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No plans to divert water from Brahmaputra: China
Anil K Joseph in Beijing
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November 22, 2006 14:34 IST

China has termed as unnecessary and unfeasible a proposal to divert water from the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra in Tibet [Images] to China's parched northern regions, an issue New Delhi had taken up with Beijing [Images].

China's Water Resources Minister Wang Shucheng, also a hydraulic engineer, criticised the proposal as "unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific".

"There is no need for such dramatic and unscientific projects," he said while admitting the project involves major financial and technical difficulties.

Wang's comments published by the state-run China Daily appeared to be part of an effort to allay Indian fears that China has plans to divert water from Yarlung Zangbo River (upper reaches of Brahmaputra) in the Tibet Autonomous Region to North China, including Beijing.

"For example, we must keep an eye on possible floods when the Yellow River has 58 billion cubic metres of water. If another 50 billion cubic metres, not to mention 200 billion, is poured in, I am sure all the dams and protection embankments will be destroyed immediately," he said.

Moreover, the cost of diverting water from the Yarlung Zangbo would be much more expensive than any of the current water projects, Wang said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao had also denied any plans to dam the river.

"The Chinese government has no plans to build a dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River (the China part of the Brahmaputra) to divert water to the Yellow River," the spokesman had said.

The Great Western Route Water Diversion Project, proposed by water conservation expert Guo Kai, suggests diverting 200 billion cubic metres of water from the Yarlung Zangbo, Lancang (Salween) and Nujiang (Mekong) rivers each year to the Yellow River and arid northwestern and northern regions of China.

Chinese media reports about the project mentioned in a book entitled Tibet's water will Save China had alarmed India.

The Brahmaputra is one of Asia's longest rivers, which originates in the Tibet Autonomous Region and traverses through India and Bangladesh before emptying into the Bay of Bengal.

Meanwhile, Chinese experts have also noted that Guo's vision was a difficult one for China to achieve single-handed.

"Without international co-operation it is impossible to launch any major water project for an international river like this," a professor in School of Humanities and Social Sciences of Tsinghua University, Qin Hui said.

"Plus, we have to take the international response into consideration. It is undoubted that the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo River are within India's Assam Province, where it is a lifeline for local agriculture and backbone of the economy, just as it is further downstream in Bangladesh," Qin said.

"It is so obvious that the proposed damming project will have a cascading effect leading to a natural disaster in the lower foreign reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo, Lancang (Salween) and Nujiang (Mekong) rivers."

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