China Is Planing a Huge New Dam
The Brahmaputra has flowed through the Himalayas for thousands of years. People in Asia call this mighty river a source of life. China now wants to tap into it and the country is planning a unique dam with a power plant. Naturally, this arouses little enthusiasm among the neighbours. They are afraid of drying out in the truest sense of the word. India and Pakistan see the threat of floods and droughts if China builds a dam on the upper river of the Brahmaputra.
The river originated in Tibet before winding on to Bangladesh and India. Together with the Ganges and the Meghna, it then ends in the sea. The river is around 3,000 kilometres in length and on its route, the Brahmaputra saves lives of several hundred million people. But China controls the upper reaches and is therefore also responsible for how much water flows downstream.
No Contract Between China and India Yet
The Indian government already sees problems to be faced if China builds the dam. After all, there is no contract between India and China that includes water use so far. Until now, the two countries only cooperated when it was necessary to study the floods. At the moment, China, which has a lot of energy for its economy, is being offensive. The state energy company Powerchina announced the construction plan with the aim is to tame one of the wildest stretches of river on earth.
Since the Three Gorges Dam structure on the Yangtze, there has not been such an ambitious project. The exact location of the planned mega-project is not yet known, but the new power plant should have a capacity of 60 gigawatts. In the Grand Canyon of the Yarlung Tsangpo, the water loses up to 2,000 meters in height. It will be the most potent hydropower plant in the world and it will provide more than three times as much energy as the Three Gorges Dam.
China also emphasizes that the energy would be climate-friendly and would therefore be an essential component in the energy supply for protecting the climate. That sounds obvious, but the technical implementation will not be easy. The extreme gradient of the river would be ideal for the generation of hydropower, but at the same time, it harbours several dangers and environmental activists fear irreparable interference with the natural river ecosystem.
There are already several small power plants on the river’s upper reaches, but the new project is beyond all dimensions. India fears the dams will hold back the nutritious mud that farmers along the river need to produce food and, as a consequence, Indian agriculture would suffer from the dam. At the same time, the affected countries fear floods, which could particularly affect Bangladesh. They have been coordinating a plan of action with India on this issue for a long time. After all, India is also said to be taking too much water from the river. So, it seems that there are still many discussions to be done.