Programme  OS5c Major international rivers  abstract 659


Author(s): Muhammad Mizanur Rahaman, Olli Varis
Water Resources Laboratory Helsinki University of Technology 02015 Espoo, Finland Email:

Keyword(s): Brahmaputra Basin, integrated water resources management, water conflict, regional cooperation, development

Article: abs659_article.pdf
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Session: OS5c Major international rivers
AbstractThe 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.

Data and

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

Brahmaputra region.

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.

This paper

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.

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