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Abandon Tipaimukh dam project, Khaleda Zia tells India

world Updated: Jul 18, 2009 23:00 IST

Urging India to cancel plans to build a dam in an area near the Bangladesh border, opposition leader Khaleda Zia on Saturday exhorted the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina "not to bow" to India on the issue.

Zia offered the government "full cooperation" in resisting India's plans to construct a dam on the Barak river at Tipaimukh in Manipur, saying it would have disastrous impact on the environment in both countries, bdnews24.com news agency reported.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader and former prime minister, addressing a seminar, also praised Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for assuring Hasina earlier this week that India would do nothing that would hurt Bangladesh.

Therefore, she urged Manmohan Singh that India should abandon the project, Star Online reported.

The Indian prime minister had given the assurance Wednesday while meeting Hasina on the sidelines of the 15th Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Egypt.

BNP officials said Friday that the opposition was "not satisfied" with the Indian assurance.

With Zia's public stance Saturday, the issue has got politicised, adding a new irritant to India-Bangladesh relations, political analysts said.

Zia made no reference in her speech to the Indian offer of hosting a team of parliamentarians and water resources experts to sort out the matter.

She has withheld nominating two lawmakers of her party to join the team that the Hasina government is preparing to send on July 29.

Zia said the government has nothing to fear in resisting the construction of the dam. "They will not be alone if they take a bold decision in this regard," she said.

"The Tipaimukh dam will have serious impact on Bangladesh. BNP will do whatever it needs to protect the country's interest," Zia asserted.

Major (retd) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, water resource minister in Zia's government (2001-06), said though the Hasina government was satisfied with India's assurance over Tipaimukh dam, the BNP would "always oppose" projects on the trans-boundary rivers.

Her party officials had earlier claimed that they had data and information to show that the dam would hurt Bangladesh's interests.

India proposes to construct the dam 200 km upstream of the Barak that flows into Bangladesh and eventually joins Meghna river.

Bangladesh and India have in the past sparred over a dam at Farakka on the Ganga river.

As the prime minister during 1991-96, Zia had raised that dispute at the United Nations General Assembly. The dispute was resolved when Hasina took office, signing the Ganga Water Treaty in 1997.

Hasina has been assuring that like in the past, she was confident of resolving the dispute over the Tipaimukh dam as well.