The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dam for dam to beat China plan
- Counter project to ‘save’ Brahmaputra

New Delhi, Nov. 19: Waking up to the possibility of China building a gigantic dam on the Brahmaputra — known as Yarlung Tsangpo in the Tibetan Autonomous Region — the water resources ministry has readied a “counter project” to harness the waters of the river and its tributaries.

Impact studies by the Central Water Commission show that if China builds the dam, India could lose 300 of the 500 billion cubic metres of the Brahmaputra’s annual water flow.

The commission has suggested over two dozen dams on the Brahmaputra and 30 of its tributaries that flow through the northeastern states. It also recommends connecting them through an intricate network of canals.

The Chinese blueprint for a dam at Shuomatan point, where the river takes the famous U-turn, was first discussed by the Indian government around two years ago. A senior official in the ministry said the Centre received information around that time about Chinese engineers visiting European countries to acquire knowledge about constructing dams on turbulent rivers. Immediately after, a meeting to work out its possible impact was convened and the ministry asked to brainstorm a counter plan.

Although China has denied having taken up any such project, experts believe it will go ahead with its plan to divert water from the south to the north, including the waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo, to irrigate vast stretches of land to the north of the Yangtze river basin. Home to 550 million people, the basin has two-thirds of the country’s farmlands but only a fifth of its water resources.

Originating from a glacier near Mount Kailash, Yarlung Tsangpo traverses 2,057 km in Tibet before flowing into India, where it becomes the Brahmaputra. Near the Indian border, the river turns sharply at a point known as the Great Bend. This is where China plans to build the world’s largest hydroelectric plant and pump the water northward to Xinjiang and Gansu.

“Though the Chinese plan does not look dangerous now, India could be the loser in the long run. We will be able to store and harness 200 BCM water annually through these dams which will leave us with 450 BCM water,” said an official. “The canal system and dams can together even withstand the impact of sudden release of water.”

Several of these dams are in the planning stage and will take seven to 10 years to build, a source said.

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