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China says its dam on River Tsangpo will not affect India

April 26, 2010

New Delhi, Sat, 24 Apr 2010 -- Indian Foreign Minister S.M.Krishna told
parliament Thursday that China had assured New Delhi that the giant
hydroelectric dam it is constructing on River Tsangpo in Tibet will not
impact the downstream water flow in to River Brahmaputra in India.

"It is a fact that when we met in Beijing, the question of the power
station did come up. The Chinese foreign minister assured me that there
would be no water storage at the dam and it would not in any way impact
on downstream areas," Krishna told lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha (upper
house of parliament) in New Delhi..

Krishna was responding to a supplementary question from Ravi Shankar
Prasad of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the
impact of the Chinese dam, since there was no water sharing treaty
between the two countries.

"He has admitted the Chinese are constructing a dam. We should have a
discussion (in parliament)," Prasad said..

"We have to continue our engagement. We have an expert level mechanism
in place. It is meeting soon. All issues relating to trans-border rivers
will be discussed," Krishna said.

Krishna was in Beijing early April when he met Chinese foreign minister,
Yang Jiechi followed by call on meeting with Chinese Prime Minister, Wen
Jiabao.

He also kicked off celebrations to mark the 60th year of diplomatic
relations between the two countries.

The size of the Tsangpo dam would exceed that of the Three Gorges Dam
across the River Yangtze in China, the world's largest
electricity-generating plant, according to local media reports.

Reports say that the Tsangpo dam would generate 40,000 MW of power, more
than twice that of Three Gorges.

Satellite pictures had picked up the construction of a dam in Zangmu, in
the Lhokha prefecture of Tibet, but even as late as 2009, China denied
that such a project was underway.

But there are fears in India's north-east region that the Chinese move
will have a impact on the flows of River Brahmaputra in the region.

However, the qualitative improvement of ties between Beijing and Delhi
as a result of some unprecedented cooperation during the Copenhagen
climate summit last year appears to have cleared the air across the
Himalayas, the Times of India newspaper reported Thursday..

This time, China said it was constructing a hydropower project in Zangmu
-- there will be four more -- on the Brahmaputra. But this would not
involve storage of water and was a run-of-the-river project, all inside
Chinese territory.

China also made it clear that they didn't really have to share their
plans with India, but they were doing it out of a sense of "trust". The
510 mw project is being built by Gezhouba, one of China's biggest
dam-building companies.

India and China have no water-sharing agreements, so it will be a first,
when next week, Indian and Chinese water experts ink an "implementation
plan" to share hydrological data on the Sutlej and Brahmaputra rivers.

These agreements were signed in 2005 and 2008, but China had refused to
share anything because there was no "plan". The first lot of data will
flow from China to India later this year, the report said.

There have been reports that these projects are the beginning of a much
bigger plan by China to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra to feed its
parched northeast, an ambitious and technically challenging plan, called
the Western Canal, that many Chinese reports say will be completed by 2050.

However, China has officially clarified that such reports aren't
"consistent with facts". Answering questions on this in Parliament on
Wednesday, Krishna said, "In November 2009, the foreign ministry of
China clarified that China is a responsible country and would never do
anything to undermine any other country's interests."

India and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2008 under
which Beijing provides New Delhi with flood season hydrological data of
River Brahmaputra which causes immense damage to life and property each
year in India's eastern region during the monsoon season between June
and October. ..

The Brahmaputra, also called Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, is a trans-boundary
river and one of the major rivers of Asia.

 From its origin in southwestern Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo River, it
flows across southern Tibet to break through the Himalayas in great
gorges and into India's Arunachal Pradesh state.

Deforestation in the Brahmaputra watershed has resulted in increased
siltation levels, flash floods, and soil erosion in critical downstream
habitat, such as the Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

The signing of the MoU follows China's assurance to India in 2008 that
it would ensure the ?protection and rational use? of water resources in
the trans-Himalayan rivers that flow into this country from the upper
reaches of the Himalayas on the Chinese side.

This assurance is significant in the light of fears in eastern India
that plans for dam construction on the Chinese side of the border might
pose serious dangers on the lower reaches of the rivers, including the
Brahmaputra.

According to media reports, China is planning to dam or redirect the
southward flow of water from the Tibetan plateau, the starting point of
many rivers, such as the Indus, the Mekong, the Yangtze, the Yellow, the
Salween, the Brahmaputra, the Karnali and the Sutlej.

Amongst the mighty Asian rivers only the Ganges begins from the Indian
side of the Himalayas.

China's intensive farming needs water, and therefore it is increasingly
turning its attention to the water reserves of the Tibetan plateau.
China is presently toying with massive inter-basin and inter-river water
transfer projects.

Furthermore, several Chinese projects in west-central Tibet have a
bearing on river-water flow into India.

Reports say that two Chinese projects that might affect India adversely.
One is the proposed Great South-North Water Transfer project for
diverting Tibetan water, and the first phase calls for building
300-kilometres of tunnels and channels to draw water from the Jingsha,
the Yalong and the Dadu rivers on the eastern rim of the Tibetan plateau.

The second phase of the project is more damaging, because it proposes to
re-route the Brahmaputra river northward.

Several Chinese projects in west-central Tibet have a bearing on
river-water flows into India.

Following flash floods in India's northern Himachal Pradesh state in
2005, China agreed to supply New Delhi data on any abnormal rise or fall
in the upstream level of the Sutlej River, on which it has built a barrage.

The 10 major watersheds formed by the Himalayas and Tibetan highlands
spread out river waters far and wide in Asia. Control over the 2.5
million-square-km Tibetan plateau gives China tremendous leverage,
besides access to vast natural resources.
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