Dhaka aginst Meghalaya power projects at border

SHILLONG: Bangladesh has opposed the construction of two hydro-based power projects along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya until both the countries sign a water-sharing agreement.Meghalaya power minister Clement Marak told the assembly on Wednesday that Bangladesh has said the construction of the two dams will have an adverse impact on Bangladesh. Quoting a letter from the Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) member to the Union ministry of water resources, Marak said the letter claims that the two dams may have an adverse impact on various sectors in Bangladesh due to change in course of the two rivers.
Marak was replying to a call attention motion moved by United Democratic Party leader Paul Lyngdoh.
Meghalaya is in the process of constructing dams on two rivers flowing to Bangladesh – the Mawphu dam on the Umiew and Myntdu Dam on the Myntdu river – in East Khasi Hills and West Jaintia Hills districts respectively.
Marak said the JRC member had also requested not to proceed with the construction of two dams until impact assessment on various sectors are jointly conducted and water-sharing agreements of the two common rivers have been signed between the two countries.
Even as Marak claimed that there will not be any diversion of rivers, he said there was no further communication from the Centre since January 7 with regards to offer of stake made to Bangladesh.
Marak said the state-owned Meghalaya Electricity Corporation Limited, which is generating power from the Myntdu hydel power project, informed the ministry of water resources that the project will not impound water as it is a run-of-river scheme.
He added that the Mawphu Hydel Project, undertaken by the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited, has also indicated the same in their pre-feasibility report. “The project shall utilize mostly the available discharge in the river drawn through a 4.07-km-long tunnel to the power house generating 362.53 million units, meeting the same river downstream through a 45-meter-long channel,” said Marak.
Earlier, Paul Lyngdoh had said Bangladesh’s opposition to the power projects would deprive power-starved Meghalaya of its potential in the hydro-power sector, besides losing a lot of time in resolving the issue.
Lyngdoh said the state’s potential depends a lot on the two projects and urged the state government to respond to the issue in a way that Meghalaya does not lose the opportunity to harness the power potential.
Another report adds: Landlocked Meghalaya is keen to revive its traditional river routes to neighbouring Bangladesh to promote trade, chief minister Mukul Sangma said on Thursday.
Answering a query raised by former CM Donkupar Roy in the assembly, Mukul added that the government was aware that the Duba Channel in Nongjri Elaka and Dear Valley in Umniuh Elaka were the “authorized trade routes” under the Bholaganj land customs station.
Informing that trade had to be discontinued through these river routes due to dwindling water level, he, however, said the channels have been inspected and the issue of their revival has been taken up with the Centre. “A token amount has been earmarked this year for raising these rivers in view of the huge agricultural and horticultural produce,” he said.
The CM said the Centre, in tandem with its Bangladeshi counterpart, has been exploring the possibility of improving the river routes. Earlier, Roy pointed out the fact that trading activity through these water channels was stopped since 1971 (the year Bangladesh was formed) and that the people living along these river routes were pressing for their revival.
Experts pointed out that it’s a historical fact that the outlets to the sea for the northeast were through the Chittagong Port and via rivers in Bangladesh to the Kolkata Port. However, the region was cut off from its most convenient hinterland with the Partition of India.
On the other hand, the chief minster told the house that the state would soon have a water policy, which, among other issues, would also take into account revival of river routes. He said the draft water policy of the state has been circulated to the stakeholders for consultation and their views were being collected. The CM emphasized on the “convergence of line departments” for chalking out an effective water policy.
Deputy CM Rowell Lyngdoh, responding to a question raised by opposition MLA Ardent Basaiawmoit, said an inter-departmental committee has been constituted to finalize the policy document. Basaiawmoit had expressed concern over rampant sand and stone quarrying on riversides.
(Source: Times of India via Google Nws)

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