Water discharge from China threatens to submerge Arunachal villages


High discharge of water from China, the highest in 50 years, is threatening to submerge at least 12 villages flanking river Siang in Arunachal Pradesh.

  1. Tatak, the deputy commissioner of Arunachal Pradesh’s East Siang district, had on Wednesday issued an advisory warning the people of the 12 villages to be on alert because of the sudden surge in the Siang’s water level. The villages are near district headquarters Pasighat, about 560 km northeast of Guwahati.

He cited a report received by New Delhi from the Chinese government saying the Yarlung Zangbo (Tsangpo) was swelling with an observed discharge of 9,020 cumec due to heavy rainfall in Tibet. But the “incremental discharge of 950 cumecs” compared to a discharge of 8,070 cumecs in the Tsangpo reported on August 14 “should not be cause for panic”, he said

But people in the 12 vulnerable villages in Mebo circle of East Siang district are worried. The Siang has already eroded 12 acres in Borguli village while at least 10 families of Seram village nearby have dismantled their houses and shifted to a safer location.

“The situation is grim, and the government needs to come up with effective anti-erosion measures besides talking to China for ensuring the safety of downstream areas in India,” H. Tayeng, a local leader, said.

Hydrological experts said the “unusually high” discharge indicates sudden release of water from man-made barriers or a natural dam that was formed due to landslides caused by major earthquakes in the Tibetan region of China in November 2017

Guwahati-based water expert Partha Jyoti Das said agencies such as Central Water Commission needs to closely monitor the level and quality of Siang’s water. “There is a lot of concern at the international, national and local level about the geologically and strategically important Siang that impacts Bangladesh too,” he said.

“The unusualness lies in the highest discharge of water in decades. It has all the indications of water being suddenly released from a natural or man-made dam. When earthquakes triggered landslides and dammed Tsangpo last year resulting in Siang’s water turning muddy, many in India talked about the sudden collapse of the earthen dam in the future leading to moderate to big flood downstream in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam,” Mr. Das told The Hindu.

But there was no serious follow-up action by the government, he said.

Congress MP Ninong Ering, who represents Arunachal East in the Lok Sabha, had attributed the turbidity of Siang’s water last year to China’s plan to divert Tsangpo to the parched Xinjiang province via a 1,000 km tunnel.

Beijing later clarified that seepage through the blocked Tsangpo – upstream of Siang, which meets two other rivers to form the Brahmaputra in Assam downstream – caused debris to flow down and result in turbidity of the Siang’s water.

A similar alert has been sounded in Assam’s Dibrugarh district downstream of Siang. Dibrugarh deputy commissioner Laya Madduri on Thursday asked officials to be prepared for a possible water surge.

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