Safeguard rights of decrease riparian states: India to China

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 3

India continues to remain engaged with China on its plans to build a massive hydel project on a tributary of the river Brahmaputra and has urged Beijing to ensure that the interests of lower riparian states are not harmed.

“We have taken note and are carefully monitoring the issue,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava during a media briefing here on Thursday.

The MEA spokesperson was referring to China’s plan to build a large hydropower project on the Yarlung Zangbo river that has raised concerns in India over potential political and ecological threats.

The two downstream riparian states in this respect are India and Bangladesh.

“As a lower riparian state with considerable established user rights to the waters of the trans-border rivers, the Indian Government has consistently conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities and has urged them to ensure that the interests of downstream states were not harmed by any activities in upstream areas,” he said.

The MEA put India’s concerns in perspective by pointing out that it is a lower riparian state with considerable user rights to trans-boundary rivers.

China has been urged to ensure that the downstream interests are not harmed. In response, the Chinese side has conveyed that these are run-of-river hydel projects and involve no diversion of river waters.

“India intends to remain engaged with China on trans-border rivers to safeguard our interests,” added Srivastava.

There is concern in India that China will use the hydroelectric project as a tool to promote a political strategy in the region, with their border conflict as the backdrop, to potentially restrict India’s right to utilise downstream water resources.

The Chinese side says that China’s water resource development along the Yarlung Zangbo river was put off for years due to India’s protests. It says the dam on Yarlung Zangbo river can generate the largest amount of power from the section closest to the border.

Beijing has also said India should not have “any anxiety” over the project and it will continue to have “good communication” with lower riparian states — India and Bangladesh.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a media briefing on Thursday that “hydropower development in the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river is China’s legitimate right”.

“When it comes to use and development of cross border rivers, China always acts responsibly,” she said.

“We have a policy featuring development and conservation and all projects will go through science-based planning and assessment giving full consideration to impact downstream and accommodating the interests of upstream and downstream regions,” she added.

India and China had established the Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) in 2006 to discuss various issues related to trans-border rivers.

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