Tibetan Mega-dam Begins Operation

China has begun generating electricity from Tibet’s biggest ever hydropower project, the latest dam development on Himalayan rivers which has stoked fears in neighbouring India.

The first generating unit of the 9.6 billion yuan ($A1.73 billion) Zangmu Hydropower Station, which stands more than 3,300 metres above sea level, went into operation on Sunday, China’s official Xinhua news agency said.

The dam on the Yarlung Zangbo river – known as the Brahmaputra in India, where it is a major waterway – will be 116 metres high when completed next year, according to reports.

It will have a total generating capacity of 510,000 kilowatts, Xinhua said, making it the largest dam ever built on the Tibetan plateau.

“The hydropower station will solve Tibet’s power shortage, especially in the winter,” Xinhua quoted an official from the Tibet Electric Power Company as saying.

India has previously expressed concern about damming the Brahmaputra, one of the largest Himalayan rivers and a lifeline to some of India’s remote, farm-dependent northeastern states.

India’s foreign ministry last year urged China “to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas” of the river, after state media reports that China planned several more dams there.

But a previous Indian foreign minister, SM Krishna, has said New Delhi had “ascertained from our own sources that this is a run of the river hydro-electric project which does not store water and will not adversely impact downstream areas in India”.

Chinese media showed photographs of the dam, a large concrete structure which did not appear to have flooded an area significantly wider than the river’s original span.


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