A controversial Chinese plan?currently on the boil in Beijing, that involves damming the Brahmaputra river and diverting 200 billion cubic metres of water annually to feed the ageing Yellow river ? is giving sleepless nights to the Indian government.
Though it is still at the discussion stage and presents an enormous engineering challenge, the plan reportedly has the backing of Chinese President Hu Jintao, a hydro-engineer by profession, say sources in Beijing.
The idea, nevertheless, is believed to be serious enough to warrant exchange of cables between Beijing and New Delhi. India plans to engage in some serious consultations with China on this issue over the next few months.
The project plans to take the diverted water to feed north-eastern China watering Shaanxi, Hebei, Beijing and Tianjin areas, which could be looking at a parched future.
If the project goes through, it could strangle one of India'sand Bangladesh'sbiggest sources of water.
China'seconomic prowess is the toast of the moment, but China'sreal source of influence over its southern neighbours is that it controls the tap for this part of the world.
The proposed project, called the ?Greater Western Water Diversion Project?, is part of the gigantic South-North water project that has already been started by China.
In August, the Chinese government sanctioned 300 billion yuan to divert water from the upper reaches of the Yangtze river in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau to the upper reaches of the Yellow river in north-western China.
It will bring water from the Yalong, Dadu and Jinsha rivers, which are tributaries of the Yangtze, to the upper reaches of the Yellow river.
It is the proposed western route of this project being debated in China at present that is worrying strategists and policy-planners in the Indian government.
They believe this project, if allowed unopposed, could have immense impact on lower riparian states like India and Bangladesh.
Indian officials are preparing for detailed discussions with their Chinese counterparts over the next few months. The western diversion project is inspired by a book, How Tibet'sWater Will Save China, by Li Ling.
Picking up a great deal of support among the Communist party leadership in Beijing, sources said, this book details the proposal by hydrologist Guo Kai called ?Shuo-tian? (reverse flow) canal, which proposes to divert the Brahmaputra.
Recently, responding to Indian media reports that China had built a dam on the Sutlej river, the Chinese foreign ministry acknowledged the dam in Zhada county in Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) but said they did it for electricity for the local population. (Courtesy TOI)