The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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River of China worry

New Delhi, Nov. 7: Assam’s concern over reports about China planning to divert the course of the Brahmaputra found an echo in the Union ministry of water resources, which today wrote to the external affairs ministry for an update on the “factual position”.

A senior official said the external affairs ministry would forward the “request for facts” to the Indian embassy in Beijing. “We hope to be intimated about China’s plans to divert the river at its source soon. We will then devise an appropriate strategy.”

Union minister of state for water resources Bijoya Chakraborty had issued a statement recently, dismissing reports that China was planning to alter the course of the river.

“India and China are moving towards solving their bilateral problems step by step,” the minister said.

Unconfirmed reports about China’s attempts to divert the Brahmaputra have been surfacing periodically for over a decade now.

One such report talks of a Chinese plan to use nuclear power to blast a tunnel through the Himalayas for the world’s biggest hydroelectric plant.

The Brahmaputra traverses 2,900 km through China, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh, covering an area of over 606,000 square km. A huge storage dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo and the diversion of water to northwestern China are expected to affect India, Bangladesh and Tibet in many ways.

China and India signed a memorandum of understanding last year for sharing data on the Brahmaputra.

The data provided by China pertain to the river’s water level, discharge and rainfall at Nugesha, Yangcun and Nuxia.

“The data provided by China has helped in flood-forecasting and given us a better understanding of the river system. In any case, a plan to divert the Brahmaputra will have to be made known to us beforehand in accordance with the memorandum of understanding,” an official in the Union ministry of water resources said.

Although there is no evidence of China planning to alter the course of the Tsangpo, which is what the Brahmaputra is known as there, reports about the neighbouring country planning to use the river to generate power and irrigate the Gobi desert are not unfounded.

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