Programme OS5c Major international
INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT OF THE BRAHMAPUTRA BASIN:
CONSTRAINTS AND HOPE FOR REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Author(s): Muhammad Mizanur Rahaman,
Water Resources Laboratory
Helsinki University of Technology
Brahmaputra Basin, integrated water resources management, water conflict, regional cooperation, development
Session: OS5c Major international
The 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.
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
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
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.
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.