Friday, December 9, 2011

'Govt raised concern, pursued Tipaimukh issue'

The government raised its concerns on proposed Tipaimukh dam project and "vigorously pursued" the issue with the Indian government for safeguarding the interests of Bangladesh, the foreign ministry has said.

It issued a clarification on Friday at a time when Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh announced that the dam would be built.

Manipur's government in October secretly struck an investment deal with a number of state-run organisations for setting up the controversial hydroelectric power plant and Tipaimukh dam on India's Borak River.

The clarification said time and again assurance came from the top Indian leadership that no action would be taken which would have adverse impact on Bangladesh.

The joint statement issued during the visit of Singh to Dhaka in September said: ""The Prime Minister of India reiterated the assurance that India would not take steps on the Tipaimukh project that would adversely impact Bangladesh."

Similar assurance was issued when prime minister Sheikh Hasina had visited India in 2010.

In the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) meeting in New Delhi in March 2010 Bangladesh again strongly took the issue of the proposed dam with the Indian side, the ministry added.

The record of discussion on the JRC states that "Indian side again reiterated that there is no diversion of waters proposed and the proposed dam was meant only for power generation and flood control, and that the project would be beneficial for Bangladesh also since it will mitigate floods and augment water during the lean season.

"India reassured Bangladesh side that it would not take steps on Tipaimukh project that would adversely impact on Bangladesh."

The government in his first official reaction on Nov 22 underscored prior consultation before initiating any intervention on common rivers like Barak.

"This would be critical in avoiding any gap in understanding or allay concerns in Bangladesh."

India through a statement issued on the same day reiterated that the 1500 MW Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric (Multi-Purpose) Project would not involve diversion of water and hence would not have any adverse downstream impact on Bangladesh.

The Tipaimukh Project has been a major political issue in Bangladesh. The opposition Bangladesh National Party has been raising it repeatedly to question the rationale of the efforts of the Awami League led government in Dhaka to strengthen bilateral ties with New Delhi. 

Gowher’s Tipaimukh Remarks Draw Protest

 ‘We wonder whose interest Mr. Gowher Rizvi is serving,’ they said.

The International Farakka Committee on Thursday blasted prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi for dismissing as ‘groundless’ expert opinion that India’s controversial Tipaimukh dam would adversely affect lower riparian Bangladesh.

The committee president Aitiqur Rahman Khan Esufzai and secretary Syed Tipu Sultan in a statement asked Gowher Rizvi to explain on what basis he trashed the opinion of the experts.
‘We are amazed to by the remarks of the prime minister’s adviser,’ they said.

The demanded to know on what basis Gowher Rzvi made the remarks.
Gowher Rizvi should stop making such unsubstantiated remarks which are damaging for Bangladesh.
They said that Gowher’s remarks seek to belittle Bangladeshi experts.
‘We strongly condemn his remarks,’ they said.

They said that India never shared any technical data on the Tipaimukh dam with Bangladesh despite repeated requests from the lower riparian country.
The Indian government never provide any information to Bangladesh, they said.

They said India recently concluded investment deals for the dam construction in total secrecy without caring to inform Bangladesh.
They said that the only basis of Rizvi’s remarks seems to be assurances from Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.

They said Gowher is no expert on environment, water or seismic matters.
Besides, they said as an individual who is not an economist how could he say that the Tipaimukh project would economically benefit Bangladesh.

He thinks Bangladesh would benefit from electricity to be generated by Tipaimukh dam if it invests in the project.
They said he forgot about Bangladesh’s right to common rivers by mixing it up with the unrelated issue importing electricity.

Moreover, he ignored the huge adverse environmental and ecological impacts of large dams that would outweigh the supposed benefits from hydro-electricity, they said.
They said that there was the extra danger of dam collapse due to earthquakes to which India’s north east was vulnerable.

They said that former Indian high commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakrabarty had also issued a similar statement.

73 Die In Kolkata Hospital Fire

At least 73 people have been killed in a fire that broke out in a hospital in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, officials say.

Most of the victims were patients who were trapped after the flames spread through the AMRI hospital in the southern part of the city.

The fire started early on Friday in the multi-storey hospital's basement, where flammable materials were stored.

Fire engines fought the blaze for five hours before bringing it under control.
The fire is among the deadliest in Calcutta in recent years.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the fire was an "unforgivable crime" and that those responsible would be given the harshest punishment.

Officials say the death toll is likely to rise as rescue workers are trying to reach the upper floors of the six-storey hospital in Dhakuria.

A Upadhay, a senior vice-president of the AMRI hospital company, told Associated Press there were 160 patients in the 190-bed hospital.
'Grim situation'

West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said many of the patients who died had suffocated on fumes. 

A number were rescued. "We have taken 50 patients to an adjacent hospital. The situation is grim at the moment," fire brigade chief Gopal Bhattacharya told Agence France-Presse news agency.

The AMRI hospital is an expensive and busy super-speciality private hospital located in the crowded neighbourhood of Dhakuria in southern Calcutta.

Nearly 10 hours after the fire broke out at the hospital, relatives of patients who were trapped inside still appeared to be unsure about their fate.

The hospital has put up a list of 23 of the dead who have been identified. Most were killed by asphyxiation.
There is a huge crowd outside the hospital and tempers have been running high among the relatives of patients.

Smoke is still coming out of the basement of the hospital where the fire broke out, with rescue workers dragging out charred stretchers.

The BBC's Amitabha Bhattashali in Calcutta says bodies of patients wrapped in white sheets have been brought out by rescue workers.

Local people climbed into the hospital compound to rescue patients before fire engines arrived, our correspondent says.

The narrow surrounding streets made it difficult for the rescue service to arrive quickly.
The fire spread swiftly from the basement to the upper floors of the private hospital.
Television pictures showed patients being carried out on stretchers, with distraught relatives of trapped patients crowded outside the building.

One rescued patient said: "The attendants woke me up and dragged me down the stairs. I saw 10-15 patients at the top of the stairs trying to get down."

Ananya Das, 35, who underwent surgery at the hospital on Thursday, said she was recovering when the fire broke out.

"I managed to walk towards an exit and then climb out of a window. I saw a lot of bodies," she said.
More than 40 people died in a huge fire in a historic building in Calcutta in March last year.

Fires in high-rise buildings are fairly common in the city. There have been at least 10 major incidents since 2008.

Electrical short circuits have been responsible for most of these fires.

Iran Urges UN To Condemn US Violation

Iran has strongly censured the violation of its airspace by a US spy drone, urging the United Nations to condemn such contravention and adopt necessary measures to end these “dangerous and illegal” acts. 

 Iran's Ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazaei lodged the appeal in an official letter, also communicated to the Security Council and the General Assembly, to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, IRNA reported on Friday.

“Recently, an unmanned US spy aircraft of RQ-170 type and with a specified serial number violated the Islamic Republic's airspace,” Khazaei said, pointing to “increasing covert and provocative” operations by the US government against Iran during recent months.

He added that the aircraft flied 250 kilometers deep into the Iranian territory up to the northern region of the city of Tabas, where it faced “prompt and forceful” action by Iran's Armed Forces.

The Iranian government insists that the "blatant and provocative” violation of Iran's airspace is tantamount to an act of hostility against the country, which is a flagrant breach of the international law, particularly the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, the diplomat pointed out.

Khazaei further said that the Iranian government strongly objects to such “hostile and aggressive” acts and warns against the repercussions of repeating such misdeeds.

The Islamic Republic asserts its legitimate right to adopt all necessary measures to protect its national sovereignty, he added.

Iran's UN ambassador reiterated that the Iranian government “calls for the condemnation of such aggressive acts and implementation of effective and clear measures in line with the UN responsibilities to end these dangerous and illegal moves and to maintain regional and international peace and security in accordance with the UN Charter.”

On December 4, the Iranian Army's electronic warfare unit downed an RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone after it crossed into Iran's airspace over the border with neighboring Afghanistan.

Two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed on Tuesday that the aircraft had been part of a CIA reconnaissance mission involving the United State's intelligence community stationed in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Commander of the Aerospace Division of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said after the US spy aircraft's entry into Iran's eastern airspace, it fell in the electronic ambush of the Iranian Armed Forces and was brought to the ground with minimum damage caused to it.

Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned Swiss Ambassador to Iran Livia Leu Agosti to strongly protest the recent violation of the Islamic Republic's airspace by the US spy drone.