Pak Ally China Blocks Brahmaputra Tributary

On 30th September China Blockade the River Brahmaputra tributary in Tibet to build dam , The decision was made at hard time when India’s suspend talks with Pakistan in SAARC summit as well as under the Indus Water treaty . As a part of the construction of its “most expensive” hydroelectric
power project which could cause concern in India as it may impact water flows into the lower riparian countries . The “most expensive project construction” began in June 2014 and is scheduled to be completed in 2019 .This decision was made after India suspend talks with Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty as part of its effort to hit back at Pakistan in aftermath of the uri attack . Still it is not clear that what will be the effect on lower Riparian countries like India & Bangladesh due to the blockade of the River Brahmaputra .

Now China moves to block a tributary of the Brahmaputra coincides with the debate in India on the re-calibration of Indus water flows into Pakistan following the cross-border raid in Uri that has so far killed 20 Indian troops. The impact of Beijing's move on India is not yet known . According to Xinhua, China’s action on 30th September falls within the parameters of the larger Lalho project that began in 2014. The project on the Xiabuqu in Xigaze, also called Shigatse , involves an investment of $740 million, the head of the project’s administrative bureau was quoted as saying.

The multipurpose enterprise, which includes construction of two power stations with a combined generation capacity of 42 MW, It is scheduled to be completed in 2019, and is aimed at irrigation, flood control and power generation . Its reservoir is designed to store up to 295 million cubic meters of water and help irrigate 30,000 hectares of farmland, Xinhua reported.

However The Xiabuqu is not a transborder river. It does not flow into India. So the dam is unlikely to have a major impact on downstream flows into India . India has been concerned by the four dams China is building on the main river's upper reaches. Both sides have been exchanging hydrological data and discussing the management of transborder rivers through a jointly working group mechanism.

Impact on India

Shigatse, a railhead of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, is a few hours driving distance away from the junction of Bhutan and Sikkim. It is also the city from where China intends to extend its railway towards Nepal.

It is as yet unclear whether the dam will have any impact on water flows towards India and Bangladesh — the two riparian states that are drained by the Brahmaputra.

So far, China has maintained that its dams do not restrict the flow of water towards India as they are based on run-of-the river principle.

Last year , China had operationalized the $1.5 billion Zam Hydroelectric Station , the Largest in Tibet built on the Brahmaputra River , which has raised Concerns in India .

Come to the Point

  • The Brahmaputra is a trans-boundary river in Asia. It is also one of the major rivers of Asia that cuts through 4 countries: China, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh . 
  • The River Brahmaputra was also named as Tsangpo in Tibet (when referring to the whole river including the stretch within Tibet) . 
  • The River Brahmaputra is the 10th Largest River in World 
  • The main source of River Brahmaputra is Angsi glacier in western Tibet, southeast of Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake. 
  • Its Length is about 2900 Km & its enters India through Arunachal Pradesh . 
  • The Brahmaputra River (also called as "Burlung- Buthur" by the Bodo people of Assam), called Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibetan language 
  • Xiabuqu is a tributary of the Brahmaputra , called Yarlung Zangbo in Chinese. 
  • Xigaze was earlier known by its Tibetan name Shigatse. Its provincial capital – by the same name – has been famous as the historic seat of the Panchen Lama. 

Our View Point

Predictable reaction from China , all weather friend of pariah nations Pakistan & N. Korea. But India should also tread carefully when it comes to abrogating the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) unilaterally. Choking off rivers to Pakistan would backfire many ways:

1. In international Basis where clearly India has the moral upper hand against Pakistan. The World Bank would also be obliged to side with Pakistan .
2. Flooding in Kashmir & Punjab as India cannot divert the water away, due to the topology in India .
3. China choking the Indus & Brahmaputra which originate in Chinese territory .
4. Reactions from LeT - which is close to the ISI - and has always alleged water theft by India .
5. One possible solution is that to Calls for re-negotiation of the Indus Water Treaty . That could send the right signals and obtain the desired behaviour from Pakistan .
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