The joint assessment study about the possible economic and environmental impacts of the proposed Tipaimukh dam in Bangladesh part, especially the Sylhet region, starts this month.
The two-year-long study will be conducted under the supervision of recently-formed minister-level joint sub-group which had its first meeting in New Delhi last month.
India completed the study in their part in 2000 and handed over their report to Bangladeshi delegates during the meeting. Now Bangladeshi experts will initially start work on the assessment report using the Indian data and it will collect both primary and secondary data regarding Bangladesh, a member of joint sub-group on Tipaimukh said.
“If necessary the joint group would conduct fresh field survey in Indian part also. We have signed a memorandum of understanding regarding that,” said the member.
“As it is a joint study, all the outcome of the report would be endorsed by experts from both the countries,” he added.
To this effect, the government has already selected two local research organisations.
Bangladesh Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) and Bangladesh Centre for Environment and Geographical Information System (CEGIS) would work as the consultants for the study.
“We will sign an agreement with two consulting firms in a week,” Mir Sajjad Hossain, member of Joint Research Commission, Bangladesh, told The Daily Star.
The sub-group has been working on an inception report for the study. It wants to complete the report by October when it sits for its second meeting in Dhaka, sources said.
Their work will be based on the hydrological chart, rainfall, flood and other data assessed by India, and they would collect data from sources in Bangladesh.
The IWM would develop a water model, on which the CEGIS would work to examine the long- and short-term economic and environmental impacts on Bangladesh, especially the wetlands in Sylhet region.
A large section of Bangladeshi experts and environmentalists are concerned about the possible negative consequences of the project. They fear the pattern of water flow in the Barak river will change, and therefore, it will consequently affect flows of the Surma and the Kushiara rivers in Bangladesh.
According to an impact assessment on the Surma-Kushiara river systems conducted by Bangladeshi experts in 2005, the Tipaimukh dam would certainly lead to loss of riverine habitats and species and affect agriculture in the region.
The study titled "Hydrological Impact Study of Tipaimukh Dam Project” also says that some effects of the dam will be noticed even after a few hundred years.
When built, the Tipaimukh dam would harm Boro production in Sylhet region, causing a loss of over Tk 1,000 crore a year, other experts assessed earlier.
The project is also facing protests from environmentalists in India's Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Tipaimukh project, involving Rs 9,000 crore, is envisaged to produce 1,500MW power and regulate the flow of around 16.8 lakh cusecs of water that hits the Barak valley and causes flash floods every year, claims India.
India has invited Bangladesh to buy a stake in the project and get electricity.
Without informing Bangladesh, the Indian government has formed a joint venture company to build the dam.
The committee of experts was formed as a confidence-building measure to address the widespread concerns in Bangladesh over the dam project and its possible impact on the ecology and quantum of water in the Surma and the Kushiara rivers, a press statement of Indian High Commission had said before the meeting last month.
Meanwhile, a group of environmentalists, including Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), are demanding that the study be conducted by an independent experts' group, not by a joint group, as they think that the Bangladeshi experts might not have sound technical knowledge to conduct the study.