Respect river rights, India tells China
India urged China to respect its river rights following a media report that Beijing plans to build new hydroelectric plants on a waterway that the neighbours share.
New Delhi has taken an unusually sharp stand against China's unilateral moves to dam the Brahmaputra, saying it has "established user rights" to the river.
Asserting itself for the first time, India has asked China "to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas".
In its new blueprint for the energy sector for 2011-2015 , China announced it would build three hydropower bases on the Yarlung Tsangpo river, at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu. A hydropower station at Zangmu is already under construction . The announcement earlier this week was not preceded by any consultation or sharing of information with New Delhi.
"The government of India carefully monitors all developments on the Brahmaputra river," foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told a news conference on Thursday. "India urges China to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas."
A Chinese government document posted on the State Council's website last week states that China will "comprehensively promote hydropower base construction" on a number of rivers including the "middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river".
AFP was unable to confirm the report that three new projects were being planned.
While the projects are said to be "run-of-the river" -- meaning they do not require large storage reservoirs or cause major disruption to the flow -- any new construction would alarm New Delhi.
India remains nervous about the danger of its giant northern neighbour diverting or disrupting rivers that originate in Tibet.
China began building a run-of-the-river dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo in 2010 that is set to have six 85-megawatt power-generating units aimed at curbing power shortages in Tibet, according to Chinese reports.
It has been the subject of frequent talks between the two governments.
The 1,800-mile (2,900 kilometre) Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra river originates in the Himalayas, then descends onto the plains of India's northeast and ends in the Bay of Bengal after its confluence with the river Ganges.
Along the way, it supplies water to hundreds of millions of farmers and residents.
Although 2012 was officially the "India-China year of Friendship and Cooperation," relations between the world's most populous countries remain prickly.
The two Asian giants have an unresolved border dispute that was the cause of a brief war in 1962.On Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 12:44 PM, Isha Khan <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
China gives go-ahead for three new Brahmaputra dams
China has given the go-ahead for the construction of three new hydropower dams on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra river, ending a two-year halt in approving new projects on the river amid concerns from India and environmental groups.
The three new dams have been approved by the State Council, or Cabinet, under a new energy development plan for 2015 that was released on January 23, according to a copy of the plan available with The Hindu.
China has, so far, only begun construction on one major hydropower dam on the main stream of the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra or Yarlung Zangbo as it is known in China – a 510 MW project in Zangmu in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which began to be built in 2010.
One of the three approved new dams is bigger than the Zangmu project. 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 three projects were listed in the State Council's energy plan for the Twelfth Five Year Plan period (2011-15), which was released on January 23.
The plan said the government "will push forward vigorously the hydropower base construction" on the middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo. In the Twelfth Five Year plan period (2011-15), the government will begin construction of 120 million kilowatt of conventional hydropower.
A pre-feasibility study report for the 640 MW Dagu dam passed review in November, according to the Huadong Engineering Corporation, a hydropower company that was tasked with conducting the study by the local government.
A notice posted on its website said a two-day review conference for the pre-feasibility study of the dam was held in November, organised by the Tibet Autonomous Region government's Development and Reform Commission. The notice said the study successfully passed review, adding that the dam would be located 18 km upstream of the already in-construction Zangmu dam.
The catchment area at the dam site, according to the Huadong Engineering Corporation, is 157,400 square kilometres, and the average annual discharge is 1010 cubic metres per second.
The dam will be built with a height of 124 metres and 640 MW capacity. The construction of the Zangmu dam in 2010 triggered concerns in India regarding possible impact on downstream flows. Chinese officials, however, assured their Indian counterparts that the project was only a run-of-the-river hydropower station, which would not divert the Brahmaputra's waters. The government has also built at least six smaller hydropower projects on the Yarlung Zangbo's tributaries, which, officials say, will have no impact on downstream flows.
Diversion plan shelved
The government has, for now, shelved a long-discussed plan to divert the Yarlung Zangbo's waters to the arid north, citing technical difficulties. The plan is part of the proposed Western route of the massive South-to-North diversion project, on which construction is yet to begin. Chinese officials and analysts say a diversion plan is very unlikely, considering the difficult terrain and technical problems.
However, with the three new approvals under the energy plan, four hydropower projects will now be built — all located within a few dozen kilometres of each other — on the main stream of the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra.
Fresh concerns likely in India
While they are run-of-the-river projects, they will be required to store large volumes of water for generating power. Their construction is likely to trigger fresh concerns in India on how the flows of the Brahmaputra downstream will be impacted.