India firms up its strategy on Brahmaputra water diversion

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by AVERAGE INDIAN, Nov 21, 2013.



    Sep 22, 2012
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    Detroit MI
    India’s action plan to pre-empt Chinese threats to divert Brahmaputra waters involves several key govt departments


    New Delhi: India and China have been engaged in a dispute over the diversion of the Brahmaputra river, which originates in Tibet. Even while India is still exploring a diplomatic option, it has initiated an action plan that would give it user rights. In the first of a three-part series,Mint chronicles the government efforts to accelerate hydroelectric projects in Arunachal Pradesh, a key element of the multi-pronged strategy.

    Even as India seems to be playing down the potential problems associated with China’s plans to divert river waters that flow into the Brahmaputra, it is simultaneously working on a detailed strategy involving several key government departments—racing to pre-empt Chinese threats.

    According to documents reviewed by Mint, a technical expert group (TEG) entrusted with devising India’s game plan has made a slew of recommendations, including expeditiously allotting at least one major hydropower project each in strategically located Subansiri, Lohit and Siang basins in Arunachal Pradesh as close to the international border as possible in order to establish ‘existing user rights’.

    The TEG was set up by a committee of secretaries (CoS) on the Brahmaputra water diversion issue to address the concerns emerging from the actions of the Chinese. In addition, signalling the government’s growing concern, an inter-ministerial expert group (IMEG) was simultaneously set up to monitor and collate information on the sensitive issue that has major strategic ramifications for India.

    The multi-pronged strategy includes completion of regional environment impact studies and biodiversity studies; resolving the issues of possible submergence of habitations and towns by hydropower projects and allotment of projects to central public sector units such as NHPC Ltd and SJVN Ltd. There is also a focus on developing meteorological and hydrological data banks.

    India and China have sparred intermittently over hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh, which borders China and has the highest potential for hydropower generation in India.

    With China planning to divert waters from rivers that flow into the Brahmaputra to the arid zones of Xinjiang and Gansu, India is worried about the slow pace of work on hydropower projects awarded in Arunachal Pradesh.

    Any delay in executing these projects, particularly on rivers originating in China, will affect India’s strategy of establishing a prior-use claim. Under international law, a country’s right over natural resources it shares with other nations becomes stronger if is already putting these resources to use.

    This comes in the backdrop of recent agreements over sharing flood data, signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China last month.

    Apart from the CoS, the government created a ministerial group headed by finance minister P. Chidambaram on developing the north-eastern region of the country.

    The CoS comprises the secretaries and chiefs in the ministries and departments of home, power, cabinet secretariat, intelligence bureau, National Technical Research Organization, defence, foreign affairs, economic affairs, space, water resources, Planning Commission, environment and forests, chairman of joint intelligence committee and chief secretaries of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.

    “Regular meetings are now being held and we are working to implement the recommendations. The seriousness of the issue has been grasped and we are on the job. However, a lot of time has been lost,” said a senior Indian government official aware of the government’s strategy, requesting anonymity.

    The three major rivers of Arunachal Pradesh that originate in China are Siang, Subansiri and Lohit. Of the Brahmaputra’s 2,880km-length, 1,625km is in Tibet, 918km in India, and 337km in Bangladesh. To speed up work on these projects, the TEG has recommended declaring them ‘National Projects’, hastening technical concurrence—including approvals from the ministries of defence and home affairs—and development of the road infrastructure in the region.

    Another move involves the possible re-allocation of the 1,800 megawatts (MW) Subansiri Upper project, currently with KSK Energy Ventures Ltd, to a state-owned firm—which would give the government greater control over its execution.

    Measures are also planned to speed up a study of the strategic river basins of Siang, Subansiri and Lohit and the construction of transmission links for the evacuation of power to other parts of India.

    India’s anxiety stems from the fact that out of Arunachal Pradesh’s estimated potential of unleashing 50,064MW of power, less than 1%, or 405MW, has been harnessed so far. This is in spite of the fact that 94 projects with a combined capacity of 41,502.5MW have been allotted across eight river basins—all in Arunachal Pradesh—of Kameng, Subansiri, Tawang, Siang, Dibang, Lohit, Dikrong and Tirap.

    Queries emailed to KSK Energy on 10 November remained unanswered, but a second government official who also didn’t wish to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the issue identified the strategic projects as Siang Upper stage one (6,000MW); Siang Upper stage two (3,750MW); Oju (1,800MW); Naba (1,000MW); Kalai one (1,352MW); and Kalai two (1,200MW) in the critical Siang, Subansiri and Lohit basins.

    “These projects are close to India’s border with China,” the official said.

    The ministries of water resources and power have already expressed their reservations on Beijing’s ambitious water diversion scheme, into which it is pouring $62 billion. China is building 36 projects on rivers that lie upstream of the Brahmaputra.

    Commenting on India’s plans, Alka Acharya, director of the New Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies and editor of China Report, said, “Well, one hopes. The kinds of sentiments and expectations that have been stoked have heightened the sense of uncertainty. With the spotlight on the issue, the Indian government will be putting much more effort and focus on the issue. The need for these efforts is gaining traction. The success of such efforts will depend upon the extent to which the Indian government is able to bring in partners from the Northeast.”

    Arguing along the similar lines, Umesh Narayan Panjiar, chairman, Bihar Electricity Regulatory Commission and former secretary, ministry of water resources, said, “It is never too late. However, to expedite the projects one has to convince the Arunachal Pradesh government and make sure that the people affected by the project are taken care of. Another big bottleneck is the infrastructure in the north-eastern part of the country. We have to construct strong roads to carry large equipment.”

    The Central Water Commission (CWC) has been asked to conduct the studies for the Subansiri sub-basin and Siang sub-basin in consultation with the Central Electricity Authority (CEA)—India’s apex power sector planning body—and ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). After completing these two studies, the CWC will carry out studies in the other basins.

    Also, it has been decided that for accelerating the projects, MoEF will not deny clearances to the projects located in the three strategic basins of Siang, Subansiri and Lohit in the absence of basin-wise environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies. Cumulative EIA studies of Siang, Subansiri, Lohit, Dibang and Tawang are set to be completed shortly.

    Land acquisition problems and delays in securing government clearances have delayed hydropower development in the country. Hydroelectric projects with a capacity to generate 16,754MW of power—enough to meet the demands of states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab—are awaiting environmental clearances, even though they have been cleared by CEA.

    “The water debates have also brought focus to the issue. The debate has also become more pronounced within China from the point of view of pollution, environment concerns and the need for water. Within India it has been put under the security perspective. This has heightened the issue. This has also become an important agenda with the coming together of other issues such as development of India’s Northeast and India’s Look East policy,” added Acharya, who has authored China and India: Politics of Incremental Engagement.

    The development of infrastructure in the Northeast is also key to India’s so-called Look East policy—a focus on South-East Asia. There have also been an increase in Chinese military incursions into the Northeast.

    Given the quantum of capacity being planned in the region, India plans to commission power transmission links for the evacuation of power to other parts of India in sync with the projects. The first set of projects, Pare (110MW), is set to be commissioned by 2015, followed by lower Subansiri (2,000MW) and Kameng (600MW) by 2017.

    Transmitting electricity through Chicken’s Neck, a 22km strip in West Bengal that tenuously connects the Northeast with the rest of the country, has been a major constraint for the transmission of power from the region. The government is also planning to strengthen the intra-state transmission and distribution system in Arunachal Pradesh.

    The planned commissioning of the projects comes against the backdrop of the central government stepping up efforts to develop infrastructure in a region that has often complained of being neglected.

    India firms up its strategy on Brahmaputra water diversion - Livemint
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  3. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

    Jan 17, 2010
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    establishing a prior-user claim? how ? China doesnt accept Indian occupation of so-called Arunachal in the first place. so far no diversion to arid zones underway except Chinese dam projects over Yarlung Zangbo being reported for hydropower then China really needs to speed up in the race to turn gobis to oasis and win out in the zero sum game with India.

    Sent from my 5910 using Tapatalk 2
  4. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    AP CM blasted the GOI for not moving fast. Projects held up by environment ministry. Most projects not getting cleared. There has to be a single window clearance of projects of strategic interest
  5. DivineHeretic

    DivineHeretic Senior Member Senior Member

    Jan 1, 2013
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    West Bengal
    Environmental ministry has really become a road block to development by its recent behavior. Its been playing to the gallery instead of looking at the national needs.

    Btw, just for clarification, the Subansiri project has its fair share of opponents in public too. Assam's very own Anna Hazare, Mr Akhil Gogoi ( Okay, the dark version of him) has taken up the cause of the people opposed to the project. Infact, some one year back they had blocked the movement of the turbines to the site, delaying work for nearly a year.

    So we do have some prorblems on the political front too.
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    Sep 22, 2012
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    Detroit MI
    Brahmaputra reservoirs to counter China moves on river water

    New Delhi: India is planning to build a series of massive water reservoirs in Arunachal Pradesh in order to manage the fallout from Chinese attempts to divert river waters that flow into the Brahmaputra. But the plans have run up against a potential hurdle: the possible submergence of towns and villages.

    According to documents reviewed by Mint, while India is trying to expedite the construction of hydropower projects in the strategically important north-eastern state, it also wants to prioritize the construction of storage projects as a fallback option.

    These projects with large water reservoirs can store water during the monsoon and use it during the off-peak season unlike run-of-the-river (RoR) projects.

    RoR projects harness the seasonal flows of the river to generate electricity and supply peak load as opposed to big dams with large water reservoirs that are good for base loads.

    Reservoir projects, on the other hand, involve water storage, which addresses the risks associated with seasonal changes in the natural flow and availability of river water.

    “We want the projects to be storage projects as it will help us store water in the monsoon season, even if China diverts water,” said a senior Indian government official aware of the country’s strategy.

    Planners are concerned because of all Indian states, Arunachal Pradesh has the highest potential for hydropower generation, estimated at 50,064 megawatts (MW)—much needed for economic development. But less than 1%, or 405MW, has been commissioned so far, even as 94 projects with a combined capacity of 41,502.5MW have been allotted by the state government.
    China has been reticent about talking about its water diversion or construction plans, and has termed the projects RoR schemes. But Indian experts, not wanting to take chances, feel that building water reservoirs in Arunachal Pradesh can minimize any impact on the Brahmaputra’s morphology, environment and power projects.

    However, the construction of large storage projects can lead to issues of rehabilitation—a hotly debated issue in India.
    According to documents reviewed by Mint, China has
    36 projects on rivers upstream of the Brahmaputra, of which 30 have already been completed.

    Of the rest, two are under-construction projects at Zangmu and Phudo Dzong. The remaining four sites are at Jiexu, Zhongda, Jiacha and on the Great Bend of Brahmaputra.

    A partial blockage of the Brahmaputra river created by landslides near the Great Bend has been an area of concern for New Delhi and is being monitored by Indian intelligence agencies.

    “If China diverts water, one has to have a fallback project in the form of storage projects. In the lean period or during winters, this stored water can be used. This was also the recommendation of the IMEG (inter-ministerial expert group),” said Umesh Narayan Panjiar, chairman of Bihar Electricity Regulatory Commission, and a former secretary in the ministry of water resources.

    IMEG was set up by a committee of secretaries on the Brahmaputra water diversion issue.

    Indian experts are of the view that the diversion of water by China will affect the 2,700MW Siang Lower project being developed by JP Associates and Siang Upper or Siang Intermediate projects planned by state-owned NHPC Ltd.

    Mint reported on 3 March 2010 about Jaiprakash Hydro-Power Ltd seeking to raise tariff for power generated from its project in Arunachal Pradesh in the event of a decrease in water discharge because of Chinese actions.
    However, the possible storage issue has assumed paramount importance because of the potential damage the reservoirs could cause to the local habitations.

    A case in point is the Siang basin, where NHPC had planned a single power project of 9,500MW having a storage capacity of 13.91 billion cubic metres (bcm). This project would have submerged two towns—Tuting and Yingkiang —with a combined population of 17,000.
    After opposition from the Arunachal Pradesh government, planners prepared a new pre-feasibility report in 2009. According to the new report, the project was divided into two sections—the Siang Upper Stage I (6,000MW) and Stage II (3,750MW) with storage of around 1.032 bcm and 0.75 bcm, respectively.

    However, this vastly reduces storage capacity from 13.9 bcm to 1.78 bcm.

    “To increase the storage capacity, India’s ministry of water resources is of the view that a single storage project is the ideal solution, although the Arunachal Pradesh government is averse to the idea,” said a second Indian government official, who also didn’t want to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the issue.
    Arunachal Pradesh chief secretary H.K. Paliwal countered: “As of now, we are of the view that these towns shouldn’t be submerged. Once the investigations are carried out, the work will start on the second option of setting up projects in two stages.”

    Storage projects will also help control floods. According to India’s ministry of water resources, planned reservoirs in the Subansiri, Dibang and Siang basins are adequate for flood moderation; with capacities of 3.02 bcm, 1.76 bcm and 1.78 bcm, respectively. However, in the Lohit basin, there is an additional requirement of 1 bcm.

    These storage projects will be of immense help in the dry season, with Indian planners being of the opinion that precipitation in China contributes only 7% to the flow of three tributaries of the Brahmaputra—Subansiri, Siang and Lohit—that originate in China.
    According to India’s ministry of water resources, of the total catchment area of 580,000 sq. km, 50% lies in Tibet, 34% in India, and the balance in Bangladesh and Bhutan. The average annual rainfall is 400mm in Tibet, and 3,000mm on the Indian side.

    Of the 2,880km of the Brahmaputra’s length, 1,625km is in Tibet, 918km in India, and 337km in Bangladesh. According to the Central Water Commission, while 60% of the water in the Brahmaputra comes from India, 40% comes from Tibet.
    However, analysts have questioned the data and are sceptical about India’s plans.

    Avinash Godbole, a research assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (Idsa), said: “It is very difficult to build storage dams in the North-East. Then there is also the issue of relocation and rehabilitation. India has, however, raised the issue of seismic safety of the dam projects planned by China and their long-term implications.”

    According to the United Nations, the cross-border annual aggregate flow of the Brahmaputra river system is 165.4 bcm, which is greater than the combined trans-boundary flow of the three key rivers—the Mekong, the Salween and the Irrawady—that run from the Tibetan plateau to South-East Asia.
    “This is a good strategy,” added Panjiar, who was also additional secretary in India’s power ministry.
    Alongside, New Delhi is also developing the physical infrastructure along the Brahmaputra river basins, having identified roads, bridges and air connectivity that need to be built.

    The Subansiri, Lohit and Siang basins are strategically important as they are close to the international border with China. Projects with a capacity of 11,368.5MW, 7,912MW and 7,247MW have been allocated in the Siang, Subansiri and Lohit basins, respectively. However, only the 2,000MW Lower Subansiri project is under construction by NHPC.

    Some of the critical infrastructure projects that have been identified for development in the Siang basin are the 100km Akajan-Likabali-Bame road link; 180km Along-Tato-Mechuka-Hirong link; the Bogibeel bridge; and extension of the existing airstrip at Along for commercial aircraft.

    For the Dibang basin, projects including building the Tezu-Paya-Roing road, 90km Meka-Roing-Hunli road, 140km Hunli-Anini road and bypasses on National Highway 37 that connects Dibrugarh and Tinsukia (in Assam) with Dhola in Arunachal Pradesh. In addition, bridges such as Alubari, Dhola-Sadiya, Deopani RCC and Ipplipani are to be built.

    In the Lohit basin, the road links that are to be constructed include: Digaru-Tezu-Hawai, Digaru-Tezu-Tohangam, Tohangam-Hayuliang, Demwe-Brahmakund-Arrowa-Hayuliang, Hayuliang-Changwinti-Hawai and Hawai-Walong, along with extending the existing airstrip at Tezu for operation of commercial aircraft.

    “While we need development in the North-East, the government is stepping up efforts as security has become a perspective in our context,” added Godbole of Idsa, whose research area comprises China’s domestic politics, minority, environment and energy.

    India and China have been engaged in a dispute over the diversion of the Brahmaputra river, which originates in Tibet. Even while India is still exploring a diplomatic option, it has initiated an action plan that would give it user rights. In the second of a three-part series, Mint chronicles India’s strategy of prioritizing the construction of water large storage projects

    Brahmaputra reservoirs to counter China moves on river water - Livemint
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  7. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

    Jan 17, 2010
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    Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, Worlds Largest Canyon, Worlds Largest and Deepest Canyon
    INDIA: The Everest of Rivers,China Considers Diverting the Brahmaputra River-Yarlung Zangbo River-Grand Canyon.雅鲁藏布大峡谷!
  8. Hari Sud

    Hari Sud Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Brahmaputra flow in Assam during rainy season is mostly from Arunachal Pradesh mountains. It is 80-90% of Indian origin. Where as during dry season it is 59% of Indian origin. Hence impact would be minimal on India. Bangladesh has to worry about their own interests.

    As the author above has detailed, large water storage capacity built and kept full during rainy season will minimize the impact of Chinese diversion.

    That does not mean that pressure on china is not to be maintained.

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