China announces a slew of dams on Brahmaputra and Salween

Phayul: India today said it will take a “considered view” on reports of China’s plans to construct upstream dams on the Brahmaputra River, while conceding that New Delhi is yet to get details on the latest plans.

“We will take a considered view about that,” Defence Minister AK Antony said while adding that the government was yet to get details of China’s plan.

Reports on Wednesday suggested that China has approved the construction of three new hydropower dams on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra river, after a two-year hiatus.

According to The Hindu, the three new dams were approved by the Chinese State Council under a new energy development plan for 2015 that was released on January 23.

China began construction on one major hydropower dam on the main stream of the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra – a 510 MW project in Zangmu in 2010.

“A 640 MW dam will be built in Dagu, which lies 18 km upstream of Zangmu. Another 320 MW dam will be built at Jiacha, also on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputura downstream of Zangmu. A third dam will be built at Jiexu, 11 km upstream of Zangmu. The capacity of the Jiexu dam is, as yet, unconfirmed,” the report cited the plan as saying.

The plan said the government “will push forward vigorously the hydropower base construction.”

China has long argued that its dams are run of the river designs, therefore would not be affecting the flow of the water to the lower riparian regions.

India has been raising its concerns on this issue during the bilateral meetings.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs yesterday said that it was keeping a close watch on China's construction plans.

Brahmaputra flows in Tibet as the river Tsangpo, entering India in Arunachal Pradesh and emptying into the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh.

The energy development plan also announced a controversial decision to build a cascade of 13 dams on the Salween – China's last free-flowing river – stalled nearly a decade ago under opposition from environmental groups and outgoing premier Wen Jiabao.

The river, also known as the Thanlwin, begins on the Tibetan plateau and winds through Thailand before ending in a Burmese estuary. Its headwaters support 5 million people from 13 ethnic groups, many of whom are subsistence farmers.

Critics say that the project will displace about 40,000 people, submerge about 20 miles of arable land and destroy endangered fish species.

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