China, which is constructing many hydropower projects in Tibet, plans to focus on dam building on rivers close to its provinces and not on the Brahmaputra which sparked concerns in India, state media reported today.

China had last month rejected as “false and untrue” a media report that it was planning to build a 1,000-km long tunnel to divert water from the Brahmaputra river in Tibet close to Arunachal Pradesh to the parched Xinjiang region.

India, as a riparian state, had flagged its concerns to China about various dams being built by it on the Brahmaputra river, which is known in China as Yarlung Tsangpo.

“Not the first choice”

An article in Global Times said that “the Jinsha, Lancang and Nujiang rivers are famous waterways in Tibet with enormous hydropower potential, but they do not run through India.”

“This does not necessarily mean hydropower stations in transboundary rivers flowing from China to India, such as the Yarlung Zangbo River (Brahmaputra), will be isolated from the plan to transfer Tibet’s electricity out, but they may be not the first choice,” the article said.

The Zangmu dam over the Brahmaputra, which became partially operational in 2014, raised serious concerns in India as the first major hydropower project among few more planned by China on the trans-border river in Tibet.

The dam’s reservoir capacity of just 86.6 million cubic meters of water accounts for a tiny portion of the average annual run-off of the Brahmaputra, the article said.

“In any case, India does not need to be oversensitive to Tibet’s hydropower development plan,” it said.

Tibet wants to accelerate water-resource exploitation and make it a new source of economic growth by selling excess hydropower to economically prosperous regions, it said.

“But there are still a number of challenges. Once hidden costs of transmission are considered, sending electricity over long distances is inherently inefficient.

“To transfer Tibet’s electricity out, the exploitation of hydropower resources in the region is likely to be mainly concentrated on the Jinsha River, Lancang River and Nujiang River, which are located close to the border area between Tibet and other Chinese provinces,” it said.

India’s concerns

India’s concerns figured in the official media coverage of the USD three-billion Suwalong project over the Jinsha river which state-run Xinhua news agency is proceeding smoothly.

The Jinsha is a tributary of the Yangtze river. The Suwalong project is located at the junction of Mangkam county of Tibet and Batang county of Sichuan province in southwest China. It will be the largest power station in Tibet upon completion, bigger than Zangmu dam over the Brahmaputra.

The power station has a designed capacity of 1.2 million kilowatts and will be able to generate about 5.4 billion kwh of electricity per year.

A 112 meter-high dam will be built to form a reservoir that can store about 674 million cubic meters of water.

Generators are expected to start operations in 2021.