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Call to engage China on Brahmaputra issue

By AJIT PATOWARY
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GUWAHATI, June 15 � Noted geographer and environmental scientist Prof Dulal Goswami has suggested that the Government of India should engage China proactively in a serious dialogue over the issue of intervention with the system of the Brahmaputra river, known in the Chinese Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo/Zangbo. The government should do it in its own interest and it should also take into confidence the other riparian countries of this river basin, said Prof Goswami, who is regarded to be one of the authorities on the Brahmaputra.

Moreover, said Prof Goswami, the States of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, which are on the immediate downstream side of the Tsangpo and will have to bear the brunt of the adverse impacts of such interventions, should put up a joint front on the issue. They should also impress upon the Central government on the need to take up the issue seriously with China and the relevant international fora, he said.

Prof Goswami was talking to this Correspondent on the reported move of the Chinese authorities to divert the Brahmaputra westward to benefit its dry Xinjiang area.

�The way it is designed now makes it clear that it is a river diversion project and it will certainly have downstream impacts on the lower riparian people, mainly Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India and neighbouring Bangladesh, which will have to bear the brunt of this wrongful intervention,� he said.

He maintained that besides affecting the low-water regime of the Brahmaputra, this will have serious implications on the fragile and unique ecology of the downstream region and its diverse and rich ethnic and cultural resources by destroying their river-dependent socio-economic systems.

For India, he said, the issue of the proposed Chinese projects on the Tsangpo is no doubt a formidable challenge, which it can meet only by playing with extreme dexterity through diplomatic efforts and sustained dialogue. At the same time, it should firm up the policies, programmes and activities at home that will help it in putting the best foot forward in such thorny negotiations, said Prof Goswami.

It is unfortunate that our country is constrained to enter into a �first user right� mania that involves the most fragile and unique eco-system of the eastern Himalayas and its dependent extra-ordinary biological and human resources. Resolution of this issue is of utmost importance not only for India but also for the entire region, he said.

In reply to a question on the activities of the committee constituted by the Assam Government sometime back to study the impacts of the proposed Chinese bids to dam the Tsangpo, Prof Goswami said that some of the vital scientific and technical data on the Chinese part of the river have not been received from the Government of India through the Water Resources Department of Assam.

Some of these data are reportedly available with the Central government as part of a protocol agreed upon by the two countries in 2008. Without these scientific and technical data related mostly to the river flow condition and technical parameters of the proposed intervention with the river, no worthwhile assessment of the impacts of such projects on the downstream areas can be done even after having adequate information on the Indian side of the river, said Prof Goswami.

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Call to engage China on Brahmaputra issue

GUWAHATI, June 15 � Noted geographer and environmental scientist Prof Dulal Goswami has suggested that the Government of India should engage China proactively in a serious dialogue over the issue of intervention with the system of the Brahmaputra river, known in the Chinese Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo/Zangbo. The government should do it in its own interest and it should also take into confidence the other riparian countries of this river basin, said Prof Goswami, who is regarded to be one of the authorities on the Brahmaputra.

Moreover, said Prof Goswami, the States of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, which are on the immediate downstream side of the Tsangpo and will have to bear the brunt of the adverse impacts of such interventions, should put up a joint front on the issue. They should also impress upon the Central government on the need to take up the issue seriously with China and the relevant international fora, he said.

Prof Goswami was talking to this Correspondent on the reported move of the Chinese authorities to divert the Brahmaputra westward to benefit its dry Xinjiang area.

�The way it is designed now makes it clear that it is a river diversion project and it will certainly have downstream impacts on the lower riparian people, mainly Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India and neighbouring Bangladesh, which will have to bear the brunt of this wrongful intervention,� he said.

He maintained that besides affecting the low-water regime of the Brahmaputra, this will have serious implications on the fragile and unique ecology of the downstream region and its diverse and rich ethnic and cultural resources by destroying their river-dependent socio-economic systems.

For India, he said, the issue of the proposed Chinese projects on the Tsangpo is no doubt a formidable challenge, which it can meet only by playing with extreme dexterity through diplomatic efforts and sustained dialogue. At the same time, it should firm up the policies, programmes and activities at home that will help it in putting the best foot forward in such thorny negotiations, said Prof Goswami.

It is unfortunate that our country is constrained to enter into a �first user right� mania that involves the most fragile and unique eco-system of the eastern Himalayas and its dependent extra-ordinary biological and human resources. Resolution of this issue is of utmost importance not only for India but also for the entire region, he said.

In reply to a question on the activities of the committee constituted by the Assam Government sometime back to study the impacts of the proposed Chinese bids to dam the Tsangpo, Prof Goswami said that some of the vital scientific and technical data on the Chinese part of the river have not been received from the Government of India through the Water Resources Department of Assam.

Some of these data are reportedly available with the Central government as part of a protocol agreed upon by the two countries in 2008. Without these scientific and technical data related mostly to the river flow condition and technical parameters of the proposed intervention with the river, no worthwhile assessment of the impacts of such projects on the downstream areas can be done even after having adequate information on the Indian side of the river, said Prof Goswami.

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