China's new dam on Brahmaputra River: All you need to know about the Yarlung Zangbo river hydropower project

The authorities of China have given the go-ahead for the construction of the first downstream dam on the lower reaches of the river Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet (Brahmaputra), 30 km away from the India-China border along the Arunachal Pradesh.
Dam by China
Dam by China

As reported by Chinese media, the authorities of China have given the go-ahead to a Chinese hydropower company for the construction of the first downstream dam on the lower reaches of the river Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet (Brahmaputra). The newly planned dam is just 30 km away from the India-China border (LAC in Tibet) along the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh. 

About China's new dam on Brahmaputra river

1- Project: China’s media reported on Sunday that the State-owned hydropower company POWERCHINA signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Government to implement hydropower exploitation in the downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo River as part of China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025). 

2- Location: The location of the upcoming project has not been mentioned. 

3- Potential Spot for the project: The Great Bend of the Brahmaputra and the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon in Medog county could be a potential spot for the project. Here, the river falls spectacularly over a 2,000 metre-drop and turns sharply to flow across the border into the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh. 

4- Hydropower generated: The ability of the proposed dam to generate hydropower could be three times that of Central China’s Three Gorges Dam, having the largest installed hydropower capacity in the world.

5- Income generated:  The new hydropower station could generate an income of 20 billion yuan (USD three billion) annually for the Tibet Autonomous Region.

6- Importance for China: (a) The 60 million kWh hydropower exploitation could provide 300 billion kWh of clean, renewable and zero-carbon electricity annually. (b) It will help China in meeting its goal of carbon emissions peak before the year 2030 and carbon neutrality till 2060.

7- Key concerns for India: (a) The Chinese activities on the Brahmaputra river may affect India's quality of water, ecological balance and flood management.

(b) Apart from this, India and China do not have any water-sharing agreement so far.

8- MoU for sharing hydrological data: In 2018, an MoU was signed between Ministry of Water Resources of China and India's Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on sharing hydrological information of the Brahmaputra river in flood season by China to India.

As per the MoU, China will provide hydrological data during the non-flood season if water level exceeds the mutually agreed level. 

Thus, it is important for China to share genuine data and have a continuous dialogue on several issues related to the warning of droughts, floods and high water discharges.

Previous Projects of China

1- In the year 2015, China operationalised its first hydropower project at Zangmu Dam in Tibet on Brahmaputra river. It is located a few kilometres away from the Bhutan-India border.

2- Three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are underway on the upper and middle reaches of the Brahmaputra river. 

Brahmaputra River

1- It is a trans-boundary river which originates from Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) where it is known as Yarlung Zangbo and flows to India in Arunachal Pradesh (Siang/Dihang River) and Assam (Luit, Dilao) before 
flowing into Bangladesh.

2- It is the 9th largest and the 15th longest river in the world by discharge. 

3- The tributaries of Brahmaputra river--  Dibang, Lohit, Siang, Burhi Dihing, Tista, and Dhansari.

4- The Brahmaputra river is flooded twice annually (one, due to the melting of the Himalayan snow and second, due to the monsoon flows). 

Do you know?

China has already built 11 dams in Tibet.

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