Early into the summer of 2009, China kicked off construction work on a controversial project, the Zangmu Hydropower station on the Yarlung Zangbo River — the Tibetan name for the Brahmaputra. In six years flat, the Chinese managed to commission a gravity dam on the bend of the Yarlung Zangbo in the Tibet Autonomous Region, just before the river enters India via Arunachal Pradesh.
Around the same time that the Chinese started work on this project, India commenced the process of awarding a shelf of 14 hydro power projects in Arunachal Pradesh, most of which were lower down on the Brahmaputra. For India, the implications of the Chinese project go way beyond this being the first dam on the Brahmaputra. That the clock was ticking fast for India was evident from the fact that it needed to establish its ‘lower riparian right’ by setting up a hydel project downstream on the Brahmaputra, thereby creating a strong bargaining position to detract China from building hydel projects on the river’s upper reaches. Under the doctrine of prior appropriation, a priority right falls on the first user of river waters. China now has that right. Ironically, all 14 Indian hydro projects in Arunachal Pradesh are still languishing, with construction yet to begin on even a single project. With the exception of one project, all the others are stuck with want of green clearance. The sole project that cleared the environmental hurdle, is stuck for want of funds.
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Source Credits: Anil Sasi in The Indian Express