Satellite imagery allays fears of China’s diversion of Brahmaputra waters

TNN | Jun 17, 2011, 01.26am IST

NEW DELHI: The government for the first time said on Thursday that India is using satellite imagery to track the movement of the Brahmaputra River following reports about China’s plans to divert waters which could impact downstream countries like India and Bangladesh. Government officials said imagery has confirmed that there was no diversion as yet caused by China’s Zangmu dam on the main Brahmaputra River, but admitted that Beijing is building other “smaller” dams on tributaries of the Brahmaputra.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday met foreign minister S M Krishna over the issue and was provided the same assurance by Krishna. According to the government, while the construction of Zangmu dam had stopped the river temporarily, there were two channels on the sides that allowed the continuous flow of water. “There is no diversion yet as we have confirmed through satellite imagery and other information available with us. They are constructing smaller dams on tributaries of the Brahmaputra, but these too we are told are run-of-the-river projects,” said a source.

Officials insisted that this time their clarification was different because they had ascertained facts on their own. “We don’t just discuss or just trust…we also verify,” the official said, noting that India has the satellite capability for the past three years.

As for plans being discussed in China to divert water in the upper reaches, officials said they did not want to answer “hypothetical” questions. Government officials sought to shift focus to Krishna’s earlier statement that it was perhaps more important for states like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to harness water properly.

Krishna told reporters after his meeting with Gogoi earlier in the day that China has assured India it is only building a run-of-the-river power project on the Brahmaputra in Tibet, and that it would not divert the river.

“So when this is the case, my earnest suggestion to the governments of Assam as also Arunachal Pradesh is they should go ahead and prepare the necessary project reports in order to utilize the Brahmaputra water to the maximum benefit of the people,” he said, adding that the states should prepare a plan in consultation with the Planning Commission and other agencies.

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