Zangmu – Hydropolitics of the Basin

 11/22/2015  1039

The Zangmu hydroelectric project is a gravity dam on the Brahmaputra River 9 km (5.6 mi) northwest of Gyaca in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The purpose of the dam is hydroelectric power production using run-of-the-river technology. It is part of the Zangmu Hydropower Project and will support a 510 MW power station. Construction began in 2009 and the first generator was commissioned in November 2014. It is commissioned on 13th OCT 2015.It is the first dam on the Brahmaputra/Yarlung Zangbo River and has caused controversy in India, which lies downstream.Chinese government has also revealed their intention to dam the Brahmaputra river at the Shuomatan Point, or the “Great Bend” and divert those waters to the Yellow River, located at the north east end of the plateau.  With this project the Chinese government is providing water to its desert region by taking it away from billions of people living on the Plateau and downstream.

[?IMG]Implications for India - Issues

  • Himalaya is geologically and ecologically a sensitive region, hence construction of project in a fragile region can wreck havoc in case of Natural disaster. (For eg- Uttrakhand Flood in 2013). The disaster’s destruction capability increases multi-fold due to project like this .
  • Trust deficit between India and China is well known. Dams and river channels can be manipulated to serve a country’s need in case of a geopolitical conflict or war.
  • China claims it as a run-of-the-river dam , however it is building network of dams which are closely spaced , thus contradicting the run-of-the -river concept.
  • The nearby Gyama Valley is highly exploited and it may pollute the water with heavy metals , which may badly impact the aquatic and human life downstream .
  • In Tibet today the glaciers are receding faster than any other place in the world at a rate of three feet per year, as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  This coupled with the unwillingness of the Chinese government to responsibly dam the rivers out of Tibet make this issue explosive and potentially lethal. By 2050, the annual runoff in the Brahmaputra is projected to decline by 14 per cent. This will have significant implications for food security and social stability, given the impact on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture.

Although India believes that projects is considered to be run of river (RoR) hydro-electric project, any significant change in water level of river Brahmaputra is not expected still India has conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities.

Brahmaputra River Basin

The Brahmaputra River Basin consists of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, which originates in Tibet and the Barak River starting in India.  These rivers all converge in Bangladesh as the Meghna River and flow out to the Bay of Bengal.  The river basin is a wide land area made up of parts of India, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

  • The Brahmaputra River flows for 1,800 miles through Tibet, India, and Bangladesh.  Starting in the Himalayas in Tibet as the Tsangpo River, the river flows eastward for 704 miles.  At the Shuomatan Point, the river bends and enters India crossing the Assam Valley.  It then flows south through Bangladesh exiting at the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta into the Bay of Bengal.
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