The initial report -- that the Chinese were planning to raise their food output in the decades ahead -- was hardly stop-press material. But as details leaked out, policymakers in India and Bangladesh felt a shiver of apprehension: the Chinese proposed to divert the Brahmaputra river at source, in Tibet, even set off a peaceful nuclear explosion, to serve their purpose.
The nuclear device, they claim, is necessary to build a 200-km channel through a mountain range, linking the Brahmaputra to the arid zone.
These projections, made at the December 1995 meeting of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics in Beijing by two Chinese experts, were aimed at greening the vast Gobi desert and the arid tracts to its south. The only flaw: the region, which accounted for around 27 per cent of the country's land mass, processes only 7 per cent of its water resources.
Taking a left out of the Sinai and Negev areas of Israel, the experts argued that since the region thirsted for water, the only way to carry through the dream project was to divert the Brahmaputra, which originates...