Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Brahmaputra diversion again on the cards

The recently-opened tunnel to Metok in Tibet may facilitate the diversion
India and China will have a 17th round of talks on the Sino-Indian border in February. It was reported that National Security Advisor and Special Representative Shivshankar Menon and Yang Jiechi, his Chinese counterpart,  will discuss 'strategic issues', including the situation in Afghanistan, East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Of course, one understand that  there is not much to discuss about the 'boundary dispute', after 16 earlier rounds of unsuccessful discussions.
The Indian media pointed out that the talks starting February 10 will be the last such meeting under the Manmohan-Sonia-led UPA regime before the legislative elections.
Will the Special Representatives sign a 6th Agreement for maintaining the peace along the 4,057-km line of actual control (LAC)?
Who knows?
During his visit to Beijing in October 2013, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inked a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, it was the 5th such agreement, after  the 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2012 agreements:
  • Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas (September 7, 1993)
  • Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas (November 29, 1996)
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question (April 11, 2005)
  • Agreement between The Government of the Republic of India and The Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (January 17, 2012)
More importantly perhaps, a Memorandum of Understanding on Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-border Rivers was signed by the Chinese and Indian Ministries of Water Resources. The Memorandum says:
The Chinese side agreed to extend the data provision period of the Yaluzangbu/Brahmaputra River [Yarlung Tsangpo] which was agreed upon in the MOU between the Ministry of Water Resources, the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of Water Resources, the Republic of India upon Provision of Hydrological Information of the Yaluzangbu/Brahmaputra River in Flood Season by China to India of May 2013 from 2014, that is to start from May 15th instead of June 1st to October 15th of the relevant year. The two sides shall implement this in accordance with related Implementation Plan. The Indian side expressed appreciation to the Chinese side in this regard.
That is not much and not a word about the planned diversion of the Brahmaputra.
Though it has been denied several times by Chinese officials, the diversion of the Brahmaputra is still very much on the Chinese engineers' drawing boards.
On February 17, 2013, an article appeared on the website of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission of the  Chinese Ministry of Water Resources. It describes in detail the phaoronic projects known as the Great Western Water Diversion and the Yellow River Waterway Corridor.
It mentions a preliminary feasibility study prepared by officials of the Ministry of Water Resources. The idea of the Chinese engineers is to divert 150 billion cubic meters of water and pomp these waters in the drying Yellow River to irrigate northern China. A giant reservoir near the Yellow River 'Maqu' Great Bend would regulate the flow of the river.
The first great bend of Yellow River is located in the Maqu County, in the southwestern part of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. 'Maqu' or 'Ma chu' ('River of the Peacock' in Tibetan) is the local name of the Yellow River.

The purported Water Diversion Project would take waters from the Yarlung Tsangpo (later, the Siang in Arunachal and Brahmaputra in Assam), from the Nujiang (Salween), the Lancang (Mekong) and Jinsha (Yangtze) , Yalong (Yalung) and Dadu rivers and before joining the upper reaches of the Yellow River.  The website of the Chinese ministry even give some details.
  • 50 billion cubic meters would be diverted from the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra (about 30% of the average annual runoff of 165.4 billion cubic meters)
  • 24 billion cubic meters from the Salween (35% of the average annual runoff of 70 billion cubic meters)
  • 26 billion cubic meters from the Mekong (some 35% of the average annual runoff of 74 billion cubic meters)
  • 28 billion cubic meters from the Yangzi (20% of an average annual runoff of 143 billion cubic meters)
  • 12 billion cubic meters from the Yalung  (20% of the average annual runoff of 60.4 billion cubic meters)
  • 10 billion cubic meters from the Dabu (20% of of the annual runoff of 50 billion cubic meters)
To my knowledge, it is the first time  that a 'preliminary' study appears on a Government website with such details.
Li Ling's book, Tibetan Waters will save China (see my earlier posting on the subject) was not widely circulated; further the route suggested by Li Ling and his acolyte Guo Kai, a retired PLA General, was different. They proposed to build a Shuotian Canal from Central Tibet to Qinghai province and then, the Yellow River.
For the new project, the Chinese engineers bank on two tributaries of the Yarlung Tsangpo (the name of the Siang/Brahmaputra in Tibet), the Palung Tsangpo and Yigong Tsangpo which would send the Yarlung Tsangpo’s waters eastward along the Sichuan-Tibet highway (China National Highway 318 or G318 running from Shanghai to Zhangmu on the China-Nepal border) through the Baxoi County (in Tibetan, Pashoe Dzong) of Chamdo Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The diversion would meet the Salween, (one of the three parallel rivers, with the Mekong and the Yangtze) and proceed to Xiaya following the Chamdo-Tibet Highway.
The Sanjiang (Three Rivers) water transfer would then follow the Sichuan-Tibet highway before reaching Dege and the confluence with the Upper Yangtze River water transfer. Now, the ‘four rivers’ water transfer could run along the Sichuan-Tibet highway through Queer Mountain (or Chola Mountain of Western Sichuan, with several high peaks in a glaciated range of unclimbed peaks). It would go via Manigang and Garzi before reaching the confluence with the Yalung River water transfer.
We have now five rivers (Yarlung Tsangpo, Salween, Yangtze, Mekong, and Yalung). The water transfer would continue along the Sichuan-Tibet highway, via Dadu in Luhuo County (in Tibetan Draggo) in Garzi (Kartze) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province.
After the confluence with the Dadu River water transfer, it would meet two tributaries of the upper reaches of the Jinchuan County (a county of the Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan).
Then it would finally shoot off north along the highway through Zamtang (Rangtang) of Aba County (of Ngaba prefecture) before reaching the Yellow River.
It could cross the Yellow River to reach the Yellow River Ma Chu Great Bend Reservoir where the waters could be stored.
How feasible is it to realize such mega project? It is impossible to say.
The first leg, before the transfer reaches the Salween, seems impossible, but the Chinese engineers (and their emperors) like to think of the 'impossible'
The fact remains that China is still working on a feasibility study of this megalomaniac project; it has not shelved as Indian officials were told.
The problem is that China is thirsty; China needs water so badly.
Will the Indian Government officials dare to ask some pertinent questions to their Chinese counterparts is another issue.
The elections are coming, lethargy is perhaps more politically correct.

1 comment:

Appu Kamath said...

As usual Indians would only wake up when things become intractable. After the Western Highway was constructed thorough Aksaichin we woke up. After the Silk Route (Khunjerab) highway was constructed to Pak Occupied Kashmir ( sovereign territory of India) we woke up. When Pakistan handed over Shaksgam Valley to China on a platter then we woke up. Now when the waters of Yarlong Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) will star flowing to Yellow River we will wake up and then decide to do nothing about it as she would be incapable of wielding the stick in future due to sad state of our Armed forces in modernisation. Please Mother India wake up! lest it is too late and we would have given billions of cubic meters of water - the most precious resources- to the Chinese as we handed over the Independence of Tibet on a platter to the Chinese due to lack of strategic vision. Soon we would hand over to Chinese an Ocean of Fresh water at the cost of our inhabitants of NE India. Mera Bharat Mahan!