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‘Dam at Bramhaputra will not have negative effect’
Guwahati, Nov 18 (PTI/Agencies):
Published on 18 Nov. 2010 10:47 PM IST
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China has told the Centre that construction of dam at the source of the river Brahmaputra in its territory will not have negative impact downstream in India, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said on Thursday.
“China has told the Central government that there will be no negative impact downstream in India and so there is nothing to fear here. However, we have to be vigilant about the development,” Gogoi told reporters here. The Chinese assurance came when the Prime Minister took up the matter with Beijing after Assam government drew his attention to the issue in 2006, he said.
Gogoi said, “We will urge the Centre to have a water sharing information treaty with China. We will also study the downstream impact of the Chinese project.” To BJP leader Rajnath Singh’s assertion that the country should give permission for only small dams in the highly seismic North Eastern region, Gogoi accused the party of having double standards as the erstwhile BJP-led Central government had sanctioned mega dams which were converted to single purpose power dams. “They have double standards. The BJP and AGP which supported mega dams are now realising their negative impact and waking up,” Gogoi said.
On multi-purpose dam for the Lower Subansiri hydro-electric project at Gerukamukh in Arunachal Pradesh, Gogoi said, “If it benefits us here, then why should we oppose it? If it has negative effect here then we will have to force Arunachal Pradesh to stop the project.
“We will not cooperate and will prevent those projects that harm us. We have asked the Centre to examine all central, state and private projects that harm Assam. We have also asked for law on it,” he said. The chief minister also claimed that he had written to the then NDA government about the illegal foreigners problem in the state, but it took no action.
Meanwhile, China's state news agency Xinhua reported that the "formal start of construction" happened on November 12. The Indian Express reported Chinese plans to dam the Brahmaputra, along with satellite images of the site, over a year ago, in October 2009.
Given the strategic implications of the project, a committee of secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary has been monitoring developments on the site using satellite images and other techniques. Beijing has assured New Delhi at the highest levels that the project is 'run-of-the-river', which would have no impact downstream -- a line it repeated after Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao raised the issue during the strategic dialogue.
Indian officials and experts, however, continue to be apprehensive about the project. The Chinese People's Daily has reported that the dam's "main function is power generation, but it can also be used for flood control and irrigation" -- which, experts said, would require the diversion and storage of water. China admits what was feared, it is damming Brahmaputra. "While power generation could either be a storage project or a run-of-the-river project, the flood control feature requires storage structures.
And the irrigation feature would mean water would be diverted. These features are of concern to India," said a senior official of the Ministry of Water Resources.
Xinhua though, quoted Li Chaoyi, chief engineer of the China Huaneng Group, the project's main contractor, as saying, "The river will not be stopped during construction... After it becomes operational, the river water will flow downstream through water turbines and sluices. So the water volume downstream will not be cut."
The project, which is located 325 km from Lhasa, is estimated to have an average annual capacity of 2.5 billion KWH. Xinhua said the project, each of whose six units would have an installed capacity of generating 85 MW, will require an investment of about 7.9 billion yuan. China has been drawing parallels between Zangmu and India's Baglihar, a run-of-the-river project on the Chenab before it flows into Pakistan.
However, while the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty remains the guiding principle for the sharing of river waters between India and Pakistan, no such treaty exists with China, and Beijing continues to be reluctant to enter into one.

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