In its new Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), China has proposed to build first dams on the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is known in Tibet before it flows into India.
- Other major projects include the construction of coastal nuclear power plants and power transmission channels.
- A draft of China’s new Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), which is set to be formally approved has given the green light.
- The dams to be built on the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is known in Tibet before it flows into India.
- The inclusion of the projects in the draft plan suggests the authorities have given the go-ahead to begin tapping the lower reaches for the first time, which marks a new chapter in the hydropower exploitation of the river.
What are India’s concerns?
- China’s dam building overdrive is a concern because there are no bilateral or multilateral treaties on the water.
- China believes dam building on the Brahmaputra helps it assert claim over Arunachal Pradesh.
- India believes China’s projects in the Tibetan plateau threaten to reduce river flows into India.
- Dams, canals, irrigation systems can turn water into a political weapon to be wielded in war, or during peace to signal annoyance with a co-riparian state.
- Denial of hydrological data becomes critical when the flow in the river is very high.
- China is contemplating northward re-routing of the Yarlung Zangbo.
- Diversion of the Brahmaputra is an idea China does not discuss in public, because it implies devastating India’s northeastern plains and Bangladesh, either with floods or reduced water flow.