Inter-Ministerial Expert Group calls for further monitoring

The Inter-Ministerial Expert Group (IMEG) on the Brahmaputra has said China is carrying out a series of cascading Run-of-the-River (ROR) projects in the middle reaches of the river and the same may be replicated in the Great Bend Area as a viable alternative to a single mega project, and called for further monitoring.

The IMEG is of the opinion that Jiacha could be the next power project on the mainstream of the Brahmaputra. It may be followed by projects at Lengda, Zhongda, Langzhen, where dam-related peripheral infrastructural activity, including four new bridges, has gathered speed.

The ninth report of the IMEG, submitted to the Committee of Secretaries (COS) in February, expressed apprehension that Dagu and Jiexu, which are also in the main course of the Brahmaputra, may see considerable development activity in future. It said such activity was discerned at Nangxian, as well as upgrade of the Bome-Medog Road that passes through the Great Bend Area.

The report noted that the 12th Five-Year Plan mentions the establishment of hydro-power bases in the middle stream of the river to “strengthen exploration and development of domestic resources.” However, it said there was no information about any change in China’s position vis-à-vis the Brahmaputra over the proposed South-North Water Diversion Project.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had raised the dams construction issue, during his first meeting with the new President Xi Jinping in Durban last month on the sidelines of the BRICS summit.

The three dams — Jiexu, Zangmu and Jiacha — are within 25 km of each other and are 550 km from the Indian border. The one at Jiexu has been independently confirmed to be an ROR project, which will not impound water in a large reservoir.

The IMEG said the activities at Jiexu, Dagu, Lengda, Zhongda, Langzhen and Nangxian may be taken up with China at the appropriate level. As decided in the earlier IMEG report, the area on the other side of the basin, including Tongia, Changxu, Qilong, Xierga and Renda, would be monitored once the Chinese side finished the work on the middle route of the South-North Diversion Project, it said.

The report took note of the view of the Water Resources Ministry, which said that it was necessary to explore and study options to resort to the provisions of the existing environmental treaties and conventions.

It said Indian agencies have identified and reported a total of 39 projects/sites on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries for construction of reservoirs/power projects, showing an increase of three sites over 36 sites reported in the previous IMEG report. However, these projects are mainly ROR projects, catering to electricity or irrigational requirement.