11/18/2010, 00.00
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China-India bound to clash over dams on the Brahmaputra

China’s plans to build a dam on the Yarlung Zangbo (Brahmaputra) River continue. Experts think Beijing is planning dozens of dams in Tibet to power the economies rich economies of southern China or sell abroad.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China’s plans for a dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River, high up on the Tibetan plateau, continue. Beijing can expect however staunch opposition from India, where the river is known as the Brahmaputra and is crucial for farming and the lives of millions of people.

Hydro-electrical engineers have been hard at work building a dam on the highest river of the world, a feat estimated at 7.5 billion yuan, which is expected to generate 510 megawatts by 2014, providing power to central Tibet.

For its part, India is deeply concerned that China might reduce the flow of water on its territory, negatively affecting its agriculture and the livelihoods of millions of people.

New Delhi is especially angry that Beijing has not revealed its plans. Even the number of dams to be built is unknown. Some have suggested there could be at least five dams, four in Jiacha Canyon, with a capacity many times greater than the Three Gorges Dam Project.

The issue is expected to be on the table for discussion when Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visits New Delhi next month.

In the meantime, India has accelerated construction of a large number of dams on the Brahmaputra in Arunachal Pradesh near its disputed border with China in a bid to secure first-use rights over the waters of the river, some academics said.

Scientists and environmentalists are equally worried about the impact on the environment of Chinese plans.

Fan Xiao, a Sichuan-based geologist, warns that the Yarlung Zangbo River dam project is very likely the first in a series. Beijing in fact appears bent on damming all of Tibet’s main rivers.

However, Fan is concerned because such plans are driven by short-term economic considerations, and that this frenzy will have long-term environmental, political and international consequences.

Some reports have suggested that electricity generated from the Zangmu plant would help meet growing demand in Guangdong and Hong Kong and that it could be sold to countries like Myanmar, Thailand and Bangladesh.

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