One of the Pharaonic plans of the brutal imperialist communist regime of China is to divert the water of the river Yarlung Tsangpo (also called Yarlung Zangbo, and named Brahmaputra in India) flowing through Tibet, just before it enters India’s Arunachal Pradesh. If China goes ahead with this plan, not only the pristine environment of the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Yarlung Tsangpo, considered a sacred place by the Tibetans and home to 60% of Tibet’s ecological heritage, be forever destroyed, but it will constitute an act of war by China against India and Bangladesh. Due to the enormous difficulties of the project, protests from the environmentalists and India, and the potential of it becoming a proverbial ‘white elephant’, it is not yet certain whether China will go ahead with the project. With the arid north of China being increasingly ‘thirsty’ for fresh water, China will more than likely divert water from Tibet, including the water of Yarlung Tsangpo. Also, the powerful PLA has evinced significant interest in this project, and senior PLA generals have advised the planning team. Since 1949, the Chinese government has killed over 80 million of their own people and persecuted hundreds of millions. This regime has no scruples. World must wake up NOW to save this pristine canyon of Yarlung Tsangpo.
I am indebted to Shri Claude Arpi for his research on this subject in his memorable book ‘Born In Sin: The Panchsheel Agreement – The Sacrifice of Tibet’. Additionally, I am indebted to Wikipedia, Professor Brahma Chellaney (“Chellaney.net”) and “Tibet Environmental Watch” (www.tew.org). I will quote from these sources extensively.
The Yarlung Tsangpo river originates near the Mount Kailash (considered sacred by Hindus of India and Nepal, as well as by the Tibetans). It is the largest river on the Tibetan plateau. It is also the highest river in the world with an average altitude of 4,000 meters. It runs 2,057 kilometeres in Tibet before flowing into India, henceforth known as Brahmaputra. It takes a sharp U-turn at the proximity of Mount Namcha Barwa (7,782 meters) near the Indian border. Yarlung Tsangpo has nurtured the Tibetan civilization for thousands of years, which flourished along its valleys, particularly in Central Tibet. In India also, Brahmaputra has been considered the very soul of the state by the Assamese poets and commoners alike. Entering Bangladesh, the river joins Ganga and is known as Padma, before becoming Meghna-Brahmaputra after merging with the river Meghna. Finally it flows into the Bay of Bengal.
Near the U-turn, also known as the Great Bend, the longest and deepest canyon in the world exists. The canyon averages 5 kilometers in depth and extends 317 kilometers. What interests the Chinese communist barbarians is the fact that the river tumbles down over 3,000 meters in less than 200 kilometers, in this canyon, near the great bend. This gives the gorge one of the greatest hydroelectric potentials in the world.
It is in this great bend area, that the utterly insensitive communist Chinese government plans to build a gigantic hydroelectric plant, as well as tunnels, the later for diverting Yarlung Tsangpo’s water to the arid north of China.
The hydroelectric plant is expected to have a capacity of 40,000 MW, dwarfing the ‘Three Gorges’ dam. This will require building a gigantic dam. The massive reservoir will submerge vast areas. The Tibetan population living there, not large, will be forcefully displaced. Chinese communists have specialized in forcefully displacing their populace for building large dams. According to their own admission, communist China has forcefully uprooted 22.9 million Chinese just to build dams. The Tibetans living in this area will lose their homeland of several thousand years. The Tibetans will not benefit in any way from this hydroelectric plant, for, the power generated will be sold to China’s southern neighbors or will be used elsewhere in China. The region, home to 60% of Tibet’s biological resources, will be simply devastated. A great botanical treasure heritage will be lost forever. This region is highly earthquake prone. A huge artificial reservoir may cause an earthquake even more serious than the one which devastated this area in August 1950. For Tibetan people, this region is one of the most sacred places, and home to their protecting deity, the goddess Dorjee Pagmo. The emotional loss of the brutally oppressed Tibetan people, 1.2 million of whom have already been killed by Chinese savagery, can hardly be even comprehended.
As if the hydroelectric plan proposal is not enough, there is another equally destructive component of this plan. This is the proposed diversion of the waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo which will be pumped northwards across hundreds of kilometers of mountainous regions to China’s northwestern provinces of Xinjiang and Gansu. This is the most important component of China’s ‘Western Route’ diversion scheme. This requires drilling of a tunnel through Mount Namcha Barwa.
Since 1996, this project has been reported in various newspapers and journals such as ‘Scientific American’, ‘China Daily Business Weekly’, ‘Agence France Press’, and ‘The Telegraph’ of London. German TV channel ZDF has also reported on this project.
According to ‘The Telegraph’, the cost of drilling the tunnel through Mount Namcha Barwa appeared likely to surpass 10 billion British pounds. Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics in Beijing had, according to ‘Scientific American’, stated that, drilling such a tunnel was considered ‘impossible’ with conventional methods. However, the engineers of the academy had expressed confidence that this can be done with nuclear explosions! Imagine the extent of environmental damage that would be caused in this highly earthquake-prone region! Also imagine the risk of radioactive contamination inherent in such plans!
In addition to the Tibetan people suffering an irreversible loss of their sacred land and the devastating damage to Tibet’s one of the last pristine environmental heritage areas, the impact of this project on India and Bangladesh will be catastrophic. India and Bangladesh, highly dependent on Brahmaputra’s water, will be at the mercy of China. During dry season, China ‘turning off the tap’ will mean famine and water-riots in Indian northeast and Bangladesh. During monsoon, excessive release of water by China will flood these regions. Consider the June 2000 flashfloods in Arunachal Pradesh and in Himachal Pradesh (involving Sutlej river) in the same year. While the government of India has not released the classified satellite images and reports, it is widely suspected that the floods were due to Chinese PLA breaching artificial lakes upstream, with explosion. A massive dam to hold Yarlung Tsangpo’s water in Tibet will cause the nutrient-rich sediments that enrich the soil in northeast India and Bangladesh to be held back as well, severely affecting the agriculture in these regions. The water diversion scheme of such gigantic proportion will certainly mean high wastage of water as well. The impact of building a huge dam and blasting tunnel through Mount Namcha Barwa through ‘Peaceful Nuclear Explosion’ in such an earthquake-prone region will increase India’s (especially Arunachal Pradesh’s) risk from devastating earthquake, manifold. In short, going ahead with project will mean an act of war by China against India and Bangladesh.
The only reason China may not proceed with the project is the fear that this may become an embarrassing ‘white elephant’. A Chinese geologist named Yang Yong, who had explored the river, stated this fear amid growing signs that the volume of water flowing in the Yarlung Tsangpo could shrink over the years. Other than this, there is no reason why China would stop, or even delay, this destructive plan. China has no river water sharing treaty with its neighbors. China respects no UN conventions in this regard. They have steadfastly refused to be bound by any such international treaty obligations in the matter of river water sharing agreement. There is a statement in the project teams report that the ‘too much of Yarlung Tsangpo’s water is wasted’, most probably alluding to the fact that a large quantity of water flows into India and Bangladesh!
India had made feeble protests in 2003, citing concerns about this project. In 2013, when Indian prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh visited China, the Indian and Chinese governments have signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ on the question of transnational rivers. While the incompetent government and pliant Indian media has projected this as some sort of victory, the truth is that this MoU is an incredibly hollow document, full of rhetoric and inanities, and constitute no commitment from China on sharing just quantity of water with India. India has over 18% of worlds population, and has just over 4% of worlds freshwater reserves. India is a seriously water-stressed country. Water riots have taken place in India, most notably between the residents of the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, on the emotive issue of Cauvery water sharing. There is absolutely no indication that India’s feeble protests are making any impact on the Chinese communist government.
World’s conscience will be sorely tested by the question of Yarlung Tsangpo’s water in the remote canyon of eastern Tibet. At stake are rule-based sharing of the most precious natural resource water; the pristine canyon of Yarlung Tsangpo; a most valuable ecological heritage; sentiment and livelihood of sorely tried Tibetan people; India and Bangladesh’s water security; livelihood of hundreds of millions of people; and, last but not least, the principles of universal rights and responsibilities. The people of Tibet, India and Bangladesh are watching. We need to act.