Dharamshala — Dr Lobsang Sangay, the current Sikyong of the central Tibetan administration (CTA) Monday said construction of dams by China on rivers originating in Tibet, including the Brahmaputra, would have serious implications on livelihood and ecology in India's Northeast and other Asian nations.
Addressing the fifth All-India Tibet Support Groups Conference in Guwahati, Assam, on Monday, special Guest Dr Lobsang Sangay said the Tibetan glaciers are sources of all major rivers that provide fresh water to India, Bangladesh and other Asian nations and building dams on these rivers will directly impact those countries.
Describing the Brahmaputra as the "lifeline of Assam", Dr Sangay said construction of dams by China on the river would have adverse impact on the Northeast, particularly Assam, as well as Bangladesh.
The Tibetan political leader said that Tibetans in India have for long been raising the threats from China's dam constructions on Brahmaputra. He said continuous environmental degradation of Tibet by China had led to fast melting of glaciers which would create shortage of fresh water.
"Now China has admitted about the construction. Also there are talks of China's plan to divert water from rivers in Tibet. Given China's significant chunk of its population facing shortage of freshwater, the diversion of water from rivers in Tibet is set to become a reality in coming days," Sangay stressed.
"Preservation of Tibetan ecology is vital for the livelihood and ecology of the neighbouring countries," Sikyong said.
On behalf of the Tibetan people, Sikyong expressed gratitude to India for supporting the Tibetan cause and allowing the Tibetans to stay in the country.
On the sidelines of the event, Sangay appealed New Delhi to be more vigilant and make its concerns over China's dam buildings on Brahmaputra more pronounced.
"Tibet is the source of 10 major rivers in Asia including Brahmputra. Assam and even Bangladesh is green because of Brahmaputra. Already Tibet's glaciers where most of these rivers originates are fast depleting. On top of that there is deforestation and exploitation of water resources through dam construction and other activities. Downstream countries is going to bear the brunt of Tibet's ecology destruction," Sikyong warned.
A fact sheet on Tibet issued by the Core Group of Tibetan Cause says that under Chinese rule there has been unprecedented and systematic destruction of environment in Tibet and the rich wildlife, forests, minerals and water resources have suffered irreparable losses and Tibet's fragile ecological balance is severely disturbed.
"Research indicated that the Chinese authorities denuded timber worth $54 billion towards the end of 1985 from the forest reserves of Tibet. In Amdo province alone, nearly 50 million trees have been felled since 1955 and 70 per cent of forests were cleared," it added.
Sikyong remarks on dam construction in Tibet came at a time when China recently operationalized 510 MW hydropower project on Brahmaputra.
The Zangmu dam is built at an altitude of 3,300 meters above sea level at the cost of $ 1.5 billion for its first section," Chinese state-run media report said, adding the next five sections will be completed in 2015.
According the Chinese media, in which the construction is described as a "huge project", the plant is designed to generate 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.
Zangmu is one of the five projects planned on the Brahmaputra to generate a total of 2,000MW of hydro power.
The two-day conference, which began at the District Library auditorium, is organised by the Core Group of Tibetan Cause, India. The organisers said that "the purpose is to highlight the ever-growing repressive implementation of Chinese policies and worsening human rights situation in Tibet."
The conference, held once every three year, is attended by around 182 Tibet support groups from across India.
On the concluding day of the conference on Tuesday, a briefing on the present situation in Tibet will by Sonam Norbu Dagpo, the secretary of department of information and international relations.