5 April 2015

Water Wars: China, India and the Great Dam Rush

By Sudha Ramachandran
April 03, 2015

China’s grand plans to harness the waters of the Brahmaputra River* have set off ripples of anxiety in the two lower riparian states: India and Bangladesh. China’s construction of dams and the proposed diversion of the Brahmaputra’s waters is not only expected to have repercussions for water flow, agriculture, ecology, and lives and livelihoods downstream; it could also become another contentious issue undermining Sino-Indian relations.

The 2,880 km-long Brahmaputra originates in Tibet, where it is known as the Yarlung Tsangpo. It flows eastwards through southern Tibet for a distance of 1,625 kilometers and at its easternmost point it swings around to make a spectacular U-turn at the Shuomatan Point or Great Bend before it enters India’s easternmost state, Arunachal Pradesh. Here it is known as the Siang River. After gathering the waters of several rivers it announces itself as the Brahmaputra in the state of Assam. The river snakes lazily through Assam to then enter Bangladesh, where it is known as the Jamuna. In Bangladesh it is joined by the Ganges (known as the Padma in Bangladesh) and Meghna and together these rivers form the world’s largest delta before emptying their waters into the Bay of Bengal.

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