Current affairs

Red Flag up for Bangladesh,India

China Starts construction of the first of the five dams on Brahmaputra River

Chinese plan for diversion of water resources, originating from Tibetan plateau, has become a highly contentious International issue between China on one hand and many downstream countries like India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. China is planning to build or is in the process of building dams, on all major rivers originating from Tibet. This is naturally creating much resentment and heartburn in the riparian downstream countries. The economies of these countries and the lives of their people are principally dependent on the waters flowing in these rivers. Yet, China continues to pay only lip service to this issue by issuing denials and arranging international seminars.China has yet not signed any river water treaty with any of the downstream country.

About 3 years back, media reports appeared for the first time, about possible Chinese plans, to build 5 dams on the river Brahmaputra in Tibet. As per Chinese practice, the Government immediately issued a statement and denied any such intention. Avid China watchers had then warned the Government of India that if Chinese Government is issuing prompt denials, it must be seriously considering the plan. Even a year ago, intention of taking up any such project was flatly denied by Chinese Government. When this matter come up at the time of the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India, Chinese authorities were quick in rejecting the news as a baseless rumour to quell Indian public fears and sentiments. China’s Minister for Water Resources, Wang Shucheng, said the proposal was “unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific, and had no government backing.” The China Daily reported, Wang Shucheng even saying that “There is no need for such dramatic and unscientific projects”. Later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said (according to the China Daily) that “The Chinese government has no plans to build a dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River”.

In spite of these denials, details started leaking out in the Chinese press about construction of first such dam on Brahmaputra. With high quality satellite imagery now available to Internet users, it is impossible even for a secretive Chinese government to hide such a project from internet users. When latest images of the first dam construction were published on the internet, Chinese government had to accept this fact. The first dam on the Brahmaputra river is coming up at Zangmu (Tibetan name Dzam) having 92.522996 and 29.141999 as longitude and latitude. One of China’s biggest engineering and construction companies, China Gezhouba (Group) Corp, has been awarded a contract worth 1.14 billion yuan ($167 million) for a hydropower plant here. Gezhouba’s subsidiary, No 5 Engineering Co Ltd, will provide concrete and aggregate processing services for the Zangmu Hydropower project, the company says on its website. The company will be responsible for designing, constructing and running the project that supplies 3.4-million cu m of concrete and 8-million-ton aggregate for the water power station. The project is expected to last until the end of December 2015. Tibet Power Generation Co Ltd of China Huaneng Group, the country’s top power generator, would proved finance for the Zangmu Water Power Station. Zangmu Power station will start producing power in 2013. The electricity goes to Lhasa as a high voltage power line is planned for connecting the Lhasa power grid.

The dam is 389.5 m long and 76 m wide at the bottom and 19 m at the top. The flow rate of the river further down streams will be maintained. During normal operations the reservoir will have 86.6 million cubic meters of water.

This is the amount of water flowing on average about every 24 hours down the river. Installed power generating capacity is 510 MW and expected power generating capacity is 2.5 billion kw/h per year. The three villages of Zangmu, Tangmai and Dagu (Chinese names) would be submerged in the water reservoir. The local population would be resettled in part of Giacha and Sangri counties.

The second dam on Brahmaputra is now in planning stage. And would come up at 12 KM downstream from Zangmu dam. The location of the power station is 5 kilometers to the west or upstream of Giacha county seat. The installed power generating capacity is 320 MW and the dam will maintain a water level of 3244 m above sea level. The reservoir will be filled with 28.87 million cubic meters of water. The expected power generating capacity is 1.527 billion kw/h per year.

Concerns of downstream countries on Brahmaputra, i.e. India and Bangladesh seem to have been addressed at present as both of these would be run of the river projects. This means that river water would not be diverted at least at present. However when all the five dams would be completed eventually, one can not say for sure that water from reservoirs would never be diverted. Such an eventuality would turn out to be a major problem for India but would be a calamity or a disaster for Bangladesh.

During 1950, China’s People’s Liberation Army set out to ‘liberate’ the roof of the world. The government of India, having inherited past treaties signed by the British with Tibet, were not only shocked at China’s unprovoked military action in Tibet, but were also offended by how the Chinese government had disregarded its explicit assurances to India that Tibet would be left alone. The British and US governments had strongly supported the Indian position on Tibet and had offered all possible help to Tibet and India.

Most surprisingly, then Prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, suddenly decided then to wash his hands off Tibet and even dissuaded US government from giving military help to Tibet. He offered Tibet to China, on a platter, without any preconditions and failed to extract a price like settling border disputes between India and China and a concrete river water sharing agreements.

This is turning out to be the biggest and the blunder of the century, committed by the Government of Independent India and the repercussions of the same not only would haunt India but also other countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar for many many decades to come.

30 August 2010

You may also be interested in reading my earlier Blog on same subject.

Strongest takes all


About chandrashekhara

I am a retired electronics engineer. I am interested in writing, reading books. Other hobbies include Paper models, wooden fret work and social networking.


8 thoughts on “Red Flag up for Bangladesh,India

  1. This is a concern for India not for Bangladesh as already a major river water together with a few tributaries is denied to Bangladesh by India . Another river will also be diverted by India in the eastern Bangladesh which will be dried up in another 5 years time like the northermn part . Bangladesh will always try to please India and China and will not protest.. India has shown the way to China. It cannot fight neither India or China. It will try to survive with water received through occasional cylonic storms and some rains.

    Posted by fakhrul | September 3, 2010, 6:36 am
  2. Bangladesh could not be worse off. India has/ is planning to construct dams across all waterways flowing from India to Bangladesh that would include whatever is allowed by China. It’s India who would face the same treatment as it gives to a downstream neighbour by force ( ignoring rights and moral obligations). Asking Bangladesh to join the party with India to protest ?

    Posted by Ahmed Yazdani | September 4, 2010, 6:11 am
  3. Nation-State ism is killing the world. India will shout against China and will do the same thing against Bangladesh. So would India do in case of Rivers of Sindh. India and Bangladesh and any other country for that matter does not have either the galls or even the sincere wish to find a permanent solution to this, given a chance they would do the same. CAN these countries come together come together to make a world wide move that International rivers cannot be left to the nation-states to deal with? CAN they unite toward an international institute binding upon all the countries? they would not, they would cover up their inability and insincerity in the name of that obnoxious “ideology”, they so euphemistically call “Nationalism”- which in all considerations is nothing but LUPINE SCAT……. So we will have to let the NATURE go dry till we all wake up to form a People’s confederation of nations run by the producers and toilers of the world, who have no interest in this SCAT called Nation-State…. Till then…… prepare for the desert y’all !!!

    Posted by Soumitra Bose | September 5, 2010, 8:28 am
  4. Every country of the World has a equitable right to use River observing international Rules & Regulation. China is the 5th Powerful State, Second Economic Powerful and Veto Power holder country in the World. China has a power to build any Dam in the River to produce electricity. And I support this action taken by China, because India has kept Bangladesh Desert by building Farrakha Barage on the River Ganga. India is an aggressibe cpontry. She does not want her neighboring countries to live peace and prosperity.

    Posted by Babul Aktar | September 14, 2010, 10:38 am
    • Mr. Babul
      I would not like to argue against points raised by you as it might not prove to be useful. I only want to politely point out to you that Farrakha barage has been built by India after an international agreement was signed by India and Bangladesh. In case of China, no such agreement exists.

      Posted by chandrashekhara | September 14, 2010, 12:33 pm
      • Mr Chandrasekhar
        India has diverted winter flow of Tista river without any agreement and the Bangladesh Tista river irrigation project is without any water and dead. As a matter of fact the Farakka barrage project was constructed long before any agrrement with India. The amount of water that Bangladesh receives is paltry and all the southern rivers in the Khulna and Rajshahi Division all dead for almost 10 months. No irrigation is possible now there. India will not face the same situation as many other snow fed rivers are in Assam besides Brahmaputra

        Posted by fakhrul | September 16, 2010, 7:26 am


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