SHILLONG, APR 4 : Union Water Resources Minister Salman Khursheed Monday said that there is “nothing alarmist” on China’s plan to construct a power project upstream of the Brahmaputra.
“They (China) have said that there is no diversion of water and they have told us about their minor run-off water project which does not take any water away,” Khursheed told journalists here on the sidelines of workshop on “Water Resource Management in the North East Region with special reference to Flood”.
“China has also given clear assurances from time to time and from our understanding is there would not be any major diversion of water from the Tibetan plateau to flow to other parts of China,” he asserted.
“It is true that people are often worried with Chinese will do on the Brahmaputra, but our own understanding indicates that 80 per cent of the water that flows on the Brahmaputra originates in Indian territory,” Khursheed said.
The Water Resources Minister, however, cautioned, “as of now, we have to keep eyes open and be careful”, even though the information available with the Indian government is not indicative of any concern at this point.
“We need to store some water on the Brahmaputra. We will have to see what we can do on our side to ensure some water storage and steps to address the flood issues,” he said.
China plans to build a $167 million hydropower plant in Zangmu, 140 km southeast of Tibet’s capital Lhasa, besides diverting water to its parched northwest and northeast territories, which includes the Gobi desert.
The 2,906-km-long Brahmaputra is one of Asia’s longest river that traverses its first stretch of 1,625 km in Tibet, the next 918 km in India and the remaining 363 km in Bangladesh before flowing into the Bay of Bengal.
China’s plans of building a dam over the Brahmaputra river and diverting water into its arid provinces has been opposed by regional governments in India’s northeast.
Experts say the Zangmu dam is a “run of the river” power generation project and is of no cause for alarm as it would not divert the river’s course.
Other experts say that if that project is commissioned it would almost certainly have devastating consequences on the lives of millions of people living in India and Bangladesh.
Apart from the dam, China is reportedly planning to divert 200 billion cubic metres of water to feed the Yellow River in an attempt to ease the acute water shortage in Shaanxi, Hebel, Beijing and Tianjin. The “South-to-North Water Diversion” project is currently being debated in Beijing for its technical feasibility, reports say.
India and China do not have a water-sharing agreement. Until recently, water sharing was never on the agenda of bilateral talks between the two countries.