China to build hydropower project on upper stream of Brahmaputra | The Daily Star
11:02 PM, November 30, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:08 PM, November 30, 2020

China to build hydropower project on upper stream of Brahmaputra

China will build a hydropower project on the Yarlung Zangbo River, on the upper stream of the Brahmaputra river in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Yan Zhiyong, chairman of the Power Construction Corp of China, or POWERCHINA, revealed this at a conference on Thursday, reports Global Times, a newspaper under the Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily.

According to the report on Sunday, Yan said that the project was more than a hydropower one but was also meaningful for the environment, national security, living standards, energy and international cooperation.

The proposal was put forward during formulation of China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and its long-term goals through 2035 made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Yan Zhiyong said.

"There is no parallel in history… it will be a historic opportunity for the Chinese hydropower industry," Yan said.

According to the report, the mainstream of the Yarlung Zangbo River has the richest water resources in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, with potentials of producing about 80 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of hydropower.  

The 50-kilometre section of the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, on the other hand, could produce about 70 million kWh hydropower with a 2,000-metre drop, which equals more than three times the power generated by the hydropower station at Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.

Tibet has water resources with capacity of producing about 200 million kWh of power, accounting for 30 percent of the total in China.

According to Yan, the 60 million kWh hydropower plant at the downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo River could provide 300 billion kWh of clean, renewable and zero-carbon electricity annually, adding that the project will play a significant role in realising China's goal of reaching a carbon emissions peak before 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2060.

The hydropower station could generate an annual income of 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) for the Tibet Autonomous Region, he also said.

He also noted that the project will pave way for smooth cooperation with South Asia.

The Brahmaputra is one of the major waterbodies in Asia and it also passes through India and Bangladesh.

Earlier on October 16, POWERCHINA signed a strategic cooperation agreement covering the 14th Five-Year Plan with the Tibet Autonomous Region and held meetings with the region's party secretary Wu Yingjie and regional government chairman Qizhala, according to POWERCHINA's official website.

Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times that with the construction experience of the Three Gorges Hydropower Station, the Baihetan Hydropower Station and other huge hydropower projects, China has developed mature and advanced operational capacities in building hydropower stations, including standards and civilian resettlement and relocation.

The Three Gorges Hydropower Station project eventually relocated 1.4 million people, according to the Xinhua News Agency. In Southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, a total of 89,021 people will be resettled to build the Baihetan Hydropower Station.

Lin, however, stressed that hydropower projects on cross-border rivers cannot be developed without communication and cooperation between upstream and downstream countries.

India Times, meanwhile, reported that proposals for dams on the Brahmaputra have evoked concerns in India and Bangladesh, and China has downplayed such anxieties saying it would keep their interests in mind.

The Indian government has consistently conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities and urged them to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas, the India Times report added.

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