Chinese hydropower dam on Brahmaputra becomes partly operational in Tibet

Commissioning of dam bound to raise alarm bells downstream in India’s Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Bangladesh

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 24 November 2014

Yarlung Zangbo River in Tibet (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

China on Sunday announced that the first generating unit of the 9.6 billion yuan (US $1.5 billion) Zangmu Hydropower Station on the Yarlung Zangbo river (called the Brahmaputra in India) in Tibet has become operational, according to a report on Xinhua.

The report went on to add that five other generating units of the dam were due for completion by next year.

The hydropower station, Tibet's largest, is positioned 3,300 metres above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau.

The project will have a total installed capacity of 510,000 kilowatts upon completion. It is designed to generate 2.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, according to the report.

China says that the dam will help in meeting power-hungry Tibet’s energy needs. The Xinhua report stated official statistics showed that Tibet's per capita electricity consumption in 2013 was slightly over 1,000 kilowatt hours, less than one third of the national Chinese average.

"The hydropower station will solve Tibet's power shortage, especially in the winter," the report quoted  Liu Xiaoming from the State Grid's Tibet Electric Power Co. as saying.

"The hydroplant is a good example of clean energy development," said chairman of the Tibetan regional government, Losang Jamcan, "Zangmu Hydropower Station will address Tibet's power shortage."

Flood threat for India

The commissioning of Zangmu is bound to raise alarm bells downstream in India’s Arunachal Pradesh and Assam and Bangladesh, which form the lower riparian of the Brahmaputra.

In the past, India has repeatedly expressed concern about the dangers of damming the Brahmaputra in Tibet. China has routinely responded saying its plans were restricted to run-off-the-river dams focussed on generating electricity, which posed little danger.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.