WATER DISPUTE

Early to say China is involved, says Centre on Arunachal river turning black

brahmaputra-reuters In northern Arunachal Pradesh, the Brahmaputra river goes by the name Siang | Reuters

After the Siang river, an important source of water in northern Arunachal Pradesh, turned black some days ago and caused fear among people in the state, the government of India has said it was looking into the matter seriously. In northern Arunachal Pradesh, the Brahmaputra river goes by the name Siang. “This is a serious issue. But we don’t want people in Arunachal Pradesh to panic. We are looking into it and will very soon find a solution,” said Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, Union minister of state for home, to THE WEEK. 

Specimens of the polluted water have been sent to the Central Water Commission for examination. Its report is expected in a few days. Some people linked the present plight to China’s decision to build a 1,000 km-long tunnel to reroute the water from Siang river to its water-scarce areas in Xinjiang province like the Taklimakan Desert. The problem was highlighted by Congress MP from Arunachal East, Ninong Ering. 

Ering wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 25. He said, “A serious matter has arisen, which I am conveying to you in the interest of the state and the country. The reason for the Siang river getting dirty is unknown. I had already put questions for discussion in Parliament. But since Parliament is not in session, I am requesting you to use your good office to seek the reason of the river being muddy in this season when the water is supposed to be crystal clear.”

It is early to say that China is involved in it, said Ahir. He said, “Members of the home ministry, the water resources ministry and the external affairs ministry will be meeting soon and deciding the course of action. The issue will be settled.”

Experts said they don’t find any reason for Siang becoming grimy in the months of November and December other than because of land disinterment in China. The Siang, or the Xiang river as it is known in China and Tibet, flows close to 2,000 km through southern Tibet before entering India in the East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

China, it is widely believed, is utilising its water supply on its border with India to encourage a serious fall-out in northeast India. Building dams and tunnels on the tributaries of Brahmaputra will help China affirm its claim over Arunachal Pradesh. 

Said Ering, the Arunachal MP, to THE WEEK, “The NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Unit) level in Siang river has risen upto 425, which is dangerous. Nobody seems to care. The Union government should tell China to stop the construction on their side. I hope some action is taken soon. Or else, I will protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Delhi along with people from my state.”

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