Oct. 19 – The Indian government has refrained from directly commenting on Beijing’s denial that it is now engaged in constructing a dam across the Brahmaputra River.
“The Indian side has taken up with the Chinese side reports about the construction of a large-scale dam or diversion project in the Brahmaputra,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vishnu Prakash was quoted by Outlook India as saying, referring to the meeting of Expert-Level Mechanism set up in November 2006. He said the Chinese side has “categorically denied” any plans for a large scale diversion project on the Brahmaputra river.
He went on to say that the ministry would “ascertain whether there are recent developments that suggest any change in the position conveyed to us by the government of China.”
Reports claiming that China was building dams on the Brahmaputra to divert water to its parched northeast regions first came to attention in November 2006. That month, India and China set up an experts committee on transborder rivers.
China has continued to deny that it was building dams on Brahmaputra which would result in diversion of waters crucial for India’s northeast. Yet last year, during a meeting between President Manmohan Singh and Chinese president Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the ASEM summit in Beijing, the conversation focused on the question of Brahmaputra and Chinese actions on it.
There are indications that China may have put plans for the dam in high gear. In April 2009, China’s Gezhouba Corporation, one of the country’s biggest engineering and construction companies, won a RMB1.14 billion bid for building a hydropower plant in Zangmu, in the middle of the Brahmaputra river. The company’s website said it would be responsible for “designing, constructing and running the project that supplies 3.4-million cubic meter of concrete and 8-million-ton aggregate for the water power station. The construction project is expected to last until the end of December 2015.”
The Zangmu is scheduled to be the first dam to be built. China apparently has plans to build four more dams at Jiacha, Zongda, Lengda, Jiexu and Langzhen.
China is building another hydropower project with large-scale dams in Tibet and it has already dammed the Mekong River with the resulting siltation creating a problem for the lower riparian states of Thailand and Cambodia.
China’s dams on its own territory have also come under criticism with several species of fresh water fish becoming extinct and the loss of the Yangtze River Dolphin, the first mammal to become extinct in 50 years.
Beijing says it needs to better manage its water supplies, majority of which originate in Tibet, but water diversion or siphoning is proving catastrophic for some of its neighboring countries because Mekong River levels are becoming depleted. Diversion of the Brahmaputra River would have serious consequences for India’s Northern States.