China’s largest dam on Brahmaputra river in Tibet switched on

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Oct 13, 2015 18:36 IST
China on Tuesday said its largest dam in Tibet on the Yarlung Zangbo river has become fully operational. (AFP Photo)

China on Tuesday said that the largest hydropower station in Tibet located on the Yarlung Zangbo river (Brahmaputra in India) had been fully operationalised.

All six units of the Zam hydropower station on the middle reaches of the river began to churn on Tuesday, state media reported, quoting an official from the China Gezhouba Group based in Wuhan in central China.

The Yarlung Zangbo is a major river in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and flows into India from the region before flowing into Bangladesh.

“All six of the station’s units were incorporated into the power grid on Tuesday,” state media reported. The massive project is expected to produce 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year.

“Located in the Gyaca County, Shannan Prefecture, the Zam hydropower station harnesses the rich water resources of the Yarlung Zangbo River, a major river which flows through Tibet,” said a report from the official Xinhua news agency.

Yarlung Zangbo is a key river of the Tibet Autonomous Region that flows into India and Bangladesh.

India has been worried about China’s hydropower projects in the Tibet Autonomous Region and is apprehensive these projects could be used to regulate and control water downstream, leading to scarcity in the northeastern states.

The sharing of river waters has been discussed by the two countries, with Beijing maintaining that it has no intention of obstructing flows into India.

Indian officials monitor and measure the flow of water into India from China to ensure the country is ready for any eventuality, such as the possible holding back and sudden release of water by China.

The Zam project was partly operationalised last November, when the first generating unit of the 9.6 billion Yuan ($1.5 billion) Zangmu hydropower station – positioned more than 3,300 meters above sea level on the “roof of the world” – started to work.

When the project’s first unit became operational, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a news briefing: “The cooperation and communication we have (with India on trans-boundary rivers) is sound, and we are bearing in mind the bigger picture of the China-India good relationship.

“We have been providing hydrological data and emergency management to the Indian side, which has played an important role in flood prevention and disaster relief of downstream areas. The facts have shown that our assistance in these areas is effective, and the channels are smooth,” she had said.

China has contended that the hydropower schemes are not strategic and only aimed at tackling energy shortages in the region.

“It will alleviate the electricity shortage in central Tibet and empower the development of the electricity-strapped region. It is also an important energy base in central Tibet,” the company behind the dam said in a statement. When electricity is ample in summer, part of it will be transferred to neighboring Qinghai province, it said.

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