China maps out source and course of Brahmaputra

Chinese scientists have completed a comprehensive satellite study of cross-border Tibetan rivers determining their exact sources.

Beijing: Bracing to build a number of water
projects in Tibet including a dam on Brahmaputra, Chinese
scientists have completed a comprehensive satellite study of
cross-border Tibetan rivers determining their exact sources
besides measuring the length of their drainage basins.

Besides mapping out the course of Brahmaputra, the
photographic analysis using expeditions and satellite imagery,
the researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)
also collected details about the flow of Indus which flows
through India and Pakistan besides Salween and Irrawaddy
rivers. Salween and Irrawaddy flows through Burma.

Previously, the sources of four rivers were never clearly
designated, and differing accounts regarding their lengths and
drainage areas confused researchers for many years due to
restrictions of natural conditions and surveying and mapping
technologies, Liu Shaochuang, a researcher with the Institute
of Remote Sensing Applications under the CAS, told official
Xinhua news agency.

The result of their analysis and field investigations
showed that the Brahmaputra River, called Yarlungzangbo in
Tibetan language, originates on the Angsi Glacier, located on
the northern side of the Himalayas in Burang County of Tibet
not Chema-yungdung glacier, which previously identified by
geographer Swami Pranavananda in the 1930s, Liu said.

The river is 3,848 km long, and its drainage area is
712,035 square km according to the new findings, while
previous documents showed its length varied from 2,900 to
3,350 km and its drainage area between 520,000 and 1.73
million square kms.

The data could be useful in the fifth of round of
expert`s level talks between India and China to exchange
hydrological data and flood management of Brahmaputra.

The study results were announced days after China
revealed its plans to build USD 1.8 billion worth of water
projects in Tibet, which presumably included hydropower
project over Brahmaputra.

The money will go to 16 categories of water programs that
cover irrigation, drinking water, flood prevention and control
and hydropower, it quoted officials of the Tibet`s Water
Resources Department said.

According to previous reports, China is planning to build
a USD 1.2 billion run of the river dam to generate 510 mw

Liu`s team found that Indus River, which flows through
India but mainly used by Pakistan under the India-Pak water
treaty, originates in a valley northeast of Kailash, in Geji
County of Tibet.

Its headstream, called Banggokong by local Tibetans, is
about 30 kilometers away from Senge Khambab, which Sven Hedin
believed was the source of the river more than 100 years ago,
Liu said.

The new findings show that the Indus River is 3,600 km
long, against previously believed 2,900 or 3,200 km. Its
drainage area is more than one million square km.

The four rivers originate on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
along with the Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong and Ganges rivers, and
provide water for about 1.3 billion people, according to Liu.

Liu said the location of the sources of the four rivers
will be of great significance for environmental researchers.

Liu said the determination of the four rivers` sources
was based on a principle commonly accepted within the
international geographical community: that the source of a
river is defined as the longest branch in the river`s drainage

To locate the headstreams of the rivers and measure their
lengths, Liu`s team used remote-sensing images provided by the
US Landsat satellite and the French SPOT satellite.

These satellites provided his team with high-resolution
photos of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.


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