Did China block flow of Brahmaputra on Nov 12?

NEW DELHI, Dec 11 – Did China block the flow of the Brahmaputra river on November 12?

The External Affairs Ministry’s reply to an unstarred question by Maya Singh in the Rajya Sabha has led to confusion over the sensational incident.

The BJP MP had asked “whether due to the construction work on the hydro-power project by China that is already underway on the Brahmaputra, the water flow was blocked on that day last month.

In response, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said the Government has taken up this matter with the Chinese side during the recent India-China strategic dialogue on November 16.

The Chinese side has conveyed that China has always taken a responsible attitude towards trans-border rivers. China has also clarified that Zangmu is a small power project, which would not store water or regulate the volume of water, and therefore, would not have an adverse impact on downstream areas, the Minister said.

As reported in this newspaper, international experts are sceptical about Chinese claims as a series of dams including 38,000 MW giant dam is proposed at the bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) has disclosed that it has awarded comprehensive basin-wise Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study in Arunachal Pradesh.

A comprehensive basin-wise EIA study for Lohit basin has already been awarded by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS) India Limited, MoWR, Paban Bansal said in reply to a question by Kumar Deepak Das.

The Central Water Commission (CWC) is entrusted with similar studies for Siang and Subansiri basins in consultation with the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and MoEF. The draft terms of reference for these studies are under finalisation, said Bansal.

The construction of ongoing big dams in Arunachal Pradesh has been taken up after considering cost benefit analysis, safety aspects, environment impact and obtaining mandatory clearances from the concerned agencies of the Government, he said.

The construction of proposed big dams would be undertaken only after conducting EIA studies including the impact of the projects in downstream areas according to the ToR sanctioned by the MoEF, Bansal said.

However, the Minister admitted that the USA has decommissioned some of its dams. He said it was due to various reasons such as obsolence, economic factors, safety considerations, risk reduction, high operation and maintenance costs and environmental concerns.

Studies related to decommissioning of dams are taken up for the dams in existence and not for construction of new dams. However, before issuing the green signal to the construction of big dams in the country including Arunachal Pradesh, Detailed Project Report (DPR) for hydro electric projects costing over Rs 500 crore is submitted to CEA for concurrence.