Chinese media reports digging 1,000km tunnel to divert Brahmaputra waters; Beijing denies
The Indo-China tussle continues as Beijing is reportedly considering a proposal to carve out a 1,000 km long tunnel to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra from Tibet to its dry Xinjiang region. The tunnel, if completed will become the world’s longest by a huge margin. The report, originally carried by South China Morning Post is now being refuted by China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. Chunying also said that Beijing would take in to account interests of countries downstream. "China will continue to attach great importance for cooperation on transborder water resources," Hua said at a briefing.
The Brahmaputra, also known as the Yarlung Tsangpo in China, originates from Tibet and flows downstream in to the northeastern regions in India, sustaining millions before flowing through Bangladesh towards the Bay of Bengal.
Diverting water through the proposed tunnel could cause severe problems in the region. The region might suffer droughts – something which is uncommon in the river basin which is more prone to floods. According to a Times of India report, storing vast quantities of water before dispatching it through the tunnels could increase the risk of flooding downstream. According to the Chinese report, the feasibility of the Tibet-Xinjiang project is being evaluated along a 600km tunnel in China.
An engineer attached to the Chinese government told TOI that the approval of such a project would depend on understanding the environmental risks of cutting through “fragile mountains.” Estimated cost of the project could be around one billion Yuan or approximately $150 million per kilometer of the tunnel. The overall cost would be around $150 billion.
Back in 2010, China had assured India that it would not be building upstream dams in the Zangmu in Tibet after New Delhi voiced concerns. The water diversion project, according to reports, would mean China going back on its assurances.
China has already gone ahead with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which apparently has more strategic value than economic worth for China. It goes without saying that China might go ahead with the tunnel project if it finds out strategic importance.