Guwahati, Thursday, August 10, 2017
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‘India-China bilateral treaty must for Brahmaputra water’
Ajit Patowary
 GUWAHATI, Aug 9 - A bilateral treaty between China and India for sharing the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) water is the need of the hour. There should not be any hysteria on the part of India, but it should effectively push for a bilateral agreement with China on this issue. A bilateral agreement is only recourse to safeguard our riparian rights over the Brahmaputra.

This is the observation made by senior engineer Pradip Kumar Bhuyan, who has been keenly observing the matter for quite a long time.

For, Bhuyan said the Chinese have been eyeing the great band part of the Yarlung Tsangpo, which is the sharp U-Turn the river takes before entering India. This great bend is the deepest and the longest canyon on the earth.

The Chinese have been eyeing this part of the river to build a ‘mega’ hydel power project to produce 40,000 MW of power. Some Chinese engineers have also been dreaming diversion of water from the Yarlung Tsangpo to Xinjiang in the arid part of the North-West China through 800-km-long canals and viaducts. The idea of this ‘mega’ hydel project was first made known at a conference in Alaska in July 1986. The project is termed as the Grand Western Water Diversion Plan (GWWDP).

However, the plan failed to secure the backing of the Ministry of Water Resources and other key authorities in China. Domestic and international environmental groups also expressed concern over this matter.

Though stalled for the time being, given China’s penchant for the ‘mega’ projects, this looks like a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the Indian people living in its NE region.

China as the first riparian country has the right to divert some water of the Yarlung Tsangpo for its own use, apart from setting up hydel projects, which do not hold up water. But today, China, the upper riparian country, has apparently based its claim on ‘absolute territorial sovereignty right’ to do anything it chooses on the Yarlung Tsangpo, without bothering for their affects on the lower riparian countries.

India should build its premises for a comprehensive bilateral agreement on sharing the Yarlung Tsangpo water, basing on the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it signed with China in 2002 to co-ordinate data sharing pertaining to water level, discharge and rainfall etc and the 2013 Expert Level Mechanism on Trans-border Rivers they established along with the MoU they signed on strengthening cooperation on trans-border rivers that year, the senior engineer said.

In this context, it is pertinent to mention that India is diverting water of the Ganga and the Teesta for its own use in a big way, bulldozing the concerns expressed by the lower riparian Bangladesh. Hence, India on its part needs to recognise the right of China, as the first riparian country, to utilize the Yarlung Tsangpo water for power generation, irrigation, water supply etc. The only issue here is how much water China can use.

Once countries accept and realise the basic premises and become transparent in their policies, bilateral agreements are feasible based on this shared vision, he said.

In this respect, he said the 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT) was developed and signed amidst very adverse relationship between India and Pakistan. But the treaty is based on shared visions and it has survived very strained relationship, including wars between the two countries.

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