Friday, May 21, 2010

Jairam Ramesh again

A few days back, I commented on Jairam Ramesh's statement on hydro power projects in Arunachal, during his visit in Beijing.
Here is another interesting point of view.

Ramesh errs in China on Brahmaputra hydro
Himanshu Thakkar
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People
India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s blunders in China have become famous. But one mistake that he committed there seems to have escaped media attention. While discussing the problems that India would face if China were to implement its Brahmaputra diversion project, he said (for example, the Hindu 100510), “The answer to the (problem) lies in India expediting its hydro projects in the Brahmaputra basin. India needs to be much more aggressive in implementing its own hydel projects so that our negotiating position vis-à-vis China improves.” *Ramesh is clearly wrong here.
Firstly, it is wrong for the environment minister to advocate expediting of environmentally destructive big hydro projects. A minister for environment and forests is supposed to work for the protection and improvement of environment and forests and not for expediting projects that destroy environment and  forests. Secondly, he is not supposed to be advocating expediting of projects for which his ministry has not even given statutory clearances, which is indeed the case for most such projects in the Brahmaputra basin. Thirdly, even on merits of the argument, India expediting such projects is not going to be of any help with China when India has no formal treaty for sharing and managing the waters in Brahmaputra basin. On the contrary, if China diverts the Brahmaputra waters as feared, that will adversely impact generation performance of the projects of India on the diverted rivers.
Lastly, even if India were to have a treaty with China on sharing and managing Brahmaputra basin, Mr Ramesh should note that China is not particularly well known for good behavior in this regard. In case of Mekong basin, where again Chana is the upper riparian, the downstream countries have been suffering the adverse impacts of China projects in spite of the existence of an international Mekong Commission backed by Asian Development Bank, Japan and others.
Even more significantly, to push unjustifiable big hydro projects in the Brahmaputra basin under this China Diversion Boggy that India has been trying, would actually destroy the people, environment, rivers and peace in the North East. It is well documented how the unjustifiably displaced people of Tripura by the Dumbur dam there was the most important catchment for the militant struggle there.
It is also useful to note that the main issue that took the minister to China was the cooperation on climate change. Incidentally, the Brahmaputra hydro projects would actually be having big adverse impacts on Climate change due to the destruction of the biodiversity, forests, rivers and so on. Even from this specific point of view, the Ministers' advocacy on big hydro is at cross purposes with his main agenda in China.
One expects better response from India’s Environment and Forests Minister.

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