India plans dam project as China seeks to divert river

The proposed dam in the upper part of Arunachal will be able to store around 10 billion m3. m (BCM) of water, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said in an interview. By storage, the Indira Sagar Dam is the tallest in India at 12.2 BCM.

The proposed dam is expected to involve an investment of approximately 50,000 crore and is part of the proposed multipurpose storage project for Upper Siang which will also generate hydropower.

China’s 14th Five-Year Plan proposed to build a massive dam across the Brahmaputra River, known in China as Yarlung Tsangpo, a development that has raised concerns in India due to its strategic ramifications. Relations between India and China deteriorated after troops clashed along the Himalayan border killing 20 Indian soldiers in June 2020.

Water during the lean season in the Brahmaputra comes from melting snow in the mountains of the Tibetan plateau. India’s plan is to release water from the dam to maintain water security in case China builds structures to divert water. Moreover, in the event that China releases water from its headwaters, such a dam will also help store water to prevent flooding.

In response to a question about China’s plans to build hydropower projects on the Great Bend, just above Indian Territory, where the Brahmaputra turns around, Shekhawat said: “We have planned a project for its mitigation. in Yingkiong for the construction of a dam in the heights of Arunachal Pradesh. And it will probably be one of the biggest dams in India. We will hold the water there and release it during the lean season when there is no rain to ensure (water) safety. »

While run-of-the-river (RoR) projects harness seasonal river flows to generate electricity, reservoir projects involve water storage, which addresses the risks associated with seasonal changes in flow. nature and the availability of river water. Of the eight river basins of Arunachal Pradesh, Subansiri, Lohit and Siang are of strategic importance as they are closer to the border with China.

“Dams aren’t just for irrigation or power generation; they also act as an attenuating cushion to prevent flooding. Say, if ever from the upper reaches there is a release of water, even then we will have a cushion to control the release of that water,” Shekhawat added.

According to Indian planners, rainfall in China contributes only 7% of the flow of three Brahmaputra tributaries – Subansiri, Siang and Lohit – which originate in China.

“The Brahmaputra River has a huge quantum of 500 BCM (billion cubic meters) of water flowing through it. Of this number, more than 75% come from our catchment area. This is the reason why we are not much affected by it. But outside of the monsoon season, when the river receives water from melting snow, we have no water in our catchment area. So if they build a dam and divert water out of monsoon seasons, it will impact from Arunachal Pradesh to Bangladesh. Previously, they (China) said they were doing nothing. Later, they said they were building run-of-the-river hydro projects. And now there’s evidence that maybe they can work on water transfer as well,” Shekhawat said.

Of the 2,880 km in length of the Brahmaputra River, 1,625 km is in Tibet, 918 km in India and 337 km in Bangladesh. Of a total catchment area of ​​580,000 km2, 50% is located in Tibet, 34% in India and the rest in Bangladesh and Bhutan.

“We have clarification on other things. There is some resistance at the local level, which the government of Arunachal is working on. The total cost should be approximately 50,000 crores. The cost is irrelevant. It should be built,” Shekhawat said.

The total hydroelectric generation potential of the northeastern states of India and Bhutan is about 58 gigawatts (GW). Of this, Arunachal alone accounts for 50.328 GW, the highest in India.

Experts said China’s plans may not have a major impact on the Indian side.

“Whatever flow of the Brahmaputra River that occurs in India, the majority comes from the rainfall that occurs in the Indian region. So the water that China intends to use will not have a major impact on the river on the Indian side,” said Anjal Prakash, research director at the Indian School’s Bharti Institute of Public Policy. of Business of Hyderabad.

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