Union Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat on Thursday said India and China have agreed to share information on the hydro power projects activity being undertaken in the Brahmaputra river basin following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Beijing.

Delivering the inaugural address at the two-day conference on ``Promoting Hydro Power: A Counter Strategy against rising fossil fuel prices’’ organised by IPPAI in New Delhi, Mr. Rawat said a new beginning had been made with the decision to exchange information between New Delhi and Beijing and India would like to take this further.

"Prime Minister took up the issue of sharing of waters. China has agreed to share only hydro information. We have made a beginning and we would like to take it ahead. In Brahmaputra, nearly 85 per cent of the water emanates from India. We are able to tap only 5 per cent of it. We are also working on inter-basin water transfer in India,’’ he added.

Mr. Rawat said setting up of multipurpose dams in the Brahmaputra would help reduce floods and provide for many benefits. Wherever appropriate sites are there, we should set up big hydro, he added. Acknowledging that major problems are faced with regard to environment, security, land acquisition, he said the UPA II government has set up a high powered committee and the Cabinet Committee of Investment (CCI) to monitor big projects.

“I have issued instructions to the Central Water Commission (CWC) to bring down the clearance time for various projects to one-third of the existing timeframe,” he said.

Feng Yanan, India Representative, Sino Hydro Group said that as a Chinese company they could not work on hydro projects close to the border. He said they had constructed 40 per cent of the work in the Three Gorges dam in China. “Chinese Banks could extend cheap loans for some of the hydro projects in India and Indian companies should work with them in joint ventures,’’ he added.

Harry Dhaul, director general, IPPAI said hydro power was of great importance in India and should be the obvious choice as it is climate-friendly, firm power with almost zero variable cost.

Listing out the advantages of the hydro power, he said, “Hydro power tariff becomes significantly lesser than coal based tariff over time; hydel plants have a much longer life as compared to coal fired plants; there is no strain on transport infrastructure for regular movement of fuel and saves precious foreign exchange.”

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