Chinese dams catch India by surprise | world | Hindustan Times
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Chinese dams catch India by surprise

world Updated: Jan 31, 2013 00:49 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

India wasn’t officially informed about China’s decision to build three new dams on the stretch of Brahmaputra (called Yarlung Zangbo in China) flowing through Tibet.

The dams were sanctioned under China’s plan to augment its energy sector as chalked out in the 12th Five Year Plan.

The document approving the three dams at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu got the sanction of China’s State Council, the country’s Cabinet, earlier this month.

Indian officials in Beijing declined comment on the new dams. But they indicated there was no information about them from Chinese officials though there were high-level bilateral discussions recently that included the issue of water sharing between the two countries.

When asked about the dams, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told a media briefing here on Wednesday that “China has always taken a responsible attitude towards the development of cross border rivers.”

“Any new project has to go through scientific planning and study with consideration of the interests of lower and upper stream countries,” he said.

China has approved several new dams across the country recently some which have international implications as the rivers flow into neighbouring countries.

The decision sanctioning the new dams comes within weeks of National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon’s lengthy bilateral discussions – including talks on water sharing - with top Chinese officials in Beijing in December.

Menon had told Indian media that New Delhi was keeping a close watch on the water flow of the Brahmaputra river in Arunachal Pradesh to monitor Chinese claims that no structure was being built on their side to impact the volume of water coming into India.

The Brahmaputra originates in Tibet and flows into Arunachal Pradesh and Assam before crossing the Bangladesh boundary.

Beijing has always claimed that an earlier hydropower project on Brahmaputra river in Tibet was not obstructing the water flow to India as the dam wasn’t big enough.

Menon had said water was a sensitive and emotional issue for both countries.

“We are measuring flows,” he had said, adding that the question was whether the Chinese have a structure to control the flow of water. “No,” he said was the answer from Beijing.

Flow of water, Menon said was relevant. It was important for India to monitor water flow as it could give an idea about, “…what could happen “if they (China) held water and released it suddenly?”

China is already been building a 510 MW dam at Zangmu and one of the three dams was reportedly bigger than this.