‘India must take up with China issue of Brahmaputra drying up’

Kolkata, Oct 24 (IANS) India should collect information and take a pre-emptive position on fears about the Brahmaputra drying up as China goes ahead with blocking an important tributary to construct a dam, a former Union Minister said on Monday.

China is reportedly blocking a tributary of Yarlung Tsangpo, the Tibetan name for Brahmaputra River, to construct a mega-dam.

“We should collect information, and as far as strategy is concerned, you can’t just wait and watch. We should take a position which is pre-emptive,” former Minister Y.K. Alagh told IANS here.

“I don’t think we know enough, because they say they are doing a run-of-the-river project. It is always possible to build something which could interfere later on, but at present there is no reason to believe that they are actually blocking the tributary,” he added.

Alagh launched the “IRBM for Brahmaputra Sub-basin: Water Governance, Environmental Security and Human Well-being” report here at a conference on “25 years of Economic Reforms in India: Retrospect and Prospects”.

However, Jayanta Bandopadhyay, veteran environment policy researcher, who is one of the co-authors of the report, said apprehensions over the Brahmaputra drying up are “unfounded”.

“People imagining that if there is a dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo, the Brahmaputra will dry up, is totally unfounded. A hydropower dam doesn’t consume water. There is nothing other than hydropower that China can extract,” Bandopadhyay said.

Bandopadhyay said much of the flow for the Brahmaputra is generated within India, Bhutan and part of Bangladesh. “Only a fraction of the flow is contributed by the Yarlung Tsangpo.”

“China (and Tibet) is a rain-scarce area. Much of the flow of Brahmaputra is generated within India, Bhutan and part of Bangladesh and less than 10 per cent is contributed by Yarlung Tsangpo, so you can’t store that. It has to come down,” Bandopadhyay said.

The other authors of the paper are Nilanjan Ghosh, of the Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata Chapter, and IIT Guwahati’s Chandan Mahanta.

“The report is on a river which carries the largest water flow in South Asia. It is very important in terms of water. It is least understood in terms of the ecosystem that produces this water and the potential use of this water, including in sustaining this ecosystem and the rather unfortunate sensationalisation of hydropower dams that are being built on the Yarlung Tsangpo,” Bandopadhyay said.