Concerns are being raised in India as the Chinese have completed the first hydro-electric project of 510 MW in the middle reaches of Brahmaputra — called the Zangmu dam in Tibet — for which construction had begun in 2010.
However, according to Indian sources, the Chinese have “consistently assured that the dam… would neither divert the flow of water nor affect India’s rights as a lower riparian state.”
They added, “India will be monitoring the water flows before arriving at definite conclusions about the flow of water to Indian side”.
In the past, the issue had taken up by former PM Manmohan Singh to his Chinese counterpart and at various meetings by the external affairs ministry.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that the first generating unit of the $1.5 billion hydropower station became partly operational on Sunday and five other stations are expected to be completed next year.
Beijing said the project would be useful in “harnessing the rich water resources to empower the development of the electricity-strapped region”.
However, there have been concerns from various quarters including activists in Assam and political parties like the BJD and NCP about the water flow. The concerns stem from the fact that Chinese have plans for a 640 MW dam at Dagu, 18 km upstream of Zangmu and two other smaller projects to be located in the middle reaches of Brahmaputra.
Zangmu is one of the four projects planned on the Brahmaputra to generate a total of 2,000 MW of hydro power. India and China have an MoU for sharing of hydrological data as well.
“The Chinese side is always responsible in developing and utilizing trans-border rivers. We lay equal emphasis on development and protection, and take into full consideration the influence on downstream areas. Dams being planned will not affect flood prevention and ecology of downstream areas,” Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Monday.