China parliament nod to dam near Arunachal

BySutirtho Patranobis
Mar 11, 2021 11:26 PM IST

Beijing: China on Thursday gave the go-ahead to the construction of a dam and hydropower plant on the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river in Tibet, close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh, labelling it as a key project

Beijing: China on Thursday gave the go-ahead to the construction of a dam and hydropower plant on the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river in Tibet, close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh, labelling it as a key project.

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Rising in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the Yarlung Zangbo flows into Arunachal Pradesh as Siang, and then as Brahmaputra in Assam before flowing into Bangladesh.

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India has expressed concerns over four planned dams on the upper and middle reaches. However, some officials say that constructions may not impact the quantity of the Brahmaputra’s flows to a large extent.

The project was approved by China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), at its closing session on Thursday as part of the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) (2021-25) for National Economical and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035.

The project was first announced in November last year.

At the time, China said it was within its legitimate rights to build a dam on the lower reaches of the river, also called Yarlung Tsangpo, close to the India border but gave the assurance that the hydropower project will take into account the interests of downstream countries such as India and Bangladesh.

This week, at least two top Chinese officials spoke about the importance of the project during the just-concluded annual session of China’s NPC.

He Lifeng, the director of China’s top planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said “the development of hydropower on the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river” is a world-class landmark project alongside the Sichuan-Tibet railway and the coastal railway project along the Yangtze river.

Last Saturday, Che Dalha, deputy Communist Party chief of TAR had said authorities should “strive to begin construction this year”.

“Comprehensive planning and environmental impact assessments for the project should be approved as soon as possible,” he said on Saturday, according to a press release quoted by Reuters and published Monday on an official regional government website.

A TAR government report published in January mentioned hydropower development in the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River several times.

The new dam’s ability to generate hydropower could be three times that of central China’s Three Gorges Dam, which has the largest installed hydropower capacity in the world.

“China will build a hydropower project on the Yarlung Zangbo River, one of the major waters in Asia that also passes through India and Bangladesh…,” the state-run tabloid Global Times said in a report on the project in November last year.

“There is no parallel in history (of the project… it will be a historic opportunity for the Chinese hydropower industry,” Yan Zhiyong, chairman of the Power Construction Corp of China, or POWERCHINA, said then.

The paperwork on the dam began with POWERCHINA on October 16 signing a strategic cooperation agreement covering the 14th Five-Year Plan with the TAR government.

When asked in December about the project and its impact on lower riparian countries, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying brushed aside apprehensions.

“Hydropower development in the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river is China’s legitimate right. When it comes to use and development of cross-border rivers, China always acts responsibly. We have a policy featuring development and conservation, and all projects will go through science-based planning and assessment with due consideration for its impact downstream and taking into account interests of upstream and downstream regions,” she said

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