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March 19, 2009

China builds dam on Indus in Tibet,keeps Pakistan uninformed


March 19, 2009

KARACHI: Keeping the users of Indus River water uninformed, China has built a dam at catchment area of the river in Tibet at Senge-Ali.

Pakistani authorities remain unaware of the dam with the exception of some individuals who read about this in a book published recently.

Alice Albinia, a British journalist and writer who recently visited Indus up to its roots, wrote in her book ‘Empires of the Indus’ that the greater part of water in the River Indus came from its upper reaches, from Tibet, Ladakh and Baltistan, rather than from its Himalayan tributaries in the Punjab. “All the water that drains from these mountains, I remember, is currently being stopped by the new dam at Senge-Ali,” she wrote.

She visited the Indus from its end point Indus Delta to its catchment area and the point of start called Senge Khabad by Tibetans, which means the lion’s mouth. It is the only place, where water did not flow from the glaciers, but the ground and flow continued round the year.

On her way to Senge Khabab, she saw a huge dam with massive concrete curve looms up from the riverbed. “The structure itself is complete, but the hydroelectric elements on the riverbed are still being installed. There are pools of water this side of the dam, but no flow. The Indus has been stopped,” she writes.

The Indus, born some thirty to forty-five million years ago, is the oldest known river in the region. It is the 21st largest river in the world in terms of annual water flow. The total length of the river is 3,180 kilometres (1,976 miles). The river has a total drainage area exceeding 1,165,000 square kilometres (450,000 square miles).

“I feel sad for the river: for this wild and magnificent, modern, historic, prehistoric river; for this river which was flowing for millions of years before humans even saw it; for this river which has nurtured the earth since the land rose from the ocean,” she writes.

Majority of the water

experts in Sindh remain unaware of any dam built in Tibet. Most of them are of the view that Indus does not start from one point. It has thousands of tributaries, said Eng. Naseer Memon, water expert.

Indus main tributaries were in Ladakh, Baltistan and Tibet, glaciers of Himalayas, but there was also occasionally monsoon support.

He said there was no major water flow upstream, so building a big dam was not feasible.

Idrees Rajput, former secretary irrigation, Sindh and water expert, said the major water flow started from Skardu downstream, so building a dam could only be helpful for power generation and not the irrigation purpose.

He said the dam at Senge-Ali was for the power generation purpose, which will have no impact over Indus River. “Indus water still flows,” he said.

China had not officially informed the government of Pakistan, as there was no treaty between China and Pakistan over shared waters. Similarly, India has right to build a dam on Indus for power generation with a maximum capacity of 0.25 MAF water.

Indus River’s inflow is 140 MAF in Pakistan, and the small dams will have no impact over us, said Rajput. Pakistan is building largest dams on Indus River with 6.4 or 7 MAF water capacity.

Rajput said they got to know about the dam through “Alice’s book,” but Indus discharge in Pakistan was not stopped.”

Released ahead of World Water Day on March 22, IUCN’s latest publication, “Share: Managing Water Across Boundaries,” shows that international rivers - those shared by neighbouring countries - provide an estimated 60 percent of the world’s freshwater.

There are some 260 international river basins in the world, which cover nearly half of the Earth’s surface and are home to 40 percent of the world’s population.

“We cannot understate the importance of water for life on this planet; it is as necessary as the air we breathe,” said Julia Marton LefËvre, IUCN’s Director General. “Governments must realize that river basins, not national borders are the boundaries around which effective water management must be drawn.”