India has some doubts about the “big family”. Take the example of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an OBOR offshoot; it crosses Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), considered by India an integral part of Jammu and Kashmir.
“We do not intend to form a small group detrimental to stability. What we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence”, on the occasion of the opening of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) forum in Beijing, President Xi Jinping urged countries across the globe to join hands with China in pursuit of globalization
According to Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the Indus cascade will start from GB to reach the existing Tarbela dam downstream, not far from Islamabad.
At the MoU-signing ceremony, Nawaz Sharif affirmed: “Development of the North Indus Cascade is a major focus of my government and the construction of Diamer-Basha Dam is the single most important initiative in this regard.” He added, “Water and food security are of paramount importance for Pakistan keeping in view the challenges posed by climate change.”
A 7,100 MW HEP projects will be built at Bunji on the way to Skardu, the capital of Baltistan. The next dam is the Diamer-Basha HEP with a potential of 4,500 MW. Both projects follow the Karakoram Highway in GB.
“The Diamer-Basha dam is being promoted by WAPDA as a sediment trap and therefore good for downstream hydropower projects. But the same sediment — mainly silt — rejuvenates the soil downstream every year and has been the main reason why agriculture has been sustained in the Indus valley for millennia.” Said water expert Joydeep Gupta in a news portal.
But this does not bother the Pakistani politicians.
Other projects (the 4,320 MW Dasu HEP, the 2,200 MW Patan HEP, the 4,000 MW Thakot HEP using four headrace tunnels to divert waters and generate electricity) are located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. A “lost” Saraswati river in the making.
There is a movement in the United States to progressively decommission all large dams which “kill” the river, with many species of fishes unable to migrate upstream. As it has now been scientifically proved that big dams are not sustainable for several reasons; the first one being the amount of silt retained behind the dam, which stops nourishing downstream areas.
Another influential factor is the strong “dam lobby” in China which smells the billion dollars; it has been active since the time of Premier Li Peng and his mega Three Gorges dam. Nepal too appears to have fallen prey to this lobby. Nepal’s Ministry of Energy recently signed a MoU with China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) for the development of a 1,200 MW Budhigandaki HEP, which will be the biggest hydro project in Nepal.
The agreement was signed by the prime minister’s residence, with the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal in attendance. The dam will be built under the “engineering, procurement, construction and finance” model.
Tens of thousands of Chinese workers (17,000 for the Daimer-Basha HEP only) will come to GB; a decade or so later, when the work is expected to be completed, many will “buy” land from Pakistan and settle for good in the area. Further, China is bound to develop GB as a “special” tourist destination (once the basic infrastructure is in place for the dams) and ultimately hordes of Chinese tourists will pour in to visit the “last paradise on earth”.
How will India react? The time has perhaps come to take a look at this. Does New Delhi want a China Town in Skardu or Gilgit? One of the solutions is to renegotiate the Indus Waters Treaty, signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan. With the latest developments, it seems completely outdated today.