Are you tired of talking about politics all the Time? In fact, I’m also bored. Let’s talk about something new today, let’s talk about Tibet, about the Yarlung Tsangpo River, about the construction of hydroelectric power stations on the Yarlung Tsangpo River.
In the next 20 years, starting from this year, the Chinese Communist Party will make massive investments in Tibet. The scale will be very huge and will change the status quo in Tibet forever, not only the human condition will be changed, but other things including the environment, etc., will be greatly changed. The first thing to be carried out is a series of mega-scale capital construction, including hydropower stations in the three river basins, including the reconstruction of the Sichuan-Tibet railroad and highways, including mineral development, and also including the construction of a series of hydropower stations in the Yarlung Tsangpo river basin.
First of all, I would like to introduce myself: after graduating from a university in China in 1983, I went to Tibet and worked there for about four years, mainly in the eastern part of Tibet. The Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, as you know, originates from Ali, Tibet, and flows from northwest to southeast along the Himalayas.
Many people asked me if Tibet was particularly dry and how the Tibetans lived. In order not to get involved in political and administrative disputes, the “Tibet” I am talking about is actually the area where Tibetans live, not a political or administrative area, and it does not involve the issue of sovereignty. Tibet is actually very large, about 2.4 million square kilometers, of which the Tibet Autonomous Region is only 1.2 million square kilometers. Such a large area is equivalent to a quarter of China’s territory, and the differences in geography, climate and other human characteristics are actually very, very large.
For example, the Linzhi region, which is a large area around the bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, is an area that is very different from the image we usually have of Tibet. How big is the Linzhi region, about 70,000 or less than 80,000 square kilometers. If it were a province, it would rank ahead of Hainan and Ningxia in China. This is also the most complex area in the world in terms of natural landforms and natural environment, the mountain tops are snowed all year round, the mountainsides become temperate forests, and the river valleys become subtropical. When you get to Tsum Tsum County, the temperature is about the same as in western Yunnan, you can grow rice and you can see that there are banana trees.
In the whole Linzhi region, there is also the last largest primitive forest in China. The trees in the mountains there are mainly temperate fir trees.
When we walked in the mountains, we followed the trails and encountered large trees that had fallen down and were more than one person high, so it was difficult to climb over them and we had to drill through them from below. That big tree, upright up about 80 meters high. This, of course, there is a reason, because the mountain peaks are relatively steep, so the tree must grow very high to receive sunlight. So the trees in the mountains are usually much taller than those on the plains.
Because of the inaccessibility, the primitive forests here are basically kept intact.
So in Tibet, there is still the largest and probably the last virgin forest in China now, the largest unexplored water resources, and the largest unexplored mineral resources.
Let’s start with the construction of a hydroelectric power station on the Yarlung Tsangpo River at the big bend. The amount of water in the Yarlung Zangbo River is actually very impressive, with a total annual runoff of about 165 billion cubic meters. This figure is twice as much as the Yellow River and about half as much as the Pearl River. But upstream because it is a plateau, flooding in summer, but in winter are frozen, water is very little. This feature is important, and I will talk about it later.
But the most amazing thing about the Yarlung Tsangpo River is not the amount of water, but the drop. There is a section after the river bends, in a short distance of 100 kilometers, the river drop is 2000 meters. This is scary.
Let’s talk about the Yangtze River, from the Three Gorges Dam to Chongqing, the distance is 650 kilometers, what is the height difference? Only 140 meters. Of course, the Yangtze River has a large volume of water, but this height difference is enough for the Chinese Communist government to fantasize about generating electricity for the whole country.
This height difference in this section of the Yarlung Tsangpo River is the dream paradise for hydroelectricity experts. I seem to remember a figure that a one-degree increase in the slope of the riverbed will increase the hydroelectric power by 70 to 80 times. I am not engaged in water conservancy, I vaguely remember when I studied geology professor talked about this data, but I do not remember very clearly, welcome your correction.
Basically, it means that the amount of hydraulic power is more related to the difference in slope. Therefore, Chinese water experts will say, the Yarlung Tsangpo River bend this section of the construction of dams, power generation will be three times more than the Three Gorges. This is the origin of the saying “three Yangtze Three Gorges”.
But this place to build dams, especially large dams, hidden many problems.
The first problem is the geological situation. We all know the so-called mountain building movement, is the extrusion between the plates, the crust of the earth uplift, the formation of mountains. The Himalayas are the youngest mountain range on earth, the result of the extrusion of the Indian plate and the ancient Eurasian plate, a process that is still in progress. That is why the local geology is very complex, specifically, it is prone to earthquakes. The largest known earthquakes on Earth now occurred in this region, in the territory of Tsum and Murdoch counties. 8.5 magnitude earthquakes occurred in the 1950s, and a 10 magnitude earthquake also occurred in Tsum at the beginning of the last century. However, there were no measuring instruments at that time, and this magnitude was deduced by scientists after later examination.
The first problem is the threat of super earthquakes to engineering.
The second problem is brought by glaciers and permafrost. The place where the Yarlung Tsangpo River makes a big turn into Bomi County, after which there is a place that is the world’s largest mudslide cluster area. Basically, every year in June and July, large mudslides occur here. That’s why the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, almost every year, is interrupted for a few months.
This mudslide is probably not manageable. Because the local river valley altitude of about two thousand four hundred meters, but the mountain peak has five or six thousand meters, there are glaciers on the mountain. Glaciers have weight, will slide down the mountain, the result is to push the rocks and mud to the front, into is a dam like. When the weather turned warm, the snow and glaciers on the mountain began to melt, it became a small lake, and eventually more and more water, that dam collapsed, and then a large amount of water and mud and rocks, from five or six kilometers down. It’s the same situation with the momentum of water that we just talked about, and that kind of destruction is unimaginable to the average person.
The third problem, of course, is the problem of international relations. After the Yarlung Tsangpo River enters India, it becomes the Brahmaputra River, and then becomes the Jamuna River in Bangladesh, and then converges with the Ganges River into the Indian Ocean. Yarlung Zangbo River upstream dam, of course, caused India’s tension, I’m afraid it will also cause tension in Bangladesh.
The reason is simple, the northern foothills of the Himalayas is Tibet, the southern foothills is India. There the average annual rainfall of more than 2,000 mm, more than Guangdong Province, Assam’s Kilapunzi, the average annual precipitation reached 11,437 mm, is one of the world’s most precipitation areas, known as the world’s rain capital.
The East Indian region has a typical monsoon climate, and the rainy season is from June to August. This time coincides with the melting of snow and glaciers in the Tibetan mountains, and also coincides with the time of maximum river flow. In other words, at other times, this dam has to stop water and generate electricity, but from June to August, there is too much water and a lot of water has to be released. For India, this is exactly the opposite of regulation. That is, when you need water no water, when you do not need water, the water will be too much again.
The Ganges delta in Bangladesh, the worst flooded area in the world, is because of too much rainfall in the rainy season. Now you have to release more water in the rainy season, of course, there is a problem.
But this is only one aspect of the problem, there is also the problem of water resources itself. Regional economic development, the primary consideration of two conditions, the first is human resources, including the quantity and quality, the second is water. Without water, the economy can not be developed. Human resources can be deployed can be trained, but water is difficult to deploy. For example, Xi Jinping‘s Xiong’an New Area in Hebei has been inactive for several years, and the most important thing is that it is a water-scarce area, so it is difficult for industries to move in.
The Brahmaputra River in India, we say, has an annual runoff of about 450 billion cubic meters to the Bangladesh border, of which 165 billion is from the Yarlung Tsangpo River, accounting for 37%, which is very, very important for this region of India. If China stops the water in the upper reaches, especially if the hydrological information is not open and transparent, India will be very troublesome.
The same is true for Bangladesh in the Ganges Delta, which is the most densely populated region in the world, where flooding is severe and upstream hydrological information is critical.
The Mekong River is a case in point. The upper Mekong, called the Lancang River in China, also originates from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. China has built more than a dozen large dams on the Lancang River in Yunnan, but when to stop and store water, when to release water, or hydrological resources such as changes in the amount of water upstream are not disclosed, so there is a lot of trouble downstream. China refuses to set up such a committee with Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam downstream, so the downstream water security is all dependent on China’s “gift”.
India is a big country and of course wants to keep security in its own hands. But the Chinese Communist regime cannot set up a committee with India on the Yarlung Tsangpo River, nor can it cooperate with India in the development and use of water resources, so this issue will become a huge problem.
On the issue of building a dam on the Yarlung-Tibet River, many people look at it from the international political perspective of the region. This is certainly an important factor, control the water resources, you control the economic development.
But let’s look at it from the economic point of view itself, the Chinese Communist Party is also bound to invest heavily in Tibet in the next 20 years.
There are 1.2 million square kilometers in the Tibet Autonomous Region, and there are vast mineral resources. In the Chamdo region, for example, there is the third largest copper mine in the world, and Tibet also has chromite, which is almost lacking in China, as well as rare earths, and Gold and silver mines. Simply put, mining copper and other non-ferrous metals requires large amounts of electricity resources, but Tibet has no coal mines and no oil, so it must rely on hydropower.
This is the reason why the Communist Party of China has made great efforts to develop hydropower resources by building hydroelectric power stations in the three rivers, namely the Jinsha, Lancang and Nujiang rivers. Now the electricity developed in several rivers in Yunnan is a waste of electricity because the power grid is not cooperating and cannot be transmitted to the southeast of the mainland. However, the goal of the CCP is the mineral development of Tibet, but the CCP is focused on the development of Tibet, especially the development of the so-called Three Rivers Basin, so all these power resources, have to be sent there.
Likewise, the goal of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway is the same, in addition to unimpeded access to the Tibetan hinterland, another important goal is the development of the three rivers.
And by engaging in the Yarlung Zangbo River water development, the CCP may have another goal, which is to send water to northern China.
The Chinese Communist Party’s South-North Water Diversion Project has the East, Central and West Lines. The Eastern and Central Routes have been seen a lot in the media and have been under construction for years. The Western Route project is less talked about, and at its core is about channeling water into the Yellow River.
Simply put, there are three rivers whose water may be robbed, the ones that are all downstream in foreign countries, the Lancang, the Nu and the Yarlung Tsangpo. Among them, the Yarlung Zangbo River has the largest volume of water, so it is the most likely. The goal of the Chinese Communist Party is to take some of the water from the Yarlung-Tibet River and send it to the Yellow River Basin through the Great Water Transfer Pipeline, and then into northern China.
The 165 billion cubic meters of outbound runoff of the Yarlung-Tibet River is three times the flow of the Yellow River into the sea. Just sending one-third of the water of the Yarlung-Tibet River across would be equivalent to doubling the volume of the Yellow River, and that would completely change the environment of northern China. This idea has long been proposed by Chinese Communist Party experts, but it is just difficult to carry out engineering-wise, but now, it is not a remote impossibility.
If the Yarlung Tsangpo River is included in the western route of the South-North Water Transfer Project, other engineering and environmental disasters aside, relations between India and China will completely deteriorate.
Historically, human wars have mainly been over land and population, but in fact they have also been over water. Because land without water is not populated. Perhaps in the next 20 years, we will see humans once again start a massive war over water.