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INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT OF THE BRAHMAPUTRA BASIN: CONSTRAINTS AND HOPE FOR REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Muhammad Mizanur Rahaman, Olli Varis
Water Resources Laboratory Helsinki University of Technology 02015 Espoo, Finland Email: olli.varis@hut.fi

Keyword(s): Brahmaputra Basin, integrated water resources management, water conflict, regional cooperation, development
Article:
AbstractThe Brahmaputra River Basin is located in South Asia and shared by China, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh. The total drainage area of Brahmaputra is 580000 square kilometres with a total population of 82 million. This paper has three specific objectives. It first examines the regional water- based development potentials. Secondly, it focuses the perspectives and future plans of four riparian countries for Brahmaputra basin water resources development. Thirdly, it identifies the constraints and opportunities for cooperation related to the integrated management of the Brahmaputra basin water resources. Data and information has been collected both from primary and secondary sources. Primary data and information have been collected during a two months research visit to the study area. Secondary data has been collected through surveying existing literatures, articles, reports and data from various international and government organisations of the Brahmaputra region. This research finds out that water is strongly linked with the overall development framework of the Brahmaputra basin. Long-term energy security is at the heart of the Brahmaputra Basin development due to its huge hydropower potential. The total potential of the river basin is around 154920 MW. The hydropower potential in China, India and Bhutan are respectively 110000 MW, 35000 MW and 20000 MW. As demand for energy grows, hydropower projects are ever more important. Brahmaputra hydropower resources can help give riparian countries a safer energy future that is the key driving force behind the prospect of potential cooperation. Bilateral cooperation between India and Bhutan for exploiting the hydropower potential in Bhutan is an example in this regard. Through cooperation with India, as of today, Bhutan has exploited 1488 MW of hydropower. Bhutan exports most of the hydropower to India after meeting is domestic energy demand that is around 230 MW. However, the absence of integrated management of Brahmaputra water resources involving all riparian states constitutes an ongoing threat to future development plans within the basin. This is particularly true for the unilateral Brahmaputra basin development plans of China and India. India’s plan for Brahmaputra water development involves constructing major hydropower dams along the Brahmaputra and water diversion from the Brahmaputra basin to the Ganges basin. China’s plan for Brahmaputra development involves water diversion from Brahmaputra to other river basins within China. Both the Indian and Chinese plans could become major sources of water conflict in this century, as these plans have not incorporated the concerns and development plans of other riparians. Any unilateral development and diversion of Brahmaputra basin water resources based on nationalistic approach could undermine the integrated development potentials of Brahmaputra basin and instigate conflict among the riparian countries. And hence, hinder the prospects of regional development. This paper stresses the need to develop an integrated water resources management approach involving all riparians intended to foster regional development and overcome the prospect of sever water conflict along the Brahmaputra basin.
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