China has blocked a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra in Tibet as part of the construction of its “most expensive” hydro-power project which could cause concern in India as it may impact water flows into the lower riparian countries, state-run Xinhua news agency reported Saturday.
However, R.N. Ravi, joint intelligence committee chairman, who was in Beijing on September 29 for a meeting with China, rejected reports in media about China blocking a tributary of the Brahmaputra river in Tibet.
Speaking with this newspaper on Saturday, Mr Ravi said that China may have been building some dams in Tibet but it doesn’t have any intention to block Brahamaputra.
While there is no water-sharing treaty between the countries, India and China established an Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) on trans-border rivers and in October 2013 the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding on strengthening cooperation on trans-border rivers under which Beijing provides data to India on the water flows.
The reports of blockade of the Brahmaputra river tributary comes at a time of India’s reported decision to suspend talks with Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty as part of its efforts to hit back at Pakistan in the aftermath of the Uri attack.
Some of the rivers under the Indus Water Treaty originate in China.
Xinhua news agency quoted Zhang Yunbao, head of the project’s administration bureau, as saying that the Lalho project on Xiabuqu river, a tributary of Yarlung Zangbo (the Tibetan name for Brahmaputra), in Xigaze in Tibet involves an investment of 4.95 billion yuan ($740 million).
Xigaze — also known as Shigatse — is located close to Sikkim, and from here the Brahmaputra flows into Arunachal Pradesh. The report has called Lalho the “most expensive project”, whose construction began in June 2014 and is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
It is not clear yet what impact the blockade of the river will have on the flow of water from the Brahmaputra into the lower riparian countries like India and Bangladesh.
Last year, China had operationalised the $1.5 billion Zam Hydropower Station, the largest in Tibet, built on the Brahmaputra river, which had raised concerns in India.
But China has been maintaining that it has taken into consideration India’s concerns and allays apprehensions of restricting the flow of water, saying its dams are run of the river projects not designed to hold water.
The outline of China’s 12th Five Year Plan indicates that three more hydropower projects on the mainstream of the Brahmaputra river in Tibet Autonomous Region have been approved for implementation.
In March, Union minister of state for water resources Sanwar Lal Jat said that India had expressed its concerns to China about the likely impact of the dams.