Published On: Tue, Oct 13th, 2015

China opens its biggest dam on Brahmaputra in Tibet

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China today operationalised its USD 1.5 billion Zam Hydropower Station, the largest in Tibet, built on the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) river, which has raised concerns in India over the likelihood of disrupting water supplies.

Operationalising the dam, China said it will take into consideration India’s concerns and will remain in contact with New Delhi on this.

All six of the station’s units were incorporated into the power grid today, the China Gezhouba Group, a major hydropower contractor based in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province in central China, told state-run Xinhua news agency.

Located in the Gyaca County, Shannan Prefecture, the Station harnesses the rich water resources of Brahmaputra known in Tibet as Yarlung Zangbo River, a major river which flows through Tibet into India and later into Bangladesh.

The dam – considered to be the world’s highest-altitude hydropower station and the largest of its kind – will produce produces 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year.

Asked about India’s concerns over the dam, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here that the two countries are in touch with each other over the river water issues during high level visits.

Also the experts from both sides are in touch with each other.

“We will take into consideration the concerns of the Indian side and will remain in contact with them,” she said.

“It will alleviate the electricity shortage in central Tibet and empower the development of the electricity-strapped region. It is also an important energy base in central Tibet,” the company said.

Officials said that when the electricity is ample in the summer season, part of the electricity will be transmitted to the neighboring Qinghai province, Xinhua reported.

Investment of the hydropower station, about 140 kms from Tibetan capital Lhasa, totalled 9.6 billion yuan (about USD 1.5 billion).

The first unit began operations last November.

Reports in the past said that besides Zangmu, China is reportedly building few more dams.

China seeks to ally Indian fears saying that they are the run-of-the-river projects which were not designed to hold water. The dams also raised concerns in India over their ability to release the water in times of conflict which could pose serious risk of flooding.

An Indian Inter-Ministerial Expert Group (IMEG) on the Brahmaputra in 2013 said the dams were being built on the upper reaches and called for further monitoring considering their impact on the flow of waters to the lower reaches.

The IMEG noted that the three dams – Jiexu, Zangmu and Jiacha – are within 25 kms of each other and are 550 kms from the Indian border.

India has been taking up the issue with China for the past few years. Under an understanding reached in 2013, Chinese side agreed to provide more flood data of Brahmaputra from May to October instead of June to October in the previous agreements river water agreements in 2008 and 2010.

India is concerned that if the waters are diverted, then projects on the Brahmaputra, particularly the Upper Siang and Lower Suhansri projects in Arunachal Pradesh, may get affected.

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