Three Gorges Probe

China’s dams are sinking its relationship with India

(October 23, 2009) The operators of the Three Gorges Dam are continuing to export their hydro-power schemes to countries around the globe. The latest destination is Pakistan.

According to recent reports, Pakistan’s Ministry of Water and Power has signed a number of memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China’s Three Gorges Dam Project Corporation. The MOUs concern the Bunji Hydropower Project, a $7-$-billion dollar project that is expected to produce 7,000-8,000 MW of power, and the Diamer-Bhasha dam, a $12.6-billion dam that is expected to produce 4,500 MW of power.

The agreements between the Three Gorges Dam Project Corporation and the Pakistan government are on a BOOT—build, operate, own and transfer—basis.

Both of the dams will be built in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the Kashmir region, which each country administers in part, but both claim in full.

The announcement that China will help construct the two dams in the disputed Kashmir region comes after an announcement from the Pakistan government last month of a new autonomy package for the Northern Areas of Kashmir, renamed as Gilgit-Baltistan. India says the new law “is yet another cosmetic exercise intended to camouflage Pakistan’s illegal occupation.”

At the same time, India has lodged complaints about the construction of the Bunji and Diamer-Bhasha dams—which are in the newly named Gilgit-Baltistan—with Chinese assistance. Both India and Pakistan consider the Northern Areas as part of the larger Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

The dams have helped inflame tensions between China and India, as India is concerned about China’s growing presence in Pakistan. India has claimed in the past that China has assisted Pakistan in the development of its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

“The government of India lodged a protest today over the proposed construction of the Bunji hydroelectric project in a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir under illegal occupation of Pakistan,” Indian Foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash was quoted in a report by the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

And in response to the Diamer-Bhasha dam he said: “we hope that the Chinese side will take a long-term view of the India-China relations and cease activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan.”

China’s dam-building expertise in Pakistan is not new. According to International Rivers, Chinese companies are already involved with nine other dams in Pakistan, with a number of these projects, including Bunji and Diamer-Bhasha, located in the disputed Kashmir region.

China’s hydroelectric schemes in another part of Southeast Asia are also helping to inflame diplomatic tensions between the two countries. Recent media reports claim that China has started construction of the Zangmu dam on Yarlung Tsangpo river in Tibet, which is a headwater for the Brahmaputra River, and eventually runs through the the Arunachal Pradesh state in India—a region over which India and China have had a running dispute for decades—and Bangladesh. The river is source of freshwater for millions of citizens living in India and Bangladesh.

Probe International, October 23, 2009

Further Reading:

China dams may hit plans in Arunachal

Three Gorges dam building industry goes global

China’s Three Gorges Corporation vying to build world’s largest hydro project in Central Africa

Sinohydro seeks MIGA insurance for Mekong dams


Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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