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River row

According to reports, China plans to divert waters of Brahmaputra river to its Yellow river to feed the parched northern regions.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2006 20:36 IST

According to media reports, China is planning to divert 200 billion cubic metres of water to feed the Yellow River in an attempt at easing acute water shortage in Shaanxi, Hebel, Beijing and Tianjin.

The 2,906-km long Brahmaputra is one of Asia's largest rivers that traverse its first stretch of 1,625 km in China's Tibet region, the next 918 km in India and the remaining 363 km through neighbouring Bangladesh before converging into the Bay of Bengal.

The river is the lifeline for a vast majorty of the people in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Bangladesh - most of them depend on the river for irrigating their agricultural fields, fishing and transportation of goods.

Agriculture forms the backbone of the economies in both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh with nearly 80 per cent of the 27 million people in the two states eking out a living through agriculture.

While China has denied reports that it is planning to divert waters of Brahmaputra river to its Yellow river to feed the parched northern regions, India proposes to engage China on this issue in a serious manner.

Some of the grave consequences of blasting of the Himalayan terrain at the point where Brahmaputra makes a sharp downward bend towards India (The Great Bend), include:

• India and Bangladesh would be at the mercy of China for adequate release of water during the dry season, and for protection from floods during the rainy season

• Unpredictable impact on the geologically young Himalayan ranges and the adverse tilting of ecological balance.

• Precipitation in Assam and Bangladesh is very high (80 per cent) between June to September and low (20 per cent) during the remaining eight months.

It is likely that China could withhold water for power generation and irrigation during the dry season and release water during the flood season with catastrophic consequences for eastern South Asia.

• Nutrient-rich sediments that enrich the soil of these regions would be held back in the reservoir instead of reaching the river's delta.

• Possibility of earthquakes because of the impounding of large quantities of water in reservoirs in mountain valleys and also because The Great Bend is located in a highly earthquake prone area.

• China itself may face serious problems of water-logging if the waters of the Brahmaputra are blocked from flowing into the ocean.

(Compiled by Meenakshi Iyer)