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Tibet official urges China to start construction on Brahmaputra dam within year

·1-min read

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China should aim to begin construction of a controversial hydropower project on the Brahmaputra river within the year, a senior Tibetan Communist Party official said in comments published on Monday.

Comprehensive planning and environmental impact assessments for the project should be completed as soon as possible, Che Dalha, chairman of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, said in a delegation briefing issued by China's parliament.

Tibet should "strive to launch construction within this year," he said.

China's plans for a giant hydropower project on the river, known in Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangbo, have stirred fears in India it could disrupt downstream river flows, worsen water shortages and even cause flash floods.

The river flows for about 2,900 km (1,800 miles) through Tibet, India and Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal.

The "Yarlung Tsangbo downstream hydropower base" was listed in China's new five-year plan last week as one of the country's major energy development projects for the 2021-2025 period.

China could build up to 60 gigawatts (GW) of generation capacity on the river, state media have reported, which would make it the world's biggest hydropower project, overtaking China's 22.5 GW Three Gorges Dam.

A Chinese diplomat said late last year the project was at a "preliminary planning and demonstration" stage.

India is considering plans to build its own dam on the river to increase its water storage capacity and counteract the impact of the Chinese project, an official said last year.

According to Tibet's five-year plan proposals published in January, the region aims to "research and promote" the project and begin related engineering work as soon as possible.

(Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin)