Does a run-off-the river power project serve the Chinese interests? The answer is negative. Although China does require electricity but water is essential. There are five dams under construction not to exclusively generate the electricity but to store the water and then channelize the water to northern regions. From New Delhi, Rajiv Ranjan.
Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India assured the Rajya Sabha on ongoing construction of dams on the Brahmaputra River that it is a run-of-the-river project, intervening in the reply to a question addressed to the external affairs minister. He also sought to put to rest the controversy and said ‘unnecessary provocation’ on either side can hurt the relations between the two countries. There is no doubt that this shows maturity of Indian strategic thinking to construct ‘sustainable confidence’ and boost up the Indo-China relations. But at the same time, it also suggests the failure of Indian diplomacy and reminds us of consequences of blind trust in the Chinese dragon. Chinese assurances on the issue of staple visa have fallen flat. India therefore must not acknowledge Chinese assurance without having credible and authentic information about the ongoing project.
Zangmu Power Project, compromises a series of five dams namely Dhongzhong, Guoduo, Xiangda, Ruxi and Linchang, which will be constructed on the middle reaches of the main stream and would have installed capacity of 510MW.
Being upper riparian, China has to take into confidence the lower riparian countries, India and Bangladesh, before going ahead with the proposed project. But Beijing unilaterally chose to construct a series of dam on middle reaches of the river to produce electricity to develop the region of Tibet. Nonetheless, the project will have devastating effect on Tibetan ecology.
China is in dire need of water for its thirsty northern region and to fulfil its developmental goals. Further, it desperately seeks to solve the siltation problem of the Three Georges Dam and more water from the south i.e. diversion of water through its South-North Water transfer project will definitely ease the crisis. Earlier it was believed that damming the Brahmaputra River on the Great Bend near Namcha-Barwa will easily divert the water to northern regions of China. However, technical difficulties and ecological ramifications were much higher than anticipated.
Damming her could trigger ‘limited confrontation’ with lower riparian countries, India and Bangladesh.
Brahmaputra is a trans-boundary river. Damming her could have international dimensions. It could trigger ‘limited confrontation’ with lower riparian countries, India and Bangladesh. Beijing is not in position to hamper relations with its neighbours as it is imperative for the peaceful rise of China.
Survival is primacy concern for any nation-state and interest changes according to circumstances. China needs water but at minimum cost. China thus slightly modified, for time being, it’s previous plan of South-North Water transfer project and have put a little less complicated plan to dam the Brahmaputra River by constructing a series of dams instead of diverting the whole water flow towards northern regions by changing the path of river at the Great Bend. It serves twin objectives for Beijing. Firstly, a small hydro project minimises the concerns of lower riparian countries by claiming that it is meant for electricity generation and it is a run-off project. And here Indian strategists failed to understand the hidden objectives of China and once again affirmed the faith in her giant neighbour. Secondly, Zangmu Power project will provide water to its northern regions. Does the run-off-the river power project serve the Chinese interests? The answer is negative. Although, China does require electricity but water is essential. There are five dams under construction, for the time being, on middle reaches, not to exclusively generate the electricity, but to store the water and then channelize the water to northern regions through western route of South-North Water Diversion Project.
India once again has not learnt from the past experiences and has affirmed faith in Chinese assurances. India must explore all the possible ramifications of Zangmu Power project before giving green signal to the project and not endanger her own national interests for the sake of a so called ‘responsible and peaceful neighbour’.
Any further delay will suggest the lack of strategic thinking in the Indian establishment.
India, with Bangladesh must raise the issue at highest political level with Chinese authorities to secure their legitimate rights to water as lower riparian states. Any further delay and misapprehending the gravity of the situations will impede the national interests of both India and Bangladesh and simultaneously suggest the lack of strategic thinking in the Indian establishment.
China, on its part, must invite Indian and Bangladeshi empowered delegations for friendly visit (say inspection) to ongoing construction site of Zangmu power project. It serves two purposes for Beijing. Firstly, a visit to the site will confirm that China is indeed not undermining the legitimate rights of lower riparian and the project is just a run-off-river project and put to rest any trepidation on the ongoing project in India and Bangladesh. Secondly, it will further enhance the Chinese image at world level and in neighbourhood as a responsible actor.