China denies plan to build 1,000-km tunnel to divert Brahmaputra

31 Oct 2017


China has denied reports of moves to divert the Brahmaputra river amidst reports that Chinese engineers are testing techniques that could be used to build a 1,000-km long tunnel to divert water from Brahmaputra in Tibet to Xinjiang region.

The report comes after India, a riparian state, flagged concerns to Beijing about various dams being built by it on the Brahmaputra, which is known as Yarlung Tsangpo in China.

Chinese media reports said the plan is to construct multiple sections of tunnels and waterfalls from the Tibetan plateau, considered the world's highest, to supply water to Xinliang, China's largest administrative division.

The water would be diverted from the Yarlung Tsangpo river in southern Tibet, which turns into the river Brahmaputra once it enters India, to the Taklamakan desert in Xinjiang, which comprises vast swathes of deserts and dry grasslands, says a PTI report.

China was quick to deny the report, which appeared in Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, and claimed that it remains committed to riparian cooperation.

''This is untrue. This is a false report,'' Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing when asked about the report. China will continue to attach great importance to cross-border river cooperation, she added.

The denial came quickly as it threatened to affect relations not just with India, but also with Bangladesh where China has a bigger stake.

Beijing has been assuring India and Bangladesh, which is also a recipient of the waters from the river, that its dams were of the run of river projects and not designed to storing water.

The Brahmaputra, which merges with the Ganga on the plains of Bangladesh to form the Padma, is critical to Bangladesh's economy and environment.. This mega river and its distributaries go on to create one of the largest deltas and biodiversity hotspots in the world – the Sundarbans.

Bangladesh and India are also part of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Forum, a connectivity corridor project that would give China access to the Bay of Bengal and tie in nicely to its One Belt One Road (OBOR) project.

China had unilaterally started constructing a dam across the river, and more recently, China had refused to share hydrological data, making it difficult for India to plan for water-related contingencies.

The report in the South China Morning Post had said China is perfecting the technology it will require to build a 1,000-km tunnel from Tibet to the water-starved Xinjiang region.

Meanwhile, India and China on Monday held a Border Personnel Meeting at Bumla near Arunachal Pradesh`s Tawang and a 'thaw' in relations was evident at the meet, an official statement said.

The meet that comes months after a stand-off along the Sikkim sector which ended on 28 August.

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