THE BLOG

Why India Should Build Smaller Brahmaputra Dams Instead Of Aping China

30/10/2016 6:36 AM IST | Updated 03/11/2016 9:12 AM IST
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter
ASSOCIATED PRESS

"Riparian water rights (or simply riparian rights) is a system for allocating water among those who possess land along its path." The Indian government's recent sense of urgency in establishing dams on the Brahmaputra to establish lower riparian legal rights, after China commissioned the Zangmu hydropower project on the Brahmaputra in Tibet, is very welcome. Sadly, the projects in Arunachal Pradesh have been mostly languishing on paper and in different states of completion since 2009.

If the Chinese have chosen a large dam approach, let them suffer all the consequences eventually. India has a choice—and she should opt for smaller dams!

Also, India's response to build counter mega dams for establishing riparian rights as well as for preventing floods in Arunachal and Assam is a mistake. It will take lot of time and effort in difficult terrain to build the mega dams. There will be huge cost overruns going by the track record of construction and irreversible environmental impact in a seismically active region. Our own Arunachalis will be alienated from the Indian mainstream when they have already been protesting against large dams in their midst for years now.

In addition, private dam construction players have backed out recently due to a variety of reasons and the onus is now on the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to take the Brahmaputra dam construction process forward. There are telling lessons for NHPC in the Lower Subansiri Dam for which construction was halted in 2011.

While it is the prerogative of the NHPC to proceed with that project, a better alternative going forward in other cases, would be to construct a series of smaller dams in consultation with Arunachali communities. This way India cumulatively still obtains lower riparian rights and will generate a similar magnitude of hydroelectric power with a far lesser environmental footprint in the earthquake and silt. Most of all, it will communicate a warm message of inclusive development to the Arunachalis who have been protesting for years about displacement and threat to their lifestyle and would want their concerns to be accommodated. This will also be in accordance with the global trend towards smaller dams.

If the Chinese have chosen a large dam approach, let them suffer all the consequences eventually. India has a choice—and she should opt for smaller dams!

Mumbai's Massive Trash Problem

More On This Topic