India fears a "megadam" project, three times more powerful than anything existing, could be a cover for a mammoth "hydro weapon".
That's the opinion of Dr Ruth Gamble, a historian of Tibet and Himalayas at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.
The Chinese recently announced the building of the "megadam" on the Yarlung Tsangpo River – the highest major river on Earth which flows almost 3000km through China, India and Bangladesh.
It will take advantage of the "The Great Bend", which is a dramatic 180-degree hairpin turn which immediately falls away to a 2,000ft sheer drop, reports news.com.au
Producing three times more power than the biggest dam in existence – the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River – the Chinese Communist Party believes it will solve much of its green energy requirements as it tries to go carbon neutral by 2060.
However officials in India, who have been essentially at war with China over their disputed land border since the 1960s, are worried it could be used for something far more sinister — possibly ratcheting tensions up further if the project goes ahead.
Indian and Chinese troops have already clashed in the region in the past year because of disputes along one of the world’s longest borders, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that separates the two nations.
Last June, at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a “violent face-off” with Chinese forces along the disputed Himalayan frontier in which soldiers battered each other to death using their fists and stones.
Tensions between India and China have not gone away and now there are two armies sitting on the border right next to where China is looking to build its megadam.
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Dr Ruth Gamble, a historian of Tibet and Himalayas at La Trobe University, told the ABC News Channel this week India is concerned the dam will “basically become a hydro weapon for the Chinese”.
She said the fear is China could build up water behind it and then threaten to release it.
“I don’t think there is any sense in the Chinese wanting to do that, but because there isn’t very good communication between the two sides, we are getting a lot of fear and paranoia on at the Indian side as well,” she said.
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Experts believe the project would also cause ecological damage to one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, destroy sacred sites for Tibetans and impact communities who live downstream.
After building more than 20,000 dams higher than 15m in the past 70 years, hydro-electricity is China’s second-biggest source of energy after coal.
However the latest plan is being seen as a step too far by many analysts who say it would be the riskiest construction project of all time.
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They say the remote region is almost impossible to access with the heavy equipment needed to build a megadam, and it lies in a heavily active seismic area, not far from the epicentre of one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded.
Deadly landslides are also commonplace in this part of the world and would only be invited by a huge construction project.
The Yarlung Tsangpo is a transnational river system that becomes the Brahmaputra River in India, which provides 30% of the country’s water. It is feared the megadam project could reduce flows to India by 60%
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