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China blocks Yarlung Tsangpo tributary for its most expensive Tibet dam

Lalho project on the Xiabuqu river in Xigaze (Tibetan: Shigatse)
Lalho project on the Xiabuqu river in Xigaze (Tibetan: Shigatse)

(TibetanReview.net, Oct02, 2016) – China said it had blocked on Sep 30 a tributary of the Yarlung Tsangpo river (the Brahmaputra in India) as part of its most expensive hydro project in occupied Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). It was not clear yet, however, what impact, if any, this will have on downstream India and Bangladesh.

China’s official Xinhua news agency Oct 1 cited Zhang Yunbao, head of the project’s administration bureau, as saying the Lalho project on the Xiabuqu river in Xigaze (Tibetan: Shigatse), involved an investment of 4.95 billion yuan (US$ 740 million).

The report added that the project’s Construction had begun in Jun 2014 and will be completed in 2019.

The report cited Zhang as saying the project will serve multiple purposes, including irrigation, flood control and power generation. Its reservoir was reported to be designed to store up to 295 million cubic metres of water and help irrigate 30,000 hectares of farmland.

The report added that the project will have two power stations with a combined generation capacity of 42 megawatts. Their yearly output will be 85 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

India’s PTI news agency noted Oct 1 that the blockade of the Brahmaputra river tributary came at a time when India had decided to suspend talks with China’s all-weather friend Pakistan under Indus Water Treaty as part of its efforts to hit back at the country in the aftermath of the Uri cross-border terrorist attack.

Last year, China operationalised the US$ 1.5 billion Zam Hydropower Station, the largest in Tibet, built on the Brahmaputra river, which raised concerns in India. China insisted it was a run-of-the-river project which would not affect the lower riparian countries.

In the absence of a water treaty, India and China have established an Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) on trans-border rivers and in Oct 2013 the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding on strengthening cooperation on trans-border rivers under which Beijing provides data to India on the water flows.

Under its current, 12th Five Year Plan, China is to build three more hydropower projects on the mainstream of the Brahmaputra river in Tibet, noted the PTI report.

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