Subansiri dam: With the total 57,000 dams in the world, China owns almost 22,000. The Chinese mainland is the starting point of the river that flows downstream to 18 nearby countries. As it is well known, China uses the geographical conditions to its advantage, and the water is no exception to that. And the only neighbour that is countering its tactics is none other than India.
Subansiri dam move of India
India is planning to construct India’s largest hydel project in Arunachal Pradesh. The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation has submitted a pre-feasibility report to the Central Electricity Authority of India for the Upper Siang region. The dam project proposes the electric capability of 11,000 megawatts on the Subansiri River, that is a tributary of the Brahmaputra River.
According to the reports, the main reason for the project is to primarily counter China. The hydel power is “simply a byproduct.” China is building several hydropower plants on Tsangpo, which flows to Arunachal Pradesh as Siang and further into Assam as Brahmaputra. The most recent is a 60 GW dam that is being constructed in the Medong region, near the Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh. China is projecting it as a move towards de-carbonization and a step to achieve its NDC. The dam is being constructed on the River Subansiri.
The large reservoir is to be constructed by India, in case the large amount of water is diverted by China. The reservoir will be huge and will be able to fulfil the needs of Arunachal Pradesh and its irrigation requirements.
The Brahmaputra river’s importance can be understood by the fact that it accounts for 30% of fresh water resources and 40% of the total hydroelectric capacity of the country. The Subansiri dam will have the capacity to store almost 9 million cubic metres of water.
As previously said, China shares its riverine system with 18 countries; its water war tactics are visible in many different cases as well. The River Mekong flows from China to Southeast Asian countries like Laos and Cambodia, among others. Historically, both China and the downstream nations faced floods and droughts together.
But suddenly, the lower basin of the Mekong River suffered escalating dryness. During his visit to Laos, China’s foreign minister stated that China is also experiencing arid conditions. But the situation was totally different back in Tibet, as satellite images proved that there were no drought-like conditions in Tibet.
Actually, the reason for the growing dryness in the basin is that China has built 11 dams on the Mekong River and is storing water in these reservoirs. Although there is a Mekong River Commission regarding the member nations’ dam building proposals, China, being only the “dialogue partner,” has no obligation towards the commission. As a result of the Mekong issue, 94,000 hectares of rice fields are affected by a lack of fresh water, leading to salt water intrusion. Around 60 million people of lower basin are affected by it.
The first instance of China using water as a weapon against India came just after the Doklam standoff in 2017. China refused to share hydrological data from the Brahmaputra River, which resulted in floods in Assam. China is also planning to build another dam on the Lhasa River, which is also a tributary of the Brahmaputra River.
India has applied a different approach to Pakistan when it comes to the Indus River, and the Prime Minister Modi, knows that it is not going to work with China. That is why the government is taking crucial steps that not only counter China but also strengthen the Indian hold on borders. Although the steps are defensive in approach, they are offensive in action against China, and as a result, they will give China the perception that India is not like the other 17 countries, and it should stop weaponizing the water against India.
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