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BEIJING, Oct 13 (Reuters) - China has completed the construction of the Zangmu hydropower facility in Tibet, the largest so far to be built in the region, the company in charge of building the project said on Tuesday.
The project on the Yarlung Zangbo river, the upstream section of the transboundary Brahmaputra, is located around 140 kilometres from the regional capital of Lhasa and cost 9.6 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) to build, said Gezhouba Group, one of China’s biggest state dam builders, on its website.
The investment was provided by the China Huaneng Group, China’s biggest power firm, which will also operate the plant that comprises six units. The project’s first unit began generating power in 2011.
All six units have now been completed and connected to the grid. With a combined capacity of 510 megawatts, the Zangmu facility will supply 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours of power to the grid annually, or enough to meet the needs of more than 600,000 residents based on Chinese per capita power use in 2014.
The 2,900-km Brahmaputra flows southeast from Tibet through the Himalayas into northeast India’s Arunachal Pradesh before entering Bangladesh and merging with the lower section of the Ganges, when it empties into the Bay of Bengal.
India has expressed concern that upstream dams could disrupt downstream water supplies.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday that the two sides continue to communicate on the issue.
“China pays great attention to the issue of source water protection for downstream regions. Experts from both sides have also been in close contact,” she said. “We are also willing to fully consider India’s relevant concerns and continue to stay in close contact with India about this.”
The Brahmaputra in Tibet was identified in China’s 2011-2015 energy “five-year plan” as one of the key sites for hydropower development, along with two other transboundary rivers in southwest Yunnan province, the Salween and the Mekong.
China’s hydropower capacity reached 300 gigawatts last year, exceeding its 2015 target a year in advance, but the pace of construction is expected to slow over the next five years with the power market in surplus and the grid already struggling to take on new plants.
$1 = 6.3329 Chinese yuan Reporting by David Stanway and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Himani Sarkar