Have urged China to ensure downstream states' interests not harmed: Govt on Brahmaputra dam reports

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New Delhi, Feb 3 (PTI) The government on Wednesday said it has taken note of reports on China's plans for hydropower development on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river, and asserted it has consistently conveyed its concerns to the Chinese authorities, urging them to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas.

In a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said the Chinese side has conveyed to India on several occasions that they are only undertaking run-of-the-river hydropower projects, which do not involve diversion of the waters of the Brahmaputra. Asked whether China is working on a proposal for constructing a big dam before the Indian border on Brahmaputra river in Tibet, he said, 'Government has taken note of reports regarding China's plans for hydropower development on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river.' Asserting that the government carefully monitors all developments on the Brahmaputra river, he said that as a lower riparian state, with considerable established user rights to the waters of the trans-border rivers, India has consistently conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities, and has urged them to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas. 'The Chinese side has conveyed to us on several occasions that they are only undertaking run-of-the-river hydropower projects, which do not involve diversion of the waters of the Brahmaputra,' Muraleedharan said.

Various issues relating to trans-border rivers are discussed with China under the ambit of an institutionalized Expert Level Mechanism which was established in 2006, as well as through diplomatic channels, he said.

'We intend to remain engaged with China on the issue of trans-border rivers to safeguard our interests,' he added.

To a separate question on 39 Indian crew members stuck on cargo ships near Chinese ports for months, Muraleedharan said 23 Indian crew members were on board an Indian ship MV Jag Anand that was anchored near Jingtang port, China since June 13, 2020, while 16 were on board another ship MV Anastasia, which is on anchorage near Caofeidian port in China since September 20, 2020. The two ships could not offload their cargo and carry out crew rotation due to the strict regulations introduced by China in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

The owners of MV Jag Anand decided to undertake crew change in Chiba, Japan. The ship carried out crew change in Chiba, Japan on January 18, 2021 and all the 23 crew members who were on board MV Jag Anand have since arrived in India, he said.

'As regards MV Anastasia, our Embassy continues to be in touch with the Chinese authorities as well as the shipping company to work out the modalities of crew change at port at the earliest,' he said. PTI ASK AAR AAR