The Manipur government is determined to go ahead with the proposed 1,500-MW Tipaimukh hydel power project that has been opposed by environmental groups and opposition parties in neighbouring Bangladesh. "No decision has been taken to abandon the project," Manipur Power Minister Phungzathang Tonsing told IANS. "The project is vital for meeting the increasing electricity demand in northeastern India," added Tonsing, who is also chairman of the North East Regional Power Committee (NERPC). Last week, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said at an NERPC meeting in Imphal that two public sector power utilities -- National Hydroelectric Power Corp (NHPC) and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) -- would build the Rs.8,138-crore (Rs.81.38-billion/$1.7-billion) Tipaimukh project. "The state and the central governments, along with NHPC and SJVN, have finalised the project. We will go ahead with it." Incidentally, at the end of the three-day India visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week, a joint communique by the two countries had said: "The prime minister of India reiterated the assurance that India would not take steps on the Tipaimukh project that would adversely impact Bangladesh." The project, located on the Barak river in western Manipur, is under attack from opposition parties and environmental groups in Bangladesh, which say it could cause desertification in their country. Part of the Brahmaputra river system, the Barak bifurcates into the Surma and Kushiyara rivers on entering Sylhet district in eastern Bangladesh. Bangladesh's opposition leader and former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia has also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to stop construction of the project. Additionally, a 10-member Bangladeshi parliamentary delegation conducted an aerial survey of the Tipaimukh dam last July after opposition over the hydel project's possible ecological impact intensified in Dhaka. Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had then told the delegation that the Tipaimukh project was not an irrigation project or a water diversion scheme. "He said it was a hydel project and in no way would harm Bangladesh's interest," an official told journalists in Imphal. External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is also understood to have told his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni that India would not harm its neighbour's interests. The project, said T.C. Borgohain, a senior engineer associated with it, will regulate excess water, and help control floods in Sylhet district of Bangladesh, western Manipur and southern Assam. "It will open a new waterway from Haldia port in West Bengal to northeastern India via Bangladesh," Borgohain told IANS, adding: "Water used for generating electricity will be released back into the river." The project is awaiting approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), and is scheduled for commissioning within 87 months after being cleared. The Tipaimukh project, one of the largest in northeastern India, is also facing opposition in the country over fears of displacement of people.