Study on China dams brings the Brahmaputra into focus
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‘Structures built on Mekong river altered its natural flow’
- A new study highlighting the impact of China’s dams on the Mekong river has raised fresh questions on whether dams being built on other rivers that originate in China, such as the Brahmaputra, may similarly impact countries downstream.
- While China’s southwestern Yunnan province had above-average rainfall from May to October 2019, there was “severe lack of water in the lower Mekong”, based on satellite data from 1992 to 2019.
- The Mekong flows from China to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
- China has maintained the dams it is building on the river, known as the Lancang there, are “run of the river” dams that only store water for power generation.
- India has long expressed concerns over dam-building on the Brahmaptura. In 2015, China operationalised its first hydropower project at Zangmu, while three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are being developed.
- Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on upstream flows and an estimated 35% of its basin is in India.
- India does not have a water-sharing agreement with China, but both sides share hydrological data.