China blocks river, sets off alarm bells in India

Published: October 2, 2016


China moved ahead with blocking a tributary of River Brahmaputra in Tibet on Saturday to build its ‘most expensive’ hydropower project in the region. The Indian media is reading too much into the Chinese move which came days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi considered plans to reconfigure the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan in the aftermath of the Sept 18 deadly attack on an Indian military base in Uri which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

China blocks Brahmaputra River as India threatens to scrap Indus Water Treaty

The Xiabuqu tributary of River Yarlung Zangbo — the Tibetan name for Brahmaputra — was blocked at Xigaze in Tibet on Friday as part of construction of the $740 million Lalho project, according to China’s Xinhua news agency,

Describing it as the ‘most expensive’ undertaking in Tibet, the report said the project will serve multiple purposes, including irrigation, flood control and power generation.

“The Lalho reservoir is designed to store up to 295 million cubic metres of water and help irrigate 30,000 hectares of farmland in Xigaze, which usually suffers from severe drought,” the report said. “It will have two power stations with a combined generation capacity of 42 megawatts,” it added. Construction of the Lalho project began in June 2014 and is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

Amid Indian threat: Experts urge plans for water emergency

Beijing’s move has set off alarm bells in Delhi, which, according to the Times of India (ToI), is worried of the blockade’s impact on lower riparian regions which lie in India. According to the Indian daily, Xigaze is closely located to India’s Sikkim state and River Brahmaputra, which flows into India’s Arunachal Pradesh state, originates there.

“It is unclear what impact the blockade of the river will have on the flow of water from the Brahmaputra into the lower riparian countries like India and Bangladesh as a result,” the ToI report said.

China extends veto on JeM chief’s blacklisting

In another blow to Delhi on Saturday, China extended its decision to block India’s appeal to the United Nations to label Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar a terrorist. The move to extend the ‘technical hold’ imposed in April this year came a day before it was set to lapse, according to The Hindustan Times.

India’s revocation of Indus Water Treaty will be considered an act of war: Aziz

Confirming the move in Beijing, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said: “China always maintains that on the listing matter, the 1267 committee should stick to the main principles of objectivity, impartiality and professionalism, base its judgments on solid evidence and decide upon consensus among the members of the Security Council.”

He added that “there are still different views on India’s listing application.”

“The extended technical hold on it will allow more time for the committee to deliberate on the matter and for relevant parties to have further consultations.”

According to ToI, India has lobbied hard with China over the past six months to lift the hold. The Indian daily conceded that “it has had absolutely no effect.” In response to Delhi’s lobbying, Beijing has continued to ask India to talk directly to Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2016.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • AD
    Oct 2, 2016 - 9:18AM

    Alarm bells? Really? This dam construction is on since 2014. Besides India uses negligible amount of water from this river. And misinformed Pakis think that China blocked this river in response to India’s threat on IWT. Recommend

  • Zahid
    Oct 2, 2016 - 10:32AM

    India could try using ‘surgical strikes’ to correct the situation. But if they feel queasy or are afraid of it, then they could wear adult diapers fixed with surgical tape for enhanced security.Recommend

    Oct 2, 2016 - 10:54AM

    SO pakistan seems to support , upper user claim and right to divert river water?? think before rejoicing , this action will have implication on pakistan too. by the way construction of said project commenced in feb 2014. Indian and Chinese experts have met on this project.Recommend

  • Vectra
    Oct 2, 2016 - 11:20AM

    India knew it from beginning that there is a possibility of it happening in future but despite that still India goes ahead with IWT review. I think India did this despite knowing it, indicated that it too has cards to play as well but what card i don’t know.
    Also Indian govt has not reacted on it yet like Pakistan reacted on IWT soon minutes after the news broke out. Seems India is just relaxed knowing very well that even if China block it does it then also Assam is safe.
    Btw for India this may be cause of some concern but not wariness.Besides its is run of the river dam as per China’s own statement.Recommend

  • Vectra
    Oct 2, 2016 - 12:17PM

    For India this may be cause of some concern but not wariness.Besides its is run of the river dam as per China’s own statement.Also Indian govt has not reacted on it yet as it would have like Pakistan reacted on IWT soon minutes after the news broke out.Seems India is just relaxed knowing very well that even if China blocks it then also Assam is safe.Despite knowing the above still India goes ahead with IWT reviewRecommend

  • Rajan
    Oct 2, 2016 - 1:29PM

    Now think rationally: Suppose if China blocks the entire Brahmaputra river –

    It has to manage that river within its own boundary which is not an easy task. Bangladesh would finish. Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh would take a hit but not that much since only Assam depends entire on Brahmaputra river for agriculture (AP is a hilly place like Uttarakhand so its not death for them). India would block Indian market for Chinese goods. Chinese economy suffers(India’s population would be more than China by 2022 so it matters). And Pakistan face the wrath in India (remember ‘the Indus Water Treaty’).Recommend

  • PAK
    Oct 2, 2016 - 1:33PM

    BRAVO ChinaRecommend

  • Nav
    Oct 2, 2016 - 2:22PM

    Bad for Bangladesh. Sometimes back Bangladesh was ally of China. India was able to pull it back. Now, with this move, Bangladesh will become permanent enemy of China and will block Chinese projects in the Indian Ocean. This will severly affect Bangladeshi economy.Recommend

  • Vectra
    Oct 2, 2016 - 2:58PM

    A Hostile Bangladesh can be nightmare to Chinese merchant ship in Indian OceanRecommend

  • Asad Khan
    Oct 3, 2016 - 3:15PM

    @Rajan: If China cares for Indian market then they would not have blocked Indian bid for NSG and many other issues which is very clear that they are with Pakistan. Your market is a pocket change for them and it amazing India keep expecting quite opposite and does not seems to be able to read writing on wall.Recommend

  • maria
    Oct 3, 2016 - 9:22PM

    India Should Aware The Consequences before Blocking The Water Of Pakistan So China take this Step For Pakistan Friendship Recommend

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