Beijing: A senior Chinese official, in-charge of water projects, today said he has never heard of any plan to build a 1,000-km long tunnel to divert water from the Brahmaputra river from Tibet to the parched Xinjiang, a day after the Chinese foreign ministry debunked a media report on it.
Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post on Monday reported that Chinese engineers were testing techniques that could be used to build the tunnel, the world's longest, to divert water from the Brahmaputra river in Tibet close to Arunachal Pradesh to arid regions of Xinjiang.
"There is no such direction from the central government, and I have never heard of any plan laid out for a Tibet- Xinjiang tunnel project," Zhao Shijie, chief engineer of the Dianzhong water diversion project told the state-run Global Times on Wednesday.
Zhao said that this was not the first time he has heard rumors about a Tibet-Xinjiang tunnel, "but they are baseless".
On Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying rejected the media report as "false and untrue".
China will continue to attach great importance to the cross-border river cooperation, she said.
The idea of sending Tibetan water to Xinjiang dates back to the late 1950s. "March into the Desert," a famous article by meteorologist, geologist and educator Zhu Kezhen (1890- 1974) that has long featured in Chinese schoolbooks, advises diverting water to Xinjiang's arid plains, the Global Times report said.
A plan to divert water from Tibet to the northern parts of China was heatedly discussed in the 1990s. Over the decade, 208 lawmakers and 118 political advisers raised proposals and motions on the plan, according to a 2006 report by the Southern Weekly.
However, the dream of massive water diversions has never been approved due to concerns of the huge cost and potential for damaging the landscape, the report said.
"I firmly oppose the project, as Xinjiang cannot afford this project," Mei Xinyu, an associate researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation told the daily.
The estimated cost of diverting water from Tibet to Xinjiang would be five times that of Xinjiang's annual GDP.
It may depend massively on central government subsidies and the assistance of local governments in other regions, which likely would lead to social instability, Mei added.