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¿Podrá India ponerse firme con China en el tema de las represas del Brahmaputra?

10 Enero 2011 , Escrito por El polvorín Etiquetado en #Politica

UN ANALISIS DE REPRESAS EN RÍOS BINACIONALES, DEMUESTRA QUE LA COSA NO ES DE ALIVIO … SOBERANÍA, ECOSISTEMAS, BIODIVERSIDAD Y CALIDAD DE VIDA … SUBYACEN A LOS ACUERDOS HIDROENERGÉTICOS QUE EL GOBIERNO DE SALIDA QUIERE IMPONER A TODOS LOS PERUANOS…
 
 

¿Podrá India ponerse firme con China en el tema de las represas del Brahmaputra?

Can India be firm with China on Brahmaputra dams?

       

 

La importancia de la cuestión es muy grande, el problema de los ríos compartidos con China se ha planteado en el Parlamento de India varias veces, los pueblos y gobiernos de varios Estados, incluyendo Assam y Arunachal Pradesh han sido agitados por el tema.  La Comisión de Planificación, y los Ministerios de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Hídricos y Energía, también han estado planteando estas preocupaciones.

¿Podrá India ponerse firme con China en el tema de las represas del Brahmaputra?

 

Los primeros ministros de India y China tienen una oportunidad histórica sin precedentes para crear un mecanismo para compartir ríos internacionales. No sólo ayudaría a los dos países, tendría el potencial de sentar precedente y crear un notable ejemplo para el resto del mundo, dice Himashu Thakkar.

 

La visita del premier chino, Web Jiabao a la India, los días 15 y 16 de diciembre de 2010, ofrece otra buena oportunidad para que la India sea firme y directa con China en el asunto de los proyectos de represas e hidroeléctricas en los ríos compartidos, incluyendo la cuenca del Brahmaputra.

 

La importancia de esta cuestión es evidente teniendo en cuenta que el problema se ha planteado en el Parlamento de India varias veces, incluso el primer ministro ha tenido que hacer aclaraciones en el pasado reciente, los pueblos y gobiernos de varios Estados, incluyendo Assam y Arunachal Pradesh han sido agitados por el tema.  La Comisión de Planificación, y los Ministerios de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Hídricos y Energía, también han estado planteando estas preocupaciones.

 

Por desgracia, la India ha sido menos que firme y menos que directa con China sobre estas cuestiones en el pasado. El gobierno indio ha informado al Parlamento, que China no ha revelado las causas de las inundaciones en el Estado de Himachal Pradesh, en agosto de 2000 y, en el Estado de Arunachal Pradesh, en junio de 2000, cuando en ambos casos, las inundaciones se originaron en China.

 

China inició la construcción del proyecto hidroeléctrico Zangmu, de 510 MW, en el río Tshangpo Yarlung (al igual que el río Siang, uno de los principales tributarios del Brahmaputra) el 12 de noviembre de 2010. El gobierno de la India reaccionó, sólo después de que los medios de comunicación indios recogieron la noticia de los informes de los medios de comunicación internacionales.

 

Es preocupante que el informe de la agencia de noticias Xinhua de China, dijera que el proyecto de 1,200 millones dólares “, también se puede utilizar para controlar las inundaciones y el riego”. Para que un proyecto sea útil para el control de riego y las inundaciones, necesita almacenar y desviar el agua. Pero incluso sin estas características, la represa de Zangmu y los numerosos proyectos de energía hidroeléctrica en los planes de China, tendrá impactos adversos aguas abajo.

 

El portavoz de la cancillería china, Hong Lei aclaró a la prensa que China tomó plena consideración del impacto potencial en la región aguas abajo”.

 

Pero, debe tenerse en cuenta que esta aclaración realmente no dice nada del impacto o las consideraciones que se han tomado. El gobierno de la India se quejará por esto? El problema es que cuando el gobierno de la India responde a los países aguas abajo, de los impactos de la represas que construye o cuando responde a su propio pueblo, la respuesta es escapista y ambigua, tan escapista y ambigua como la respuesta China, incluso casi insultante tanto en el lenguaje como en la forma.

 

Para ilustrar esto, cuando un ministro de la Unión respondió a las interrogantes del Parlamento, sobre el impacto de los proyectos de la  hidroeléctrica de Arunachal Pradesh aguas abajo, en Assam, la respuesta fue: “No hay información específica disponible sobre amenazas a la identidad actual de los pueblos indígenas de Assam por mega represas proyectadas en el noreste”.

 

Como cuestión de hecho, los gobiernos de Arunachal y Assam en la India, a menudo han justificado la licencia rápida para la construcción de grandes represas en el noreste, diciendo que puede establecer el derecho ser el primer usuario. El problema es, en primer lugar no existe ninguna ley internacional o mecanismo que pueda defender tal derecho contra las acciones de los países aguas arriba. Tal defensa sería posible si existe un tratado sobre el reparto de los ríos comunes, como el Tratado del Indo que la India tiene con Pakistán.

 

Pero NO existe tal tratado entre la India y China en cualquiera de los ríos que comparten los dos países. Y la India no ha utilizado su sustancial influencia para impulsar un tratado ( tengamos en cuenta que la delegación que acompaña al primer ministro chino incluye 400 empresarios y hace 5 años, Wen también regresó de la India después de un exitoso viaje de negocios, sin ningún acuerdo al respecto).

 

La única convención internacional en este sentido, la Convención de las Naciones Unidas sobre los usos de los cursos de agua internacionales no navegables, fue aprobado en 1997 por una votación de 104-3. Curiosamente, China fue uno de los tres únicos países que votaron en contra de la convención. La India no hizo ningún gran favor a dicha convención al abstenerse de votar.

 

La convención, en cualquier caso,  aún no es vinculante, ya que aún no lo hayan ratificado el número suficiente de países. Pero incluso si se ratificara, como lo señala un informe de grupo de trabajo del Instituto de Estudios y Análisis de Defensa de India, tales leyes son “difíciles de aplicar y, a menudo contradictorias”.

 

No existe ningún tribunal internacional eficaz para la resolución de dicho conflicto. Lamentablemente, el informe IDSA termina con una propuesta bastante problemática, “Como contramedida para el plan de China para el desvío del Yarlung-Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), la India debería proponer el proyecto energético South Asian-China-ADB del Banco Asiático de Desarrollo con el apoyo internacional del Great Bend. ”

 

Tal sugerencia sería muy contraproducente ya que justificaría el peor temor de las propuestas de China de construir un proyecto de 38.000 MW de energía hidroeléctrica en el Brahmaputra y desviar luego la parte norte en una segunda fase. De hecho, China tiene múltiples proyectos alineados en Tsangpo.

 

Lo qué está pasando en la cuenca del Mekong es una buena guía del futuro esperable. Existe una Comisión Internacional del Mekong incluyendo países como Tailandia, Laos, Camboya y Vietnam, y la comisión está respaldada por el poderoso Japón y el Banco Asiático de Desarrollo.

 

Pero China, que no forma parte de la Comisión Internacional del Mekong, ha construido proyectos hidroeléctricos que están afectando negativamente a los proyectos existentes aguas abajo, pero los países afectados no pueden hacer nada acerca de los proyectos chinos. Esto destruye por completo el argumento del primer derecho de uso de los partidarios de las represas en Arunachal Pradesh, incluyendo al ministro de Medio Ambiente Jairam Armes.

 

Dicho esto, también tenemos que mirar el historial de los gobiernos de la India en este sentido. Cuando se trata de compartir siquiera información básica sobre los planes del gobierno en el noreste, el ministerio de los recursos hídricos se niega a proporcionar información básica a la población.

 

El ministerio se negó a proporcionar dicha información a la Red de Represas, Ríos y Personas del Sudeste Asiático (South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People – SANDRP), a pesar de haber suscrito el Acta del Derecho a la Información. En última instancia SANDRP tuvo que apelar a la Comisión Central de Información y el ministerio tuvo que proporcionar información básica a instancias del CIC. Pero esto y la respuesta al Parlamento del ministro, evidencia lo hermético y encallecido de gobierno de la India en estas cuestiones. India necesita fundamentalmente cambiar la manera de abordar las cuestiones relacionadas con los ríos y presas. El gobierno de la India debe mejorar su propia credibilidad a través de un trato interno de respuestas más transparentes, y medioambientalmente amigables con los ríos y la gente.

 

Esto también es muy importante y urgente, ya que los ríos que China y la India comparten, son alimentados por los glaciares, la mayoría de los cuales se encuentran en el Tíbet. Nuestra base de conocimiento de las interacciones en esos ecosistemas es muy pobre y una mejor cooperación también es útil para la India en el contexto del cambio climático. Esto ha sido subrayado con acierto por Jairam Ramesh.

 

La mejor manera de seguir adelante para la India, China, Bangladesh (un país situado aguas abajo a lo largo del Brahmaputra) e incluso el resto del mundo, sería seguir un mecanismo multilateral para compartir no sólo el agua de los ríos que la India y China comparten, sino también las montañas, los glaciares, los bosques, la biodiversidad y la vida y las culturas asociadas que también comparten. El Informe de la Comisión Mundial de Represas proporciona un punto de partida muy útil para este modelo.

 

Los primeros ministros de India y China tienen una oportunidad histórica sin precedentes para crear un mecanismo que delinee como compartir los ríos internacionales.

 

No sólo ayudará a los dos países y a sus generaciones por venir, tendría el potencial de crear un notable ejemplo para el resto del mundo.

 

El Brahmaputra, es el 5° río más grande del mundo en términos de caudal y el 2° más grande del mundo en términos de los sedimentos que transporta, y sigue siendo relativamente poco perturbado, proporcionando una plataforma ideal para una regulación internacional.

¿Podrá el gobierno de la India mostrar la firmeza, franqueza y la previsión que demanda el cuidado del Brahmaputra, ante el primer ministro chino? Sólo se puede fortalecer la posición de gobierno de la India para hacer frente a su vecino más grande, haciendo firmes planteamientos.

 

Himanshu Thakkar es coordinador de South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People.

 

 

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Can India be firm with China on Brahmaputra dams?

The Indian and Chinese premiers have an unprecedented historical opportunity to create such a mechanism for sharing international rivers. It will not only help the two countries but it has the potential to create a remarkable example for the rest of the world, says Himashu Thakkar.

Chinese Premier Web Jiabao’s forthcoming India [ Images ] visit (December 15-16) provides another useful opportunity for India to be firm and forthright with China on India’s concerns about Chinese dam and hydropower projects on the shared rivers, including in the Brahmaputra basin.

The importance of this issue cannot be underscored considering that this issue has been raised in the Parliament several times, even the prime minister has had to make clarifications in the recent past, the people and governments of several states, including Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have been agitated about this. India’s Planning Commission, environment, water resources and power ministries have also been raising these concerns.

Unfortunately, India has been less than firm and forthright with China on these issues in the past. The Indian government has informed Parliament in the past that China has not disclosed the reasons for floods in Himachal Pradesh [ Images ] in August 2000 and in Arunachal Pradesh in June 2000, when the floods in both cases originated from China.

China started the construction of the 510 MW Zangmu Hydropower project on the Yarlung Tshangpo (as Siang, the main tributary of Brahmaputra is known in Tibet [ Images ]) on November 12. India reacted to that only after the Indian media picked up the news from international media reports.

Worryingly, the report from the China’s news agency Xinhua said the $1.2 billion project “can also be used for flood control and irrigation”. For a project to be useful for irrigation and flood control it needs to store and divert water. But even without these features the Zangmu and the numerous other hydropower projects that China plans will have adverse downstream impacts.

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei did clarify to the media that China took “full consideration of the potential impact on the downstream area.”

But note that this clarification really says nothing either about the impact or what consideration they have given to them. Should Indian government complain about this? The trouble is, when Indian government responds to downstream countries about the dams it builds or when it responds to its own people, Indian government response is almost in same ambiguous, escapist and almost insulting language and manner.

To illustrate, when an Union minister responded to a question in Parliament about impact of Arunachal Pradesh hydro projects on downstream Assam, the answer was, “No specific information is available regarding threats to existing identity of indigenous people of Assam by mega dams proposed in the north-east”.

As a matter of fact, Indian, Arunachal and Assam governments have often justified the expeditious clearance and building of big dams in the north-east, saying that it will establish first user right. The trouble is, firstly there is no international law or mechanism where such a right can be defended against actions of upstream countries. Such a defence would be possible if there was a treaty on sharing the common rivers, like the Indus Treaty that India has with Pakistan.

But no such treaty exists between India and China on any of the rivers that the two countries share. And India has not used its substantial leverage (The delegation accompanying the Chinese premier includes 400 business people and five years back too Wen went back from India after a successful business trip) to push any such treaty.

The only international convention in this regard, the UN Convention on Non navigational uses of international watercourses was approved in 1997 by a vote of 104-3. Interestingly, China was one of the only three nations that voted against the convention. India did not do it a great favour by abstaining from voting.

The convention in any case it yet to come to force since sufficient number of countries are yet to ratify it. But even when it gets ratified, as noted by a task force report (external link) from India’s defence think tank Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, such laws are “difficult to implement and often contradictory”.

No effective international court exists for such conflict resolution. Unfortunately, the IDSA report ends up with a rather problematic suggestion, “As a counter-measure to China’s plan for the diversion of the Yarlung-Tsangpo, India should propose a south Asian-China-ADB power project with international support on the Great Bend.”

Such a suggestion would be seriously counter productive since it will justify the worst feared of the proposals China has of building a 38,000 MW hydropower project on Brahmaputra and diverting it to the northern part in phase two. In fact, China has multiple projects lined up on Tsangpo.

China’s track record, however, is far from encouraging in this regard. What is going on in the Mekong basin is a good guide. There exists an international Mekong Commission including countries like the Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and the commission is backed by powerful Japan [ Images ] and the Asian Development Bank [ Get Quote ].

But China, which is not part of the commission, has been building hydropower projects which are affecting the downstream existing projects adversely, but the downstream countries could do nothing about the Chinese projects. This completely demolishes the first user principle argument that supporters of dams in Arunachal Pradesh, including environment minister Jairam Ramesh [ Images ] are using to push such projects.

That said, we also need to look at the track record of Indian governments in this regard. When it comes to sharing even basic information about the plans of the government in the north-east, the water resources ministry refuses to provide basic information to the people.

The ministry refused to provide such information to South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (external link) even under the Right to Information Act. Ultimately SANDRP had to file appeals to the Central Information Commission and the ministry had to provide basic information under the CIC orders (external link). But this and the earlier quoted answer in Parliament from the minister show how callously Indian government deals with these issues. India needs to fundamentally change its ways of dealing with the issues related to rivers and dams. Indian government needs to improve its own credibility through more responsive, transparent and environment friendly treatment of rivers and people.

This is also urgently important since the rivers that India shares with China are fed by glaciers, most of which are located inside Tibet. Our knowledge base of these lifelines is very poor and better cooperation is also useful for India in the context of climate change. This has been rightly emphasised by Jairam Ramesh.

The best way to go forward for India, China, Bangladesh (a downstream country along the Brahmaputra) and even the rest of the world would be to follow a multilateral mechanism to share not just the water of the rivers that India and China share, but also the mountains, the glaciers, the forests, the biodiversity and the associated lives and cultures that also get shared. The Report of the World Commission on Dams provides a very useful starting point for such a model.

The Indian and Chinese premiers have an unprecedented historical opportunity to create such a mechanism on these lines for sharing the international rivers.

It will not only help the two countries for generations to come, but it has the potential to create a remarkable example for the rest of the world.

The Brahmaputra, the fifth largest river in terms of water it carries and second largest in terms of the silt it carries, remains relatively less disturbed among the rivers of the world and provides ideal platform for this. Will the Indian government show the firmness, forthrightness and foresight to propose this to the visiting Chinese Premier? It can only strengthen Indian government hand in dealing with its bigger neighbour. It will also give huge strength to the fragile bilateral relations that the Chinese ambassador to India referred to on December 13 in Delhi [ Images ].

Himanshu Thakkar is convenor of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People

http://intellibriefs.blogspot.com/2010/12/can-india-be-firm-with-china-on.html - Intelli-Briefs bring you Intelligence briefs on Geopolitics , Security and Intelligence from around the world . We gather information and insights from multiple sources and present you in a digestible format to quench your thirst for right perspective, with right information at right time at right place . We encourage people to contact us with any relevant information that other news media organizations don’t cover .
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In October 2003, I wrote an article Diverting the Brahmaputra: a Declaration of War for Rediff.com. At the time, I was told that it was a cheap journalistic gimmick; there was no ‘scientific’ proof!
My question then was: “What is the rationale for the project?”
I had explained: “Two of the most acute problems China faces today are food and water. These two issues are closely linked and, if not solved, are bound to have grave social and political consequences for the country” and added: “The new emperors are not sure where the solution lies or even if there is a solution.”
Seven years later, these problems are more acute than ever. Since then, another issue has cropped up: fast-track development of the Tibetan plateau (also known as The Third Pole by environmentalists). The new activities, mainly large-scale tourism, are energy-hungry. More power is required to maintain the increasing flow of mainland visitors (over millions tourists  visited the Tibetan capital in 2009).

The problem faced by China today is far more serious than 7 years ago.
The basic quandary however remains the same, with water becoming a rare commodity in China and agriculture needing more water to sustain its growth.
This led Chinese experts to look around for water. The answer was not far: four of the world’s ten major rivers, the Brahmaputra (or Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet), the Yangtze, the Mekong and the Huang Ho (or Yellow River) have their headwaters on the Tibetan plateau. The other major rivers which originate in Tibet are the Salween, the Irrawaddy, the Arun, the Karnali, the Sutlej and the Indus. About 90% of their runoff flows downstream to China, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Thus the idea to use Tibet’s waters for Northern China was born.
Map
 

 

One of the possibilities was to divert waters from the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo, north of the McMahon Line by building a mega structure. There are different versions of the project, but the Shuotian Canal is the most elaborated. It is the brainchild of an engineer, Guo Kai whose life mission is to save China with Tibet’s waters. He has calculated that if waters from the Salween, the Mekong, the Yangtse, the Yalong and the Dadu (last two are Yangtse’s tributaries) were diverted and directed to the Ngawa Prefecture of Qinghai (Amdo) Province, the problem for the recurrent water shortage in north and northwest China could be solved (today, the Yellow River is dry more than 250 days in a year).
Guo not only worked closely with experts from the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources and the Academy of Sciences (CAS), but also made several on-the-spot investigations and surveys, before coming up with the details of his pharaonic scheme.
According to him, the ‘Great Western Route’ diversion could solve the water shortage in north China, bring drinkable water to Tanjing and even counter the desertification facing the northern and northwestern provinces. It is why it is considered so vital to the Middle Kingdom’s strategic security.
The name Shuotian comes from the contraction of ‘Shuomatan’ the origin of the canal (near the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra) and the city of Tanjing at the fag end.

From the start the Chinese military have shown a lot of interest in Guo’s Great Western Route scheme. In November 2005, the Great Western Route project got a boost with the publication of a book entitled Save China Through Water From Tibet, written by a Li Ling; the writer used Guo’s theme and arguments. It appears that more than 10,000 copies were ordered by various central government ministries and commissions, including the Ministry of Water Resources. Some observers will say that it is a figment of the imagination of a few old retired generals (with the backing of journalists looking for scoops), but it may or may not be the case.
In November 2006, as President Hu Jintao was leaving India after a State visit, the Chinese Minister for Water Resources, Wang Shucheng, categorically stated that the proposal was “unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific.” He added that it had no government backing: “There is no need for such dramatic and unscientific projects.” He however admitted: “There may be some retired officials that support the plan, but they’re not the experts advising the government.” It was not a point blank denial as he admitted that the project existed. As we know, governments change, so do their advisors.

Recent developments
The proposed diversion/damming has come back in the news with the construction of a series of dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo upstream to the Great Bend. According to available information, the Chinese plan to build a series of five dams in the Shannan Prefecture (Lhoka) of Tibet at Zangmu, Gyatsa, Zhongda, Jiexu and Langzhen.

The Zangmu dam will be the first to be built. At an altitude of 3,260 meters, it is expected to generate 540 MW of electricity; its height will be 116 m and length 390 m, it will have a width of 19 m wide at the top and 76 m at the bottom. The 26 turbines-dam would cost 1.138 billion yen.
The contract has been awarded to a consortium of five companies under the leadership of Gezhouba, one of China’s biggest dam-building companies (also involved in the massive $1.5 billion river diversion and hydro-electricity project on Neelum-Jhelum in POK).
For more than a year, satellite imagery as well photos of the project were available on the Net, even though the construction was denied by the Chinese government. The Government of India knew of the project but was unwilling to forcefully tackle Beijing and ask for factual explanations.
However recently during the question hour in Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna informed the Members that during his visit to China, Beijing had finally admitted to the existence of the dam: “It is a fact that when we met in Beijing, the question of the power station did come up. The Chinese foreign minister assured me that there would be no water storage at the dam and it would not in any way impact on downstream areas.”
New Delhi sighed and Krishna and his team came back to India reassured.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao was so happy; there would be no diversion: “This would not be a project that would divert water… It is not a storage dam for irrigation purposes”, she said.

The latest developments and the Indian Government’s declaration raise several points:

1- At this stage it is difficult to link the string of five dams to the larger project of diverting the waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra to Northern China. The five dams, including the Zangmu dam located upstream of the proposed diversion project — Shuomatan or Great Bend — is said to be a run-of-river project only.

2- The rationale to divert the waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo is more compelling as ever. Many believe that it is only a question of time and one day China will have to go for it in order to survive. It is as serious as this.

3- For many months, the fact that China was building a dam in Zangmu was known and photos were circulating on the Net. Why did Delhi take up the matter with Beijing so late? It remains a mystery. Probably to not hurt the Chinese ‘sensitivities’.

4- The Yarlung Tsangpo’s gorge is a highly seismic zone. Most geologists agree that the area is prone to earthquakes. The South China Morning Post quoted Yang Yong, a Chinese geologist saying: “Huge mountains suddenly surged from a piece of flat land, forming two almost vertical walls to the horizon,” adding the canyon “is fresh evidence of violent geological movement. I cannot imagine a more dangerous spot to build dams.”

August 1950 earthquake in Tibet (8.6 on Richter scale)

5- India and China have no water-sharing agreements. A meeting of experts from India and China took place between April 26 and 29 in Delhi to discuss the issue of sharing information on the Brahmaputra and the Sutlej. Hopefully the outcome will be made public. Indian and Chinese water experts were to ink an ‘implementation plan’ to share hydrological data on the Sutlej and Brahmaputra rivers. Though the mechanism was mentioned in the Sino-Indian Joint Statements issued after the visits of Premier Wen Jiabao (2005) and President Hu Jinatao (2006) to India, the Chinese authorities had refused to share data because there was no ‘implementation plan’ to support decisions taken at the highest level.

6- Regarding the data of the Himalayan rivers, there is a major problem. The Indian babus are even more jealous of ’their’ data than their Chinese counterparts. Those who have tried to get scientific information on the flow of the Brahmaputra and other rivers have had a nightmarish experience. ‘National security’ is the babus’ mantra (this includes the Army babus).
One wonders sometimes is these babus are really interested in ‘national security’. Many believe that they are unconsciously playing into the hands of forces adverse to India. Because where are the ‘national interests’ in this case? How does it help to hide hard facts about the happenings on the Yarlung Tsangpo?

7- China has never consulted lower riparian states before undertaking dam constructions upstream, though it is considered as a trans-border water issue. As IDSA scholar, P. Stobdan puts it: “No downstream country has any legal arrangements or provisions of international law to deal with China’s river manipulation. China has refused to join the Mekong River Commission, and has also not ratified the UN convention on Non-Navigable Use of International Watercourses (1997)”. This is an issue on which Delhi could insist when Indian officials meet their Chinese counterparts. Data should be shared and transparent information on the projects undertaken on the Tibetan plateau should be given to the lower riparian States (though Bangladesh is so obsessed with India ‘stealing’ its waters that it does not realize that the Brahmaputra is flowing from China).
Pressure should also put on China to respect international regulations.

8- In China, there is a strong lobby advocating large dams (in India as well). An excellent paper Mountains of Concrete: Dams Building in the Himalayas published by an NGO International Rivers — People, Water, Life explains: “One of the biggest changes to occur in big dams in the past 20 years is the rise of Chinese dam builders and financiers. China’s dam industry has gone global, building hundreds of dams throughout Africa and Southeast Asia, but also Central Asia, South America, and the Himalayas. …Chinese dam builders have taken their business to nearby countries such as Burma, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Second, China’s domestic dam industry is now arguably the most prolific in the world, with technical skills on par with those of industrialized nations. While the playing field is becoming crowded within China, there is huge external demand for the technology, capacity, and financial backing that Chinese dam building companies can bring, particularly in countries like Pakistan and Nepal, where there are few domestic resources and leaders are eager to exploit rich hydropower resources or boost irrigation capacity.”
This lobby is very influential and advocates the diversion project (as the Chinese Minister for Water Resources stated, many PLA generals are also involved in the dam business). One should also not forget that several major Chinese banks have an interest in the mega-projects. Since the completion of the Three Gorges dam, this lobby has not been able to undertake ‘big’ projects.

9- One of the main problems is that some Indian intellectuals (this word is not appropriate, because according to me, they lack intellect), believe that the Chinese ‘are our friends’ (if not brothers) and India cannot afford a conflict with the Middle Kingdom. Their conclusion is that India should keep quiet. They trust that the Chinese leadership will never ‘dare’ to harm their brothers in India and that they will stand by their words.
When Beijing says that the Zangmu damming on the Brahmaputra will have no consequences for India, Indian ‘experts’ therefore readily agree. There was recently a talk at a reputed Indian think-tank in Delhi with the main Indian ‘expert’ arguing that even if the Brahmaputra is diverted, it will only be a mere 30% of its waters which will be lost to India and Bangladesh, with no consequence for these countries. This is frightening and unscientific. Is it not the duty of ‘experts’, scientists, strategists to study and analyze all possibilities, even if some are more remote?

10- One can understand what is going to happen to India and Bangladesh (whether it is a diversion or simply a string of dams) when one looks at the fate of the Mekong. The 4,350 km river has its source on the Tibetan Plateau. It flows downstream to the Yunnan province of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Chinese experts assert that Tibet contributes only 20 % to the Mekong’s waters, and the remaining 80 % is fed from water sources in downstream countries. During recent months, a severe draught has been experienced in Yunnan province of China and the Indochinese peninsula.

The problem seems compounded by the fact that China has built several dams on the upper reaches of Mekong without consulting its neighbours. This year, the drought has been so severe that the cargo traffic on the river has stopped, affecting the lives of 65 million people in the peninsula.
Though some environment scientists claim that the lack of rainfall alone is responsible for the low level of the river, a group of affected countries — Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam— met in Thailand to discuss this hot issue.
When Panitan Wattanayagorn, a Thai government spokesman asked Beijing for ‘more information, more cooperation and more coordination’, China immediately denied any wrong doing.
Environmental NGOs in the peninsula however blame China for ‘drying’ the Mekong and provoking the crisis. China, a dialogue partner of the Commission took the ‘attack’ seriously and sent a delegation led by Vice-Foreign Minister Song Tao to the two-day conference in Thailand. Liu Ning, the Chinese Vice Minister of Water Resources argued that the dams and irrigation projects upstream have actually helped stave off some of the effects of drought. Facts speak otherwise.
The earlier mentioned report of International Rivers says: “Large dams alter the natural hydrology of rivers in unpredictable ways, and hold back soil-renewing silt, while the ‘hungry water’ below them scours river banks and stream beds, destroying fish habitat and wiping away fields and villages. The cascade of dams under construction in China’s Yunnan Province and the half-dozen proposed dams in northern Laos are particularly threatening because of their large storage capacity and impact on the river’s natural hydrology and seasonal inflows, the key to its natural bounty. Along with proposed dams in Cambodia, they also threaten to advance the expected date of sea-level rise in the Mekong Delta.”
It is a fact that large dams have an influence on the ecology of the bioregion, whether it is admitted by the dam builders or not.

11- Interestingly, the Pakistanis are laughing at South Block wishy-washiness. In October 2009, a discussion took place on the dams on http://forum.pakistanidefence.com.
Here is an extract:
Commenting on what External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said in response to a media report stating that India will be checking “to ascertain whether there are recent developments that suggest any change in the position conveyed to us by the government of China”, a commentator said: “Checking, still checking… You can’t help but laugh!”

12- It is not that the Chinese are unable to bend and listen. In May 2009 Premier Wen Jiabao, himself an engineer by training, suspended the construction of a planned cascade of 13 dams on the Nu River (Salween in Burma). Already in 2004 Wen had blocked an earlier version of the cascade and asked for a serious review of the environmental impact to be carried out. Wen’s decision has been seen as the response to international and local pressure over the environmental effects of such a structure in an eco-sensitive region. And let us not forget that Tibet’s environment is even more sensitive.

13- Last but not the least, there is a strong lobby in India which wants to build dams in Arunachal Pradesh. Ask any Arunachali minister, he will tell you: “We are the richest Indian State, we will soon ‘sell’ 50,000 MW of electricity to India”. The Assam Tribune recently reported: “Speaking to the media in North Lakhimpur after participating in a public function on 10th April, [Arunachal Home Minister] Tako Dabi said international circles that did not want India to become energy efficient by tapping its natural resources had been behind such popular movements that were voicing opposition to the construction of mega dams like the one in Gerukamukh and Dibang valley.” This shows another aspect of the issue, more difficult to handle by a weak Center.

One can only conclude that India is facing a complex and extremely serious problem; only by firm diplomacy and proper information of the public, does India have a chance to force Beijing to change its plans, avoiding thus a regrettable fait accompli.

 

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