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Dec 07, 2017 05:00 PM IST | Source:

India and China likely to take up issue of murky river water at border

India’s External Affairs Ministry may soon raise the pollution of transnational rivers with China after the reports emerged of Siang River, which runs through the frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh, turning increasingly polluted and muddy.

Representative image.
Representative image.

India’s External Affairs Ministry may soon raise the issue of deteriorating quality of water in transnational rivers with China. This comes after reports suuggesting worsening pollution in the Siang River, which runs through the frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who will meet the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on sideline of Russia-India-China trilateral talks, is likely to take up the issue, sources told the Deccan Herald.

The river turns black

The recent development in Siang’s pollution has rung alarms as the river is one of the principal tributaries of Brahmaputra, a key trans-boundary river in Asia, which runs through China, India and Bangladesh.

Siang is the lifeline of Arunachal Pradesh and connects with Lohit and Dibang rivers downstream, turning into the Brahmaputra in Assam. Brahmaputra has in recent months made headlines for allegedly being subjected to Chinese attempts at diverting the river’s water to the arid Xinjiang region.

China’s stake

The matter is crucial as the Xinjiang region in China needs vast amount of water especially for cotton farming. It has long been diverting water from Kazakhstan’s Illy River to partly meet its requirement.

But the Chinese state-run media had vocally refuted the allegation of water diversion attempts on the Brahmaputra and accused India of trying to incite anti-China sentiments.

The current rise of sludge in the Siang entails fears as China could use its strategic hold on Tibet to regulate water-flow of rivers running into India.

However, a report in the Chinese state-run media Global Times said that China would not harm the said river as the country considers the river to be its own along with staking claim on Arunachal Pradesh, which it sees as being part of its disputed territory of Southern Tibet.

Earlier China had delayed in transferring India the hydrological data on floods as reconstruction work in its hydrological stations had deeply affected India.

As per Deccan Herald, India may propose widening of its ties with Beijing regarding the hydrological data sharing project and work together to monitor and contain water-quality deterioration of the trans-boundary rivers.

While India is increasingly worried about Chinese attempts at controlling its river water in the North-East region, nothing much has been done so far. However, now it aims to resolve the issue with trilateral talks.

Congress has already slammed the BJP-led Centre for lagging in action. Arunachal Congress MP Ninong Erring, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the rise in turbidity of Siang’s water. He underlined that Siang turned alarmingly muddy following some media reports about China's plan to build a 600 Km-long underground tunnel to divert water from the river to Taklamakan desert in its north-western region, as per a report in the Economic Times.

Former Assam minister and Assam Congress vice-president Pradyut Bordoloi on Monday said, “There is every possibility that slushy water might spread downstream. Nobody knows whether slushy water carries toxic material. We have been reading reports of China’s plan to divert Brahmaputra in upper reaches in Tibet."

The latest water sample was acquired on November 27 and the follwing report by Executive Engineer Bimal Welly said that Nephelometric Turbidity Unit (NTU) of the water was 425 NTU, while the safe range is 0-5 NTU. NTU represents the concentration of particulate matter that is suspended and/or dissolved in water and has the potential of harming aquatic life in the long term.

Swaran Singh, professor at the School of International Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University, wrote in the Mint recently raising concerns about interntional contamination. “Despite China having 50% spatial share of this 3,000km-long water system, low precipitation and desert conditions mean that Tibet generates only 25% of its total basin discharge, while India, with 34% of the basin, contributes to 39% of the total discharge. So, it is not China’s water diversions, but intentional flooding or contamination that should be a major concern for India,” he wrote.

However, Arjun Ram Meghwal, the Water Resources minister, reportedly said there was possibility that recent earthquake and landslide in Tibetan region had turned Siang water turbid.
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