New Delhi: In a new development, which is likely to cause fresh tension in Sino-India ties, reports, Monday, claimed that China is planning to divert the waters of Brahmaputa River, from the upper reaches, in order to tackle the severe drought situation prevailing in the country.
The development comes nearly a year after China began the construction of a $1.2-billion hydroelectric power station on the Brahmaputra (known as Yarlung Tsangpo in China). In a bid to dispel fears in India and Bangladesh, the Communist state had been maintaining that the project would not affect the flow of water to these countries.
Besides building a dam on the Zangmu River, to deal with shortage of power in Tibet, China also has plans to divert the waters in the upper reaches towards Xinjiang province.
Wang Guangqian of Chinese Academy of Sciences was quoted as saying that the Chinese experts have come up with a new proposal, which seeks to divert water towards the northwest. Unlike the earlier approved western canal plan, the proposal will slow down the flow in Brahmaputra, especially in the lean season.
Confirming the plan to China’s official news agency last week, Wang said that this proposal holds significance since it aims at solving the acute water scarcity faced by the country every year.
India is surely worried. New Delhi has sought a report from its mission in Beijing and has indicated that appropriate diplomatic steps would be taken after assessing the situation.
“We are trying to get more details both from the government and our mission and then depending upon the report that we get, we will be able to make an assessment and then take appropriate diplomatic steps,” External Affairs Minister SM Krishna told reporters here.
BJP was quick to react to these reports and demanded that if there is fresh evidence of China’s intentions then India should immediately take up this matter with the neighbouring country.
“These reports are of real concern to India. Since the last two years there are reports that China wants to divert Brahmaputra waters from the Himalayas. If it is diverted we will have terrible environmental, ecological and real problems which will affect the economy of the whole region,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
The BJP MP had raised the issue in Rajya Sabha last year.
“Government had said it has taken up this issue with the Chinese authorities….If there is fresh evidence (of China diverting the waters) then we must immediately take up this issue with China,” Javadekar said.
Strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney said that the development is indicative of Beijing’s “opaque” hydro-engineering plans and its intention to build more dams on the river.
“As in the case of the Mekong, it intends to begin work quietly on large dams on the Brahmaputra. India’s reluctance to speak up — and the habit of Indian officials to regurgitate China’s empty assurances — only emboldens Beijing to opaquely pursue projects to the detriment of downstream users,” Chellany was quoted as saying.