Fearing ‘water war’ by China, govt puts Arunachal dams on fast track

NEW DELHI: Fearing a Chinese threat of “water wars”, India has initiated its biggest hydroelectric project of 11,000 megawatt (MW) in Upper Subansiri in Arunachal Pradesh. Responding to Chinese dams coming up close to its borders in the north-east, India is also expediting three stalled projects for possible allocation to NHPC after recommendations of an evaluation committee and in-principle approval by ministry of power.
According to government sources, a 60,000MW Chinese project on the Yarlung Zangbo (Brahmaputra) planned at Medog on Arunachal Pradesh’s border could be a cause for concern for multiple reasons — scarcity of water if China decides to divert it, floods affecting lakhs in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam if China sudenly releases water, as well as environmental concerns.
For India, the Brahmaputra accounts for nearly 30% of freshwater resources and 40% of total hydro power potential of the country. Almost 50% of the basin of the Brahmaputra is in Chinese territory.


Sources said India’s 2,000MW Lower Subansiri project would be completed in the middle of this year. The multiple hydroelectric projects, apart from generating electricity, are expected to help mitigate water scarcity for up to a year in case of a Chinese diversion besides controlling flooding in case China releases unusually high volumes.
The hydro electric projects overdrive in the north-east, and especially in Arunachal Pradesh, which shares its border with China, is seen as a strategic move to counter the potential impact of Chinese flow diversion through the dams it is constructing, considering that 50% of the river basin of Brahmaputra is in the Chinese territory.
“This is not a north-east issue, but a national issue. China is planning to build a massive dam with the capacity to generate 60,000MW of electricity on the sacred Brahmaputra from Tibet to India. China is planning to build this dam on Medog, which is very close to Arunachal Pradesh. Dams are being built with large storage capacities. Experts say that China can also use the Medog dam as a political tool, which could be a matter of concern for India as well as Bangladesh, the sources said, citing reasons why India is concerned over construction of dams on the Himalayan River before it reaches India.
For India, the Brahmaputra accounts for nearly 30% of freshwater resources and 40% of total hydro power potential of the country.
Sources say that it is a matter of concern that after the construction of the dam, China can divert the water of Brahmaputra. Not only this, but it can release a lot of water through this dam at any time, which can cause flood-like situations in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
While China has dismissed all these fears at multiple forums, it would be naïve to trust Beijing’s claims, said a senior government official. “India too needs its counter-contingency plans on a mission mode, which is why the Arunachal Pradesh projects are being expedited,” he said.
This hydro electric project is expected to mitigate any water scarcity in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam as well as flood hazards. Sources say that the 11,000 MW hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh will reduce the adverse effects of the Chinese dam. The project is also seen as significant for the people of Arunachal Pradesh in terms of livelihood and employment opportunities. When the dam is built, India’s capacity to store water will increase. Sources say that after this project, the risk of floods will also reduce considerably.

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