Thursday, June 9, 2011

Will China dam the Indus?

An article in The Financial Times affirms that China’s Three Gorges Project Corporation has offered to Pakistan to build a $15 billion hydropower scheme to dam the Indus.
There is no doubt that the Chinese company is able to deliver the goods, but will it benefit Pakistan? 
Has India a say in the matter?
In a previous posting, I mentioned the serious problems facing the Three Gorges Dam. These problems were even recently acknowledged by the State Council. Now China wants to export similar difficulties to Pakistan. 
Peter Bosshard of International Rivers wrote on a blog yesterday
It is undisputed that dams can influence local rainfalls. Humidity evaporates from reservoirs and irrigated fields and gets recycled as rainfall. Evaporation from reservoirs can also cause more frequent storms. On the other hand, dams and levees can reduce evaporation and rainfalls when they drain wetlands and open up woodlands for deforestation.
The Niger Delta in West Africa illustrates how dams can influence rainfalls. In September, the delta’s wetlands extend to an area of 30,000 square kilometers – roughly the size of Belgium – and feed rainfalls over a much larger region. Yet upstream dams on the Niger have reduced the flows into the delta by 10-15%, and a major proposed hydropower project upstream on the river would reduce inflows by a further 33%. “Such a change would significantly reduce the window in the seasonal cycle when the wetland can influence rainfall,” warns Christopher Taylor of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Great Britain.
Of course, the Three Gorges Dam Corporation is a powerful lobby with a lot of money to distribute and Pakistan needs money. And Pakistan leadership has other issues to think about than climate change! Remember the European 'business' tour of President Zardari during the devastating floods last year.
For India, the construction of a series of dams raises serious security issues, as part of the project will probably be undertaken in POK. 
It is bound to bring thousands and thousands of migrant workers from China in this 'disputed' area, legally a part of the Indian territory.
Along with the dam, the Chinese will built roads, townships, airports, etc. and established a permanent presence in the area.
Nothing good for India.

China proposes $15bn Indus dam scheme
By William MacNamara in London
June 7 2011
China’s Three Gorges Project Corporation has proposed a $15bn hydropower scheme to Pakistan to dam the Indus river valley at several points, in a project aimed at controlling floods and tackling electricity shortages, Pakistan’s natural resources minister said on Tuesday.
The deal, pitched by the builders of the Yangtze River dam, the world’s largest, is the latest example of Chinese interest in Pakistan, as the latter tries to develop natural gas, oil, coal and hydropower resources to boost its flagging economy.
Asim Hussain, Pakistan’s minister for petroleum and natural resources, told the Financial Times that Three Gorges had met with the government and proposed a $15bn hydroelectric master plan for the Indus, and to fund a $50m survey to lay the groundwork.
Devastating floods last year highlighted the benefits of dams on the Indus. The country’s electricity shortage and need for irrigation are also behind Pakistan’s focus on hydroelectric power, which the opposition party also supports.
Last year Pakistan and China agreed to an investment deal to build the Bunji dam. The $15bn proposal would cover Bunji and other sites on the upper and lower Indus including Kohala and Dashu, a government representative confirmed.
Click on the link to read the full article

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