The Chinese government said on Monday that the new hydropower dams it is planning to build on the Brahmaputra river would not impact flood control efforts or the ecological environment in downstream regions.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was maintaining “close communication and cooperation” with India on the issue, adding that it would ensure that there would be “no negative impact”.

“China has always taken a responsible attitude towards cross-border river development,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

“The construction of the stations will not impact flood control or disaster reduction efforts, as well as the ecological environment on the lower reaches.”

The Chinese State Council, or Cabinet, has given the go-ahead for taking forward construction of three new hydropower projects on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra, or Yarlung Zangbo as it is known in China. The three new projects were listed in an energy development plan for 2011-15 announced on January 23. China has, so far, begun work on one 510 MW dam in Zangmu in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Last week, Chinese officials said “any new projects have to go through scientific planning and study, with the consideration of the interests of both lower and upper stream [riparian] countries.”

But many of China’s neighbours have in the past voiced concern at the lack of information on new projects. China’s dams in far-western Xinjiang, for instance, have evoked concerns in neighbouring Kazakhstan, where officials say the water-levels in the Irtysh and Ili rivers, which are crucial to the country’s water security, have fallen in recent years. China’s dams on the Mekong river have also stoked fears in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Beijing has only recently begun to share more information with those countries on water flows.

India and China have instituted a working group mechanism to exchange data, including measurement of flows, although both countries have not taken any concrete steps towards a formal water-sharing agreement.

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo discussed the issue in December, when Mr. Menon said both countries spoke about expanding the current mechanism. He added that so far, flows from China “are what they were”. “We mentioned the fact that we have a forum, we are exchanging data on trans-border rivers, and that we would like to expand what we are doing,” Mr. Menon said. “They are sharing data with us, and we will keep working with them at it, because it is a sensitive issue.”

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