the final design for the construction of a mega dam styled as Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric project obstructing the flow of the Barak in Manipur of India. The Indian authorities will soon be whistling 'GO' for the construction of the 500 feet high and 1500 feet long dam with hard rock.

It's a no. 10 danger signal for the riverine civilization of the Barak-Meghna basin. It's a death warrant. The ecology, biodiversity, livelihood, agriculture, economy, culture of the whole basin will sure to be in perils. In the afternoon of 22 April, 2009, Wednesday, the Surma flowing beside the city of the legendary Sylhet promptly hosted a people's parliament in its Chadnighat overlooking the historic Kin Bridge.

The stairs of the ghat soon turned into the seats of the parliament. Five boats floating on the Surma got united to provide necessary seats of the Hon'ble Speaker and his associates. Three volunteers kept the backdrop banner of the parliament hanging behind the Speaker's rostrum.

The parliament members sitting upon the ghat stairs unanimously elected Engineer Muhammad Hilaluddin, Chief Director of Angikar Bangladesh as to be the Speaker of this symbolic parliament. Dr. Nazia Chowdhury, Associate Professor of Shahjalal University, submitted the 11 point bill in the parliament.

The bill explained the causes and probable effects of the Tipaimukh dam being built just 100km from the Amalshid border of Sylhet district. The bill explained the behavior of the dam during heavy downpour in the monsoon when the floodgates of the dam would have to be opened compulsively inundating a wide area of the low lying areas in the greater Sylhet and adjacent districts.

During the construction period, sand from the hard rock will choke the flow of the Barak, Surma and Kushiara at the least affecting the flow of Meghna. Besides these the mega dam is the source of mega danger in many ways, the bill narrated. The site of the dam being in the earthquake prone area, in case of dam breaking in the higher altitude, the tsunami like mega-catastrophe might create deluge in the low lying areas of India and Bangladesh leaving a trail of unthinkable destruction in the basin.

The bill mentioned the alarming possibilities of water logging in the Haor areas covering the 1/6^th area of Bangladesh thus affecting the one crop agriculture in the crop-treasure area. The bill stressed for creating regional and global bond of the water rights activists in favor of nature-friendly development, against assaults on nature.

The bill urged the authorities of the SAARC countries, PR China and Burma (Myanmar) to search for amicable avenues to resolve the issues for ensuring safe and drinking water for all in the region. The bill especially called for desisting from any interventions in the Brahmaputra by PR China and India.

Recently the Secretary for External Affairs of India came to Bangladesh and proposed for a onsite visit of the Bangladesh delegation to the Tipaimukh Dam with an ulterior motive to hoodwink the public opinion . The bill referred to the 'innocent looking cunning proposal' of the Indian Secretary and cautioned the Bangladesh authorities not be lured or trapped by this 'gesture'.

Instead the authorities in Bangladesh, the bill advised, must prepare a ' National Position Paper' with the participation of the academics, activists, experts and the members of the civil society.

Eminent parliamentarians from the session including Advocate Kishore Kar from Bar, Advocate Rajuddin, Faruk Mahmud Chowdhury from the Business Chamber, Abdul Karim Kim from SIPA, Ayesha Chowdhury from BELA and Advocate Anwar Hossain Sumon participated in the discussion on the bill. Prominent singers Jamal Hassan Banno and Malati Paul enthralled hundreds of citizens lending their voices on the songs about the Surma.

The Speaker sought the opinion of the parliament on the bill which enthusiastically and unanimously endorsed the bill.

The holding of this kind of parliament in exceptional form created special impact among the citizens and the print media , both at national and local level, the electronic media, both at international and national level, made wide coverage.

The Surma Riverbank Parliament on the Tipaimukh Dam issue decided to go for a National Tipaimukh Dam Conference in Dhaka within May,2009.

Earlier on 21 April,2009, braving inclement weather,hundreds of activists demonstrated in Sunamganj beside the Surma and Beanibazar beside the Kushiara protesting the construction of the monstrous Tipaimukh Dam.

These 3 events have been dedicated to this year's International Day of Action for Rivers and Earth Day as well.

* This is a special report Jalal Moin and sent from Angikar Bangladesh Foundation - hifangbd(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was sent courtesy of Ramananda Wangkheirakpam (CCDD) - wramd(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was webcasted on April 29th, 2008.

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