Sino-India pact: No solution in sight to Tibet dam issues

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NEW DELHI: The Sino-Indian pact signed on Wednesday to strengthen cooperation on trans-border rivers does not address New Delhi’s immediate concerns over the world’s highest dam (3,370 feet according to current estimates) that is being built in Tibet by China.

According to the key agreement, signed in Beijing after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, the neighbouring countries agreed to strengthen their cooperation further on the trans-border rivers through the existing Expert Level Mechanism to provide flood-season data and emergency management.

Under the new agreement, the Chinese side agreed to provide more flood data of Brahmaputra (Yarlung Zangbo as it is known in China) river from May to October instead of June to October that was in practice under the previous agreements river water agreements in 2008 and 2010.

However, this pact does not allay India’s immediate apprehensions on the hydropower (510 MW) dam that is being built in Zangmu in the Shannan Prefecture in Tibet, official sources rued. The construction of this dam begun in 2010 and is expected to be completed in 2015.

Sources claimed that Beijing would meet the energy demands of Guangdong and Hong Kong from this project and plans to import electricity to Myanmar, Thailand, BangladeshLaos and Cambodia. Delhi fears that the project will decrease the flow of the river water once it enters India and also destruct the Himalayan ecosystem on the Indian side.

Earlier this year three additional dam projects were also approved and one of them has more capacity than Zangmu. A 640 MW dam will be built in Dagu, which will be located 18 km upstream of Zangmu. Another 320 MW dam will be built at Jiacha, also on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputura downstream of Zangmu.

A third dam will be built at Jiexu, 11 km upstream of Zangmu. Because of its altitude, the area is often subjected to harsh weather conditions and advanced technology is being used by China for construction of these dams.

Beijing has also built at least six smaller hydropower projects on the Yarlung Zangbo’s tributaries, which, it claims will have no impact on downstream flows. China, according to India, has not been transparent in sharing information on its hydel-power projects on Brahmaputra.