Strategic analysts and specialists have expressed alarm over China’s plans to build the first mega dam in the world in occupied Tibet, close to its border with India. They are also concerned about the project’s possible geopolitical ramifications. The dam is anticipated to produce three times as much energy as the Three Gorges Dam, the greatest hydroelectric facility in existence, with a projected capacity of 60 gigawatts. However, the project’s lack of openness from China has alarmed the neighboring nations.
Famous strategic analyst Brahma Chellaney has drawn attention to the secrecy surrounding large dam projects on international rivers, emphasizing China’s propensity to withhold information until building activity is detected by satellite images. The Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) canyon, which has enormous river energy potential and huge untapped water supplies, is where the planned dam is located. Chinese dam builders have been drawn to the project because of this combination, although Chellaney cautions that there are significant dangers.
The seismically active area where the dam is being constructed is one of the main worries. Due to the geological fault line where the Indian and Eurasian plates contact, the southern portion of the Tibetan Plateau is prone to earthquakes. In the past, large earthquakes have been related to dam building along seismic faults, including the catastrophic Sichuan earthquake of May 12, 2008, which killed 87,583 people. Additionally, if flash floods arise as a result of heavy monsoon rains in the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra, the dam may endanger villages downstream.
The huge dam might have a negative impact on the environment. Downstream countries have suffered as a result of China’s prior building of 11 major dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River, including ongoing droughts. Now, China’s concentration on using the Brahmaputra Basin’s water resources raises worries about future ecological harm. Tibet, known for its biodiversity, as well as Bangladesh upstream are both predicted to be impacted by the results.
Another important factor is the timing of China’s announcement of the dam project. When the Chinese government first revealed the project to the National People’s Congress for approval, construction was already well under way. Prior to requesting formal authorisation, China was able to transfer employees, supplies, and large pieces of equipment to the distant location by establishing the required infrastructure. With regard to its ties with competitor India in particular, this strategy raises concerns about China’s objectives and possible influence over transboundary river flows.
International law prohibits lower riparian nations from blocking higher riparian actions in a river. However, as India is the lower riparian in this situation, it is entitled to ask for advance notification, thorough technical information, discussions, and the taking into account of preventing serious damage or severe injury. Vaishali Basu Sharma, a strategic and economic affairs expert, draws attention to India’s worries about China’s commitment to these values and if China would give India’s interests in the project first priority.
There are also rumors that China would change the river’s course to the north in order to alleviate the water shortage in certain regions of the nation. Ecological disruption or decreased water flow would both have serious consequences for India. Concerns about the environmental damage, seismic dangers, and geopolitical ramifications of China’s big dam project are growing as construction moves forward.