China denies reports on tunnel to divert Brahmaputra water

31 Oct 2017

China has denied reports that it is working on a 1,000-km tunnel aimed at diverting the River Brahmaputra. It categorically denied the report, which appeared in a Hong Kong-based newspaper, and claimed that it remains committed to riparian cooperation.

“This is untrue. This is a false report,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing when asked about the report. China will continue to attach great importance to cross-border river cooperation, she added. Beijing’s swift denial comes after Indian news media picked up on the report published by the South China Morning Post, a popular English daily based in Hong Kong. The denial came quickly, perhaps pointing to the fact that the report threatened to affect relations not just with India, but also with Bangladesh.

The Brahmaputra is critical to Bangladesh’s economy and environment. The huge river merges with the Ganga on the plains of Bangladesh to form the Padma. This mega river and its distributaries go on to create one of the largest deltas and biodiversity hotspots in the world – the Sundarbans. Bangladesh and India are also part of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Forum, a connectivity corridor project that would give China access to the Bay of Bengal and tie in nicely to its One Belt One Road (OBOR) project. India too has in recent times cried foul of China’s handling of riparian issues with the Brahmaputra.