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India�s official discourse on Brahmaputra obsessed only with water diversion: Prof Nimmi Kurian

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, March 9 - India�s official discourse on the Brahmaputra has largely tended to downplay many downstream concerns and has ended up being a single-issue debate, which is obsessed only with water diversion. But, it is in India�s interests that she should start a serious conversation with China on three fundamental issues which are missing as yet. These are � benefit sharing, risk allocation and trade-offs on the Brahmaputra.

These views were expressed by Prof Nimmi Kurian from the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi while delivering the Third Northeast Water Lecture on �Flows and Flaws: Diverting the Debate on the Brahmaputra� here recently.

The lecture was jointly organised by city-based environment research group Aaranyak and the Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India (Forum).

Prof Kurian delved into the dynamics of the Indo-China relations in the context of cooperation and conflicts over the Brahmaputra. She emphasised that water quality of the Brahmaputra, cumulative impact of Chinese dams on the Brahmaputra and the possibility of dam-induced earthquakes in China, which could have implications in the Indian downstream, should be considered by India as the three main trans-boundary concerns for proactive collaborative engagement with China.

She maintained that water quality is likely to be a major concern. Studies by the Chinese scientists are pointing to the possibility of the presence of a high amount of heavy metals in the stream sediments and the tailings from the mining and other activities upstream that can also pose a potential threat to downstream water users.

The cumulative impact of several run-of-the-river projects needs to be seriously examined and the fact that the Jiexu, Jiacha and Zangmu dams are within 25 km of one another and at a distance of 500 km from the Indian border, has further stoke up fears in the downstream areas.

Dam-induced earthquakes constitute another area of concern in the geo-dynamically active Himalayas with a recorded history going back to the 13th century. Recent research by Chinese scientists has shown that the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008, which resulted in the loss of 80,000 lives, could have been triggered by the Zipingpu Dam in Sichuan province, said Prof Kurian.

The lecture was followed by a panel discussion on �Brahmaputra and the China Factor and how it affects water governance in South Asia�. Prof Chandan Kumar Sarma from Tezpur University and senior journalist Samudragupta Kashyap spoke as panellists on various factors that affect water cooperation and conflict between the two countries.

It needs mention here that Aaranyak and the Forum instituted this lecture series in 2010. The first NE Water Lecture was delivered in 2010 by eminent water scholar the late Ramaswami Iyer. Well-known social scientist Prof Amita Baviskar had delivered the second lecture of the series in 2013.

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