Monday, May 20, 2024

China plans dam on Brahmaputra river; India has cause for worry

China plans to build a major hydropower project on Brahmaputra river in Tibet causing anxieties in lower riparian India as also Bangladesh. However, the Chinese government has downplayed these concerns saying it will take care of their interests. The assurances are of little value to these countries as they do not have any water sharing agreements.

In international law governing trans-national rivers, significant weights is given to “established water usage” of lower riparians. An upper riparian nation, like China is in this case, cannot harm the interests of other nations who depend on a river. The anxieties expressed by India and Bangladesh stem from the fact that China often ignores established international conventions and even binding laws.

The proposal to build the dam on Brahmaputra has been put forward in 14th Five Year Plan (2021-25). Chairman of the Power Construction Corporation of China Yan Zhiyong gave some details regarding the dam on Sunday.

“There is no parallel in history … it will be a historic opportunity for the Chinese hydropower industry,” Yan said addressing a conference of the Chinese Society for Hydropower Engineering. The 14th Five Year Plan was adopted by Plenum, a key policy body of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), last month.

Details regarding the plan for the dam may be made public early next year. Over the last few years, India has repeatedly conveyed its concern and established water usage rights on Brahamputra to the Chinese government. The dam is to be established in Medog county, where Yarlung Zangbo (Chinese name for the river) grand canyon is located.

Incidentally, Medong is the last county which borders Arunachal Pradesh in the far north eastern region of India. Tibet has about 200 million kWH of water resources, accounting for 30 per cent of the total in China.

India and China had established Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) in the year 2006 to hold discussions on trans-border rivers. Under existing arrangements, China provides hydrological information regarding Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers to India during May 15 to October 15 period.

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