India to take up with China issue of murky river water in Arunachal Pradesh

India to take up with China issue of murky river water in Arunachal Pradesh

India may next week convey to China its concerns over deteriorating quality of water in river Siang, which flows into Arunachal Pradesh from Tibet Autonomous Region of the neighbouring country.

New Delhi is likely to propose widening of the ambit of its existing mechanism with Beijing for hydrological data sharing so that both the nations could work together to check deterioration of quality of waters in the trans-boundary rivers.

With waters of Siang, which joins Lohit and Dibang rivers downstream and turns into the  Brahmaputra in Assam, turning excessively muddy over the past couple of months; New Delhi is preparing to take it up with Beijing. The issue may come up during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sideline of the Russia-India-China trilateral talks in New Delhi early next week, sources told the DH on Wednesday.

Swaraj is likely to ask Wang to restart sharing of data on trans-boundary rivers.

The two neighbouring nations have bilateral arrangements requiring China to share with India hydrological data on cross-border river-systems, like Brahmaputra and Sutlej, between May 15 and October 15 every year. But Beijing shared no data with New Delhi during the stipulated period this year. Beijing's reluctance to share river data with New Delhi added yet another irritant to the bilateral relation, which was already been strained and reached at its lowest ebb during the recent 72-day long face-off between Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army at Doklam Plateau along the disputed China-Bhutan border.

Sources said that New Delhi might propose to start negotiations with Beijing for widening the existing bilateral mechanism so that both the nations could work together to maintain the quality of waters in the trans-boundary rivers and protect the fragile ecology along the disputed boundary between them.

The waters of river Siang of late turned muddy and slushy right from Geling (the point where it enters India from China) in Upper Siang district in Arunachal Pradesh.

Ninong Erring, a Congress MP from Arunachal East constituency, recently wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, drawing his attention to rise in turbidity of waters in Siang. He noted that Siang turned murky just a few weeks after certain media reports brought to light Beijing's plan to build a 600 Km-long underground tunnel to divert water from the river to Taklamakan desert in north-west China.

Arjun Ram Meghwal, union minister of state for water resources, however, said that Siang had possibly turned muddy after a recent earthquake and landslide in Tibetan Autonomous Region of China.

Pema Khandu, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, recently visited Yingkiong in Upper Siang district of the State and also tweeted about the poor quality of water in river Siang.

Beijing, which claims Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of its own territory, dismissed media reports that construction works in areas under its control turned the river murky. An article in China's state-run daily Global Times referred to Arunachal Pradesh as "Southern Tibet" and noted that it was the responsibility of the Chinese Government to protect the "local environment".

New Delhi has since long been concerned over Beijing's purported plan to build big dams in the upper and middle reaches of Yarlung Tsangpo (The Brahmaputra in Tibet Autonomous Region of China) as part of its proposed mammoth South-to-North water diversion project. China has not yet responded positively to India's proposal for starting negotiation for a comprehensive agreement on trans-boundary rivers.

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