China has been working on a big hydropower project on the Brahmaputra river in Tibet. Concerned by the same, India is also planning to build a multipurpose reservoir in Arunachal Pradesh. An official from the Jal Shakti Ministry said the reservoir would offset the impact of the hydropower project.
T S Mehra, Commissioner (Brahmaputra and Barak), in the Jal Shakti ministry said the multi-purpose 10,000 MW hydropower project is under consideration.
“This project will help offset the impact of the hydropower project by China,” he said.
He explained that the proposed 9.2 BCM ‘Upper Siang’ project on the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh will be able to take the excess load of water discharge and can even store water in case of any deficit.
Mehra added that 90 per cent of the Brahmaputra’s water comes through its tributaries in India during the monsoon season, thanks to the abundant rainfall in the northeast region. It is only in the winters that 80 per cent of the Siang river gets its water from the upper stretches as glaciers become the main source.
Another senior Jal Shakti ministry official said the project has been under discussion since the 1980s, pointing out hindrances in its execution.
Last week, Yan Zhiyong, chairman of the Power Construction Corp of China, said Beijing will “implement hydropower exploitation in the downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo” (the Tibetan name for Brahmaputra) and the project could serve to maintain water resources and domestic security.
“There is no parallel in history… It will be a historic opportunity for the Chinese hydropower industry,” Yan told a press conference organised to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the China Society for Hydropower Engineering.
Reacting to this, Brahma Chellaney, a strategic affairs expert and author of the book ‘Water- Asia’s New Battleground’, on November 30 tweeted India is facing China’s “terrestrial aggression in the Himalayas, maritime encroachments on its backyard and, as the latest news is a reminder, even water wars”.
“Note the ominous India-border-related references to “downstream” and the river’s “Grand Canyon,” he added.
The mighty Brahmaputra, one of the longest rivers in the world passes through China, India and Bangladesh and has several tributaries and sub-tributaries.
Yarlung Zangbo originates in Tibet. The river is known as Siang when it enters India through Arunachal Pradesh. It is further joined by several tributaries to take shape of the Brahmaputra in Assam.
As a lower riparian state with considerable established user rights to the waters of the trans-border rivers, the Indian government has consistently conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities and has urged them to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas.
India and China established expert-level mechanism in 2006 to discuss various issues related to trans-border rivers.
Under existing bilateral memorandums of understanding, China is supposed to provides hydrological information of Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers to India during the flood seasons.