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Friday, September 2, 2011

China's plan for mega dam forces Govt to fast track hydel projects on Brahmaputra

With the China factor looming large, the Centre is desperately pushing the Arunachal Pradesh Government to expedite the development of storage hydroelectric projects on the Brahmaputra.
Efforts are on to get the State to allot at least one storage hydroelectric project in each of the sub-basins of Siang, Lohit and Subhansiri rivers.
The urgency of the move stems from the realisation that India needs to speed up building dams on the Brahmaputra, thus, establishing its “lower riparian right” and creating a strong bargaining position to detract China from building mega hydel projects on the upper reaches of the river
India's success rate so far has been dismal. Projects such as the 3,000-MW Dibang have been stuck for over three years now. Just two projects — NEEPCO's 600 MW Kameng and NHPC's 2,000 MW Lower Subhansiri — have a realistic change of coming up on the Brahmaputra over the next six years.
Even as NTPC Ltd has been roped in to prepare a feasibility study for a proposed 9,750-MW Siang Upper hydroelectric project, analysts are sceptical of how fast things can move.
Road and rail links, a prerequisite for transporting equipment to project sites, are lacking desperately. A key transmission link that was to come up for strengthening linkages with the North-Easter during the current Plan period is still held up for funds.
Additionally, the stated position of the Arunachal Government to avoid storage projects involving big dams is a hurdle.
The Ministry of Power has recently stated before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy that it is trying hard to convince the Arunachal Government on the need for storage projects, officials said.
China project plans
Efforts to harness the Brahmaputra comes amid reports of China's plans to construct what could be the world's biggest hydro-electric project on the upper reaches of the river involving the setting up of a massive dam on the bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo — the Tibetan name for the Brahmaputra.
“If India harnesses the Brahmaputra in Arunachal through the proposed projects, it will strengthen its case against China's building of a mega-dam at Metog. But, it will have to do it before China does its project. Under the doctrine of prior appropriation, a priority right falls on the first user of river waters,” Dr Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, told Business Line.
The Tsangpo flows through 1,625 km in Tibet, and then enters Arunachal Pradesh, where it is known as the Siang. Further down, the Siang — after its confluence with the Dibang and Lohit — is known as the Brahmaputra. India is thus, on the downstream side of all the developments being planned in China on the river.

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