We are excited to share a new post from former ICI Fellow Nimmi Kurian on the politics of dam building between India and China published in The Hindu recently. In her post, professor Kurian discusses the upstream impacts of dam building and arguments about environmental concerns and cross-border data relations. Here is an excerpt from her piece:
As China’s largest hydroelectric dam on the Brahmaputra, or Yarlung Tsangpo, became fully operational this month, it has once again evoked concerns in India. The $1.5 billion Zangmu hydroelectric dam has stoked a virtual paranoia over China’s resource choices and their likely downstream impact. But the debate has generated more heat than light. It has also unwittingly ended up being a single-issue debate, fixated on water diversion and its likely impact. But is that all there is to it?
An overwhelming focus on diversion has moved attention away from other critical issues such as water quality that India needs to raise with China. There are growing concerns over worsening environmental degradation facing Tibet’s ‘Three Rivers area’ comprising the Yarlung Tsangpo, Lhasa river and Nyangchu basins in central Tibet. One of the most intensely exploited areas in this region is the Gyama valley, situated south of the Lhasa river, with large polymetallic deposits of copper, molybdenum, gold, silver, lead and zinc. Studies by Chinese scientists are pointing to the possibility of a high content of heavy metals in the stream sediments and tailings that could pose a potential threat to downstream water users. Global warming could further accelerate the movement of these heavy metals besides projected spatial and temporal variations in water availability. By 2050, the annual runoff in the Brahmaputra is projected to decline by 14 per cent. This will have significant implications for food security and social stability, given the impact on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture.
Read the full article on The Hindu here.
Nimmi Kurian is Associate Professor at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) in New Delhi, India. More info here.