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India to counter massive Chinese dam with its own on the Brahmaputra

Brahmaputra dam China

India is mounting a riposte to China, which is considering setting up a mega-dam on the Brahmaputra in Tibet, with a proposal to build a massive 10-gigawatt hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh—Indian territory claimed by China.

In a message to Beijing that Arunachal Pradesh is implacably India’s integral part, TS Mehra, a senior official in the Ministry of Water told Reuters: "The need of the hour is to have a big dam in Arunachal Pradesh to mitigate the adverse impact of the Chinese dam projects." Through this dam India will not only be able to store water for future, create electricity but will also be able to offset any fluctuations caused by the Chinese dam.

The Diplomat magazine is reporting that a week after the December 1 assertion by the Indian government official, representatives of the state-owned National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) disclosed that a separate 2000-megawatt dam on the Subansiri River in the border state was on track to be commissioned by March 2022. The project in China, which has been slated for construction on the Yarlung Tsangpo river in Tibet’s Medog county, will generate 60 gigawatts of electricity capacity and will surpass the country’s Three Gorges Dam in terms of capacity.

The Yarlung Tsangpo is the highest altitude river in the world, and flows through Arunachal Pradesh in India’s northeast before joining the Brahmaputra River. India views northeastern region, which comprises eight border states, as the country’s “future powerhouse.”

In 2001, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) identified 168 large hydroelectric projects with a potential of 63,328 megawatts in the Brahmaputra River basin. The surface water resource of the region is around 652.3 billion cubic meters, comprising 34 percent of the country’s total water wealth, according to a report compiled by the government. The” water war” between India and China is reinforcing the tense military standoff between the two countries in Ladakh.

In July this year, at the height of tensions, the Lowy Institute in Australia had stressed that China could “weaponise” water in its friction with India. "For India, the one domain in which China's status as the 'upper riparian' provides an almost insurmountable challenge is in ensuring shared access to Transboundary Rivers. And as the recent clashes on the Sino-Indian border have made clear, India needs to assess how China might 'weaponise' its advantage over those countries downstream. Control over these rivers effectively gives China a chokehold on India's economy."

India is worried that China's plans to construct its massive dam close to the Arunachal border will lead to water problems like flash floods, droughts and loss of livelihood. China has already constructed a number of smaller dams on the river. The Chinese dam is supposed to be three times larger than the gigantic Three Gorges dam and will generate 60 gigawatts of power. With Tibet as the “water tower of the world,” China can actually create a chokehold for countries like India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and several south-east Asian nations.