by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Jan 31, 2013
India urged China on Thursday to respect its river rights following a media report that Beijing plans to build new hydroelectric plants on a waterway that the neighbours share.
The Hindu newspaper reported Wednesday that China was looking at building three new "run-of-the-river" hydro projects on the Yarlung Tsangpo river in Tibet, which becomes the Brahmaputra when it flows into India.
"The government of India carefully monitors all developments on the Brahmaputra river," foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told a news conference. "India urges China to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas."
A Chinese government document posted on the State Council's website last week states that China will "comprehensively promote hydropower base construction" on a number of rivers including the "middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river".
AFP was unable to confirm the report that three new projects were being planned.
While the projects are said to be "run-of-the river" -- meaning they do not require large storage reservoirs or cause major disruption to the flow -- any new construction would alarm New Delhi.
India remains nervous about the danger of its giant northern neighbour diverting or disrupting rivers that originate in Tibet.
China began building a run-of-the-river dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo in 2010 that is set to have six 85-megawatt power-generating units aimed at curbing power shortages in Tibet, according to Chinese reports.
It has been the subject of frequent talks between the two governments.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Wednesday that China had "always taken a responsible attitude towards the development and the utilisation of cross border rivers.
"Any new project has to go through scientific planning and study with consideration of the interests of both upper stream and lower stream communities," he added.
The 1,800-mile (2,900 kilometre) Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra river originates in the Himalayas, then descends onto the plains of India's northeast and ends in the Bay of Bengal after its confluence with the river Ganges.
Along the way, it supplies water to hundreds of millions of farmers and residents.
Although 2012 was officially the "India-China year of Friendship and Cooperation," relations between the world's most populous countries remain prickly.
The two Asian giants have an unresolved border dispute that was the cause of a brief war in 1962.
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