On Tipaimukh 2

Posted in activism, environment by jrahman on July 15, 2009

A week ago, in my first post on Tipaimukh, I made two points.  First, as a downstream country, the dam will affect Bangladesh.  Second, India has clear obligations to Bangladesh — legal, political, and moral obligations — on this issue that it is not meeting.  I concluded that post with this:

India itself is downstream from rivers originating in China, and is vulnerable to the same practice that it is inflicting on us.  India can be reminded of this politely, but firmly.  And if the bilateral effort doesn’t go far, this must be raised at multilateral fora.

In this post I make two more points.

  • Our political parties, on balance, are doing well on this issue.
  • As concerned citizens, there is a lot we can do.

1. Give them a chance.

Our chattering classes have a habit of seeing only the negative in our politicians.  This issue is no suprise.  Take this bit about BNP from an otherwise thoughtful piece by Syed Abdul Maqsud for example:

Their every action is communal. Had they been in power now, they would have hardly made any sound about this whole issue.

Really?  In the first Joint River Commission meeting after 2001, Major Hafiz — the then Water Minister — was adamant about including Tipaimukh in the agenda, and even threatened to leave New Delhi without attending the meeting.  Eventually the dam was added to the agenda.  Therefore, BNP would have hardly made any sound seems to lack credence.

What about the charge of communalism?  Does BNP have a communal element?  Sure.  Its election campaign in December was full of 60 year old hatred.  It was full of lies and demagoguery — desh bikri, Islam biponno etc.  Is it in a mess post-election?  Absolutely.  But is its every action communal on this issue?  Really?  BNP’s formal steps on the issue — letter to the Indian PM, asking the government to include five experts in the delegation to India — are exactly what a responsible, constructive opposition is supposed to do.  While there is always room for improvement — attend the parliament for heaven’s sake — its performance on this issue compares rather well with any party that suffers a thumping defeat and faces a popular government anywhere in the world.

And in any case, BNP isn’t in power, AL is.  It’s AL that must be held accountable on this issue.  How is it doing?  To be sure, the initial performance of the Water Minister was simply bad.  However, the Prime Minister has since then made categorical statements that the issue will be resolved quickly, and India won’t be doing anything that harms Bangladesh.  These are clear statements with no ifs and buts.  The PM deserves a chance to honour her promise.  She will face an accountability moment in 54 months.  Let’s be a bit patient.

Does this mean we do nothing?  Hardly.  This takes me to the second point.

2. By any means necessary, and possible.

In the most famous speech in our history, Sheikh Mujib asked us to resist with whatever we had.  And American civil rights leader Malcolm X used to call people to act by any means necessary.   On this issue, we must act by any means necessary and possible. 

What does this mean in practice?

It means, whether you are in Dhaka or London, Sylhet or New York, you should do whatever you can to highlight the issue.  Attend a university workshop.  Tell your neighbour about the issue.  Write an op ed.  Join a protest.  Do a google search.  Send an email.  Every bit helps.

Specifically, let me make a direct appeal to my fellow netizens of the blogosphere.  From speculating about the true nature of post 1/11 regime, to defending Tasneem Khalil and Arifur Rahman, to questioning Gen Moeen over his bank account, bloggers played a heroic role in the dark days in 2007.  Bloggers can play a similar role now.  If you are an expert — engineer, environmentalist, lawyer — please give us your professional opinion.  And even if you aren’t qualified in any of these technical fields, you can disseminate information. 

Do whatever you can, and whatever is necessary. 

(Cross-posted at UV)


4 Responses

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  1. On Tipaimukh 2 - Unheard Voice said, on July 15, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    […] (More at Mukti) […]

  2. Sabrina Ahmad said, on July 17, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Good stuff. Couldnt agree more…

  3. […] at Mukti urges Bangladeshi bloggers to act “by any means necessary and possible” to highlight the […]

  4. Diganta said, on August 13, 2009 at 1:15 am

    There are two aspects of Tipaimukh. First is related to immediate effects. The other is the risk it is associated with. The effects, i.e. the environmental ones are directly tied with Flood control. If you control flooding, those are bound to happen. This category includes drying up floodplain wetlands(Haors), some additional drainage problem in late monsoon, lower fish catch, loss of biodiversity and reduction of natural fertility. The other part are the risks, This category includes dam-break scenario, late-monsoon-dam-open scenario and some extreme cases of rainfall. All those risks (and probably damages also) are higher for India than that of Bangladesh since the river crosses 200km of Indian territory before it reaches Bangladesh.

    Indian downstream people are with the Dam as they see benefits of flood control. But as the border is crossed – it’s a concern about environment. It’s actually two sides of the same coin. Since flood itself is an integral part of the environment, we can never control it without harming the environment directly. Now it becomes a matter of choice – whether to control flood at the cost of environment. For last 40 years Bangladesh is walking towards controlling floods. The other way around – “living with the floods” is not been practised – though that is most environment friendly option. If Bangladesh wants to switch the priority then they should ask India to follow that too.

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