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China Considers Diverting the Brahmaputra River

Jun. 8 – Faced with severe challenges brought by reduced water resources and a severe drought that has affected a large portion of the country, China has started to consider diverting water from the Brahmaputra River, the watercourse that originates upstream from southwestern Tibet (where it is known as the Yarlung Zangbo River) and finally enters India, a recent report by Xinhua News Agency says.

Wang Guangqian, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said on June 3 that Chinese experts have raised a new proposal to divert water from the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra River to the country’s northwestern province of Xinjiang. The water diversion route in the proposal, named the “Grand Western Canal,” is slightly different from the “western canal” mentioned in China’s well-known South-North Water Diversion Project approved by the State Council in December 2002.

While the previous canal aims to alleviate water shortages in Qinghai, Gansu, and Ningxia and plans to divert water from three rivers in the Yangtze River’s upper reaches – namely the Tongtian River (Qinghai), the Yalong River (Sichuan) and the Dadu River (Sichuan) – the newly proposed route is expected to start from the Brahmaputra River, from which China can reroute the water to Xinjiang along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the Hexi Corridor – part of the Northern Silk Road located in Gansu Province.

Wang admitted the serious water crisis across China has forced experts to think about the new water diversion scheme earlier than they had wanted to.

“We thought this would be a plan 50 years later,” he said.

Due to the increasing demand for water along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the Yellow River – China’s two largest and most heavily-exploited domestic watercourses – the upper reaches of the two rivers have seen a significant decline in their water reserves. What is worse, as a result of surface water deficiency, almost all of China’s first and second-tier cities have the problem of groundwater overdraft and are threatened by potential risks brought by the lowering of the water table (the level at which the submarine pressure is far from atmostpheric pressure).

In fact, experts originally brought up various plans to reroute water from the largest river in Tibet a long time ago. One of the most famous proposals was raised in 1990 by Guo Kai, a water expert, suggesting a project that diverts 200.6 billion cubic meters of water every year from the Brahmaputra River to the Yellow River. However, according to a 2009 Xinhua report, Wang Shucheng, the previous minister of the Ministry of Water Resources, somewhat denied the feasibility of the plan. At the time, Wang Shucheng believed the water diversion from the Yangtze River is enough for North China’s water supply and redirecting so much water from the Brahmaputra River every year is not even practical, because such a huge flush will destroy all the dams over the Yellow River.

Presently, Chinese experts and governmental officials are still studying the feasibility and possible impacts of distinct proposals.

Although China has claimed first-use-rights over the Brahmaputra and all of the other rivers in Tibet, the water resource exploitation of those international rivers is not only a domestic issue. Downstream, the Brahmaputra flows through India as well as Bangladesh and serves as a major fresh water source for a myriad of people.

While China finally confirmed the construction of a dam project over the Brahmaputra last year, India’s Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh already commented that the project is “unacceptable” and stressed the “great fear in India” would be China’s water diversion of the Brahmaputra, which may impact Northeastern India ecologically and bring the threat of drought to the region.

Related Reading

China’s Yangtze River Faces Worst Drought in 50 Years

China Begins Construction on Brahmaputra Dam in Tibet

India’s Ramesh Comments on Brahmaputra Project in Beijing

China Confirms Brahmaputra River Projects

Uncertainty over China’s Aims for Brahmaputra River

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25 Responses to China Considers Diverting the Brahmaputra River

  1. Deek says:

    This would cause a war between India and China.

  2. Bhumo says:

    According to Li ling book called Xizang Zhi Shui Jiu Zhongguo (Save China through Water from Tibet), the first dam in Tibet would be at Suma Tan near Tsethang for Brahmaputra diversion. And the second dam would be Nyangchu dam that lies just below Kongpo Gyamda on the Brahmaputra diversion sketch map in the book. Both Tsethang and Kongpo Gyamda located in Lhoka and Nyingtri respectively.

    Planned and currently constructing Zangmu (Tib: rDzam), Jiacha (Tib: Gyatsa), Lengda (Tib: gLing-mDa) are unfortunately lie in the Lhoka Prefecture wherein Li ling first planned dam would be.
    Out of the five plan dams, two dams: Zhongda (Tib: sGrom-mDa), and Langzhen (sNang Dzong) are located in Nyingtri Prefecture wherein Li ling’s proposed his second plan dams.

  3. Girish says:

    Earlier Chinese where saying that they are not building any DAM over the Brahmaputra river. Later they acknowledged the same but stated that they will never will divert the water as the DAM is only for electricity generation. Now they have planing to divert the water too.

    Is there anything trustful to what Chinese do? I mean its actions always prompt suspicion and thus a hostile environment is formed.
    Now what will India do? Shall it let its people die without water? or shall it take all majors to stop Chinese diverting the water even if it involves extreme major like provoking war?

    If I am the decision maker, I would use all possible means (including war) to stop the Chinese doing so. I will definitely walk upto last resort of war to the level where building DAM become unviable for Chinese as compared to the lost occured due to war.

    I know, all the progress made by India will be reversed due to that but after all dies without water is worst then dieing to win a life.

    Also Chinese must stop their attitude to make rules as per their own benefits. Water of any river which passes through multiple counties cannot be stop without the consent of the related counties. Just because Chinese is not on the other side, that doesn;t means they can amend the rules as per their wish.

    This kind attitude of CCP make be OK within their country and over their own people but cannot be tolerated by other free countries and their free people indefinitely

    oops I wrote too much..may be I couldn’t hold my angry after reading this news.

  4. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    A very serious matter. I really think the Chinese need to rethink this one. New technologies and better water savings techniques are needed, not pouring more water in areas where they’ve already shown they are more than capable of wasting it. Plus both the environmental and human cost downstream would be huge. India wouldn’t take this lying down I am certain of that. – Chris

  5. Girish says:

    Chinese government has some under carpet problem of who is actually running the show.
    There is a very strong lobby in CCP who have vested interest into construction companies and they earn massively due to massive investment into infrastructure projects (even if they are not required at all or atleast not required to be of that scale).

    Just building new one is more beneficial rather then improving or optimizing existing ones.
    Someone will surely pressure the government to take this ambitious project of diverting the river.

  6. R Kumar says:

    It would not cause a War between the two countries. Unfortunately India simply does not have the hardware or the political will to declare a war. You have to remember that China still retains parts of Indian territory! India has not had the guts to take that back.

  7. Girish says:

    @R Kumar

    Dear Kumar, with your comments, I am sure you do not have good understanding of defense and strategic matters.

    Politician of any country (mind it, any country) are more fearful of internal revolt rather then external war as later only unite the country and provide support to the politicians. Infact it is a known fact that when there is an internal revolt which could remove the current rulers, it has always been beneficial to exploit the change of waging a war with neighbor countries to divert the focus from internal problems.
    In a situation when a water from Bhramaputra is diverted and leaving people of India die? It will be far feasible and beneficial for the politicians to wage a war with China rather then allowing a civil war in the country for scared water.

    Infact to support my statement, it is one of the main reasons why countries like Japan and other Chinese neighbors are always suspicious about PLA as the day when the rule of CCP party will be challenged by people of China, PLA will surely wage a war with its neigbours to divert the focus of its own people on the name of setting their historic hostilities.

    Infact such signals where already given by CCP and PLA during last recession when there was huge job loss and social unrest in China. I hope you remember the news when PLA had increased their intrusion inside Indian territories and also fingering JApanese too. Now there is no recession so there is no issues on the border too.

    May be that could be a reason why border issues with Japan and India are not been settled as PLA need some reason to wage a war (in a situation I just explained earlier).

    Lets keep everything apart, let talk about India’s capabilities. India in 1971 divided a country into two parts at the time when India was neither militarily nor economically strong. It proves that India had taken touch decision when its a question of its own existence. Dividing Pakistan was a good decision. Otherwise you can imagen how it would be having two Pakistan in 2011.

    Also as you are too scared of Chinese then let me tell you, they are strong but that doesn’t mean they can win a war. If they are stronger then why they couldn’t they get Arunachal Pradesh yet? what are they waiting for?

    Hype and bluff is part of PLA strategics and that is the reason they are the most nontransparent but lethal forces. But lethal till they keep them self away from war.

  8. Deek says:


    Very well said.


    War would be devastating for both countries. I cant even predict who will win. China is larger but both are nuclear. I feel that common-sense will prevail and there will be no war…but if one side walks away with lion’s share of water…the other side does not have much choice.

    What would you prefer? Whole Assam and NorthEast go barren…or a nuclear threat? I hope that there are more than these 2 choices.

    Is PLA listening? We want peace…but you cant “steal” the water. Do you get it?

  9. tenzin says:

    Dear all,
    All this is because China’s occupation of Tibet. Until China’s invasion of Tibet in 1949 Tibet was the buffer zone between China and India, but today China breathing down India’s neck. India must support the Tibetan struggle for Independence or else India will have to fight China forever as its unwanted neighbour. Free Tibet is the only solution for India.

  10. nandu says:

    aaah…..no need to worry…the dam would be ”made in china”

  11. Aero says:

    first of all, china should understand the effect of building a dam on that river which is stated above. IT might cause a drought in north India and Bangladesh. The high Indian officials need to fight back against the plan of such a dam. I understand China needs water in the south but they have control of probably the biggest reservoir in the world. Why don’t they just take water from that????

  12. sarma says:

    It more than sixty years since the time India has got independence, and our policy makers have not realized the need for water. I am confident if Indian is rich in water storage and a rich aquifer bed, India can feed the whole world. In fact many Indian farmers are committing suicide because of severe water shortage, drought lack of ground water, lack of rains etc. Indian policy makers , administrators and bloody MP’s, bureaucrats, water commission have not realized till now at least the need of the hour. forget about future. See China is planning for the next 50 years. If we could have started the famous garland canal or ganga-kaveri link canal or linking of rivers of the north and the south; where plans are given by several engineers; we too would have been on the process of development. How long would we remain under-developed, and allow the corrupt people, to rule us. I think some black money and the Swiss funds are loaned ti Indian government we can realize the Ganga – kaveri link canal, of which Brahmaputra is also a part.

  13. sarma says:

    kindly edit my comment with a view to bring change among people

  14. R Kumar says:

    Dear Girish
    The one thing that Indians excel in is forever theorizing what may or may not happen and keep hoping that events in another part of the world will solve problems in India. Good luck.
    Obviously, the point has been completely missed – India does not have the hardware or the political will to declare a war. China still retains parts of Indian territory from the 1962 debacle of the Indian nation! India has not had the guts to take that back.
    Indians are too busy looting India, with some stashing their loot in foreign Banks. The worst enemies of India are the corrupt Indians. India is being destroyed from within, so China really does not have to make any move except bide time. And they are good at it.

  15. Girish says:

    @R Kumar

    “The one thing that Indians excel in is forever theorizing what may or may not happen”

    Dear Kumar, you are trying to characterize India and Indians on the basis of my comments which are however purely my own views and not the Indian government’s views. Please make note.

    ” and keep hoping that events in another part of the world will solve problems in India. Good luck.”

    Its a conclusion made by you with your own level of thinking and knowledge. Where as I do not agree if India only hopes, I believe it acts too. And the proof is that we still exits and getting stronger as a nation where as countries had concluded that India cannot survive after Independence. We still exists, no?
    Well intellectuals do agree and believe on the idea called India, but may be few ordinary citizens yet to understand it before they could agree.

    India has less number but superior hardware as compare to China. India may not defect china but can surely restrict is to avoid a conflict with India. May be you need to study on this on serious bases before commenting. And if you want I can give you some logical facts on this.

    As far as Political will is concern, well India has shown it as and when required. Right from nuclear explosion, to dividing Pakistan (A country which was supported by US) and developing strategic weapons systems despite huge sanctions on it.

    Last year, heads of big 5 nations where lined up in India for business and strategic relationship. Specailly USA who actaully removed the santions agsinst Indian orginization? Can’t you read the message in between?
    The message was ” Sanctions cannot Stop India to achieve what it want where as now these sanctions against India are more hurting US interest as the potential of gaining from India [ in business and strategic relationship ] is mush more then what we could hide from India”

    As far as border issues are concerned, what China still retains and what India retains is a matter of mutual discussion which is an ongoing process.

    And the matter of fact is neither China nor India have any valid reason to wage a war on these border issues.

    Also as far as if we talk abouts guts of nation,
    Can you pleased highlight your study about the level of guts of Chinese forces have who despite been (full of guts, as per your point) have not got Arunahal Pradesh yet rather then just making claims?
    They have not even got islands from small country Vietnam? Also not even from Japan, Phillipens.

    And why they haven’t got Taiwan? what are they waiting for? Are they waiting for some more guts to act??

    Reality is a small nation called Taiwan has enough guts to act at the time of war to give China a collateral damage which Chinese economy cannot sustain.

    Also on Brahmaputra issue, water is not being diverted yet so India has more time (in years) to develop more teeth against China.

    On corruption, all corrupt people are the enemy of their nation. This is not just true for India but rather true for every nation. Awareness about corruption is increasing in India and majors are being taken to improve it as a process.
    I hope if you are Indian (and not a name changer) you must be reading about lokpal movement going on in India.

    Is there any such movement in China? or matter of fact possible in China? or Chinese go not have corruption as their big enemy?

  16. I hope China will get to there sensence and don’t do anything that might impacted the ecologically in the Northeastern of India.

  17. sunil more ( Nasik ) says:

    This is really very bad….. please india (Govt.) do something. we should must think what china is doing in Karakoram(kashmir), Tibet, Arunachal…….

  18. R Kumar says:

    Dear Girish

    I note your assertion “And the proof is that we still exits…….”. Well, so do animals, Eskimos, Bushmen in Africa, remote tribes in South America. Just existing is not an achievement.

    Getting stronger? Agreed, but so are other countries!
    More corrupt by the minute? Certainly.

    The notion of superior hardware: You can possess world’s finest military hardware (mostly bought from abroad, even after 63 years of Independence!), yet it would take political WILL to put it to effective use. I maintain India (political leadership) does not have that. For fighting little skirmishes here and there and circling what was a tiny nation, yes it does have courage for that. But then at that time at least India had a leader with balls, metaphorically speaking! And since then?

    Since most of the critical hardware is sourced from other countries, how long is it into any war before India will have to run to the foreign suppliers to continue the war? Foreign countries can then decide to give ‘aid’ with strings attached. Do you remember that part of your history?

    More on superior hardware? India still needs to buy bullets, magazine clips and rifles from abroad!

    The achievements, nuclear explosions etc, that you allude to were also attained by the neighbor. So what is exceptional here?

    “Heads of big 5 nations where lined up in India”….It is the job of these nations to go out and win business for their economies and they go to every nation they can do business with. The same nations also do business with India’s neighbours! There is nothing else to it.

    Sanctions were more likely to have been removed because of self interest of the same nations that imposed these. What is the Indian achievement in that?

    India is not even regarded a serious enough country to be given a permanent seat at the UN Security Council to enjoy a Veto like the other 5 nations. China has that power.

    I started by saying that there will not be a War between India and China. I still say that for the reasons given.

    China can achieve its goals against India without ever having a need to go to a war. Such is the state of corrupt India.

    China demonstrated its guts to India in 1962. China is showing its guts to India by continuing to sit on its land. And that is all that should matter to you. China had the guts to swallow Tibet.

    I had a brief read about the lokpal movement and also came across Indian journalists calling it a jokepal movement. Even if you get the bill enacted exactly as Anna wants it, it would not help India. All it would mean is that you pay a bigger bribe to get away from the law. No amount of law is going to help a nation when the masses are corrupt

  19. Carlos de Souza says:

    I think P.Kumar is right when he asserts that “no amount of law is going to help a nation when the masses are corrupt”.

    Remember, its not just politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists who are corrupt. The police are corrupt, the judiciary is corrupt, heck even the common man who doesn’t pay txes is corrupt.

    While China too is corrupt, the corruption is limited to the CCP officials and the upper strata of society. India is corrupt, top to bottom.

  20. Girish says:

    @R Kumar

    Dear Kumar,

    I do not understand what you actually what to portrait India as against China and visa a versa.

    To me (if your are Indian) sounds to be basically blonges to a breed who are more pressimentic about them self(and their country) and over optimistic about others (and other countries). Where as in reality, we must balance between both the things to succeed in life as a person (and as a country).
    I do not know if it is curable thing.

    I tried to put some valid facts of India to support my points that “India is arriving as a stronger nation in all domain” where as you tried to marginallies it saying that every nation is getting stronger in the same breath (where as it is actually not the case if you are serious a reader of economic and even military affair).
    Also if the same is true then what is the point of India bashing against China? then what is that special about China to feel proud about?

    (Can you please put some points which makes China a great nation? will wait)

    Kumar, you hardly put any valid point of China here other then India bashing against my points.

    China is almost equally corrupt country as India. You can read about it here in 2point6billion.com itself

    My point was that measures are underprogress in India to counter corruption in a way that people of the country are involve in its formation (and not just the same corrupt ruling people). Look at RTI act (it was equally oppose in the making but now its reality and have proved to be a headache for corrupt) and now it the same case of lokpal.
    Does any such laws exist in China? and even if they do? it there a transparent mechanism to see their effectiveness? other then what state control media statistic shows? [ps: even their GDP stats are sometime goof up, (acknowledged fact by CCP head)]

    China and India both have long way to go in combating corruption so please hold your emotions while you bash India.

    Lokpal bill is not yet created as it is still an ongoing process. India is a vocal country and disputes of views are part of the process thus you have to wait till the final creation of a bill before put some immature comments about it.

    As you talk about military hardware, till recently ( till last year only) China was the largest arms importer of arms in the world. It is now that India is the largest and China the second largest.
    This proves that your comments about bashing India and pumping pride in China was immature.

    Just for your information Chinese do buys guns, ammunition still date from abroad which are restrcited for local production. This is the same case with India.

    As far as development of streategic military assets are concern, India has its own Nuclear, missile programs just like China. May be if not equally comparable to China but that doesn’t mean India’s achievement are to be bullied?

    Also pointing out 63 years of Independence and mapping it to prolifical will to use strategic weapon was immature. Such extreme decisions to use such weapons depends on extream scenarios.
    Well you have no reason to Bash India as such seriousness havn;t form yet and what will happen in future is not know to anyone. Also this is true to China as well, they also still need to show you their guts to use them against (lets say Taiwan, Veitnam etc)? or have they shown their guts to you personally?

    Also do you even know about thorium fast breeder reactor? India is a leading nation in the development of this reactor technology even ahead of US/Japan/Russian/China. India hold 30% of world thorium reserves of this world but very little uranium. India’s plan is to move gradually to thorium based reactors in future.
    Read about this.

    Also comparing Pakistan’s Nuclear and missile program with India is immature. World know an irresponsible power called China, proliferated Nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan to counter balance with India. (You may personally may not believe it but governments do know about it with facts in their hands)

    And the technological proof it that any nation which developed their Missile tech have associated space programs too (infact most to them established space programs first then made missiles as both technologies converge with each other). But here there is opposite case in Pakistan and NKeora. They only have missiles and not any satellite launch vehicles.

    India has a robust Space program and world acknowledge it (if not you personally).

    Since India is overall 14 years behind to China in industrialization, it is evident that India cannot matched with China point to point bases.

    On UNSC seat, you would require to read about it more.
    Only China (out of Permanent UNSC member) do not support India’s candidate for UNSC? Are Chinese afraid of something?
    Anyways India will be permanent member of UNSC as reform will happen for surely before 2015

    Also you tried to bash India on the point of “big five country reaching India for economic cooperation” and termed as insignificant and portrait it as a normal affair in this world? Can you please explain how China is great if such events doesn’t hold significance?
    What is Chinese significance in this world? if the same method doesn’t work in case of India?

    I would prefer to conclude my moments here.

  21. Girish says:

    @Carlos de Souza

    ““no amount of law is going to help a nation when the masses are corrupt”

    the statement is correct and it is applicable to every nation and India is not just the only suitable candidate for its reference in current state.

    “While China too is corrupt, the corruption is limited to the CCP officials and the upper strata of society. India is corrupt, top to bottom.”

    I do not agree to what you said neither about China nor about India. With your comments, to me you sounds like you very much understand both the nations very well which I believe should be the the case.

  22. satish says:

    Almost all the rivers originate in china and reach India . In time China will divert water from those rivers to its own side . I donot blame china .

    China can and will one day walk down the side of sikkim and divide India . At that time pakistan will start another war on India .
    Nuclear and thorium and missiles are useless in these situations. IN India temperature is 100 degreees most of the time and in china it is 40 degrees most of the time People living in high temperatures climate are less strong than people living in cold climates.
    We indians can just pray and hope that China does not start a war on india . WE cannot stop china from diverting water resourses and we can only sit back and let eastern part of India assam side and above and …all that become a desert and ultimately become independant and become small small countries on their own .

  23. Girish says:


    You need to get some serious education on all subjects to touched upon before taking the task of commenting in forums.

    “Almost all the rivers originate in china and reach India”

    Just stop dreaming Satish? have you really studied geography?

    Pakistan waging war on India, China waging war on Indian, Indian weapon are useless, India will get divided into pieces, and all those temperature related theories you just mentioned….!! All where amazing..Thanks bro!!

    By the way lets wait and watch what happens to India in future..!!

  24. Girish says:

    @Carlos de Souza

    food for your ideas about China.

    I hope you didn;t read the same before you actually labeled every Indian as corrupt where portrait Chinese as holy cows.


  25. sajjan says:

    this is a very tough issue between india & china.if india really wants to prevent china
    to diverting d brahmputra…india will have to follow d strict political rules & if necessary
    have to prepare for any type of war………thia is a time n8 2 fear…………….its time f fire……………….

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