Fears of China constructing a dam across the Brahmaputra in the upper reaches of the river are too real to be scoffed at. There have been reports that China has been constructing a dam at what is called the Great Bend to divert its water to the Gobi desert. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had discussed the matter with Chinese president Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the recent Brics summit at Durban. Xi told India that China was aware of its obligations and would not do anything which would upset the interests of the riparian countries. The river, which originates in the Himalayas, flows through China and India to finally join the Ganga in Bangladesh.
Between the two rivers, they sustain more people than all the people in Western Europe and North America combined. As the Brahmaputra is very important to India, an inter-ministerial committee has asked the Central government to monitor all construction works in the upper reaches of the river. It will be foolish to take the Chinese president’s assurance at its face value, as little can be done once a dam is constructed and water is diverted to other areas of China. There are many who believe that a dam has already been constructed, based on their observations of the flow of water in the river.
There is a suggestion that the government should constitute a Brahmaputra River Valley Authority to monitor the river flows on a regular basis. With satellite technology, it should not be difficult for India to verify the truth about any construction work in China. It is true that the Brahmaputra causes havoc every year but that is because India has not been able to control its flow. But most people do not realise the beneficial effects of the river on the people of Assam, who also use it for transportation, fishing and irrigation. But if China has its way, the world’s fourth largest river will be reduced to a seasonal river causing water shortage in a vast area in India.