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India’s World – China builds dams on Brahmaputra


China has put into operation its first major dam on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra river, with the first section of the 510 MW project taking off in Zangmu in Tibet.

The Zangmu dam, on which construction began in 2010, raised attention in India as the first major hydropower project on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra, which has its source in Tibet, where it is known as the Yarlung Tsangpo (or Zangbo in Chinese).

The dam is a 510 MW project. This marks the beginning of new era in Chinese engineering and construction capabilities in the region.

India has received assurances from China. China has said that the dam is a ‘run off the river hydropower generation project’, which will neither divert the river’s waters nor have a major impact on downstream flows.

Last year, China gave the go-ahead for three new dams on the Yarlung Zangbo, one of which is even bigger than Zangmu, Tibet’s biggest hydropower station. A 640 MW dam is slated for construction at Dagu, 18 km upstream of Zangmu. Two smaller dams will be built at Jiacha and Jiexu, also on the middle reaches. China has said the dams are run of the river projects for generating power, and will not divert the river’s waters.

Environmental groups have expressed concern on the impact of the planned dams on the Tibetan plateau’s sensitive ecosystem.

China’s plans to build dams in Tibet have been a source of concern to India regarding the possible impact downstream. To address those fears, both sides have signed a first agreement that will allow Indian hydrological experts to conduct study tours to monitor the river’s flows in Tibet.

China has very ambitious plan in generating electricity in the course of next 5 years.

In Tibet there is a great potential for hydroelectric power generation. Tibet also has large mineral reserves.

Consumption of power in Tibet is 1/3rd of the national average.

Chinese had earlier denied any dam construction activities across the river.

There is a UN convention on the non navigational use of international water courses. It is an international law now. India, earlier had abstained and china had voted against it. The convention basically talks about equitable utilization. Uruguay and turkey along with china had a negative view about the international law.

China has planned to build many such dams by 2050.

It is also true that substantial recharge of Brahmaputra takes place after the great bend and once it enters India. 30% of the total river water comes from Tibet.

In relation to China, India is in same position as Pakistan is in relation to India on Indus.

China has major rivers flowing out into 11 countries.

China has only MoUs and cooperative agreements but no trans boundary river sharing agreements with any country.

China has a unilateral position on river water sharing.

China’s water resources are disproportionately distributed. Most of its water resources are in the south. North and west are water stressed. There is also disproportion in utilization.

China is putting conditions on lower riparian states.

China also needs water to achieve food sufficiency.

While China has committed to taking into account concerns of India as a lower riparian country, the absence of a water sharing agreement between the two countries, hydropower experts say, only gives India limited avenues in terms of monitoring Chinese projects and