Arunachal students seek Sino-India water treaty

Arunachal students seek Sino-India water treaty

Students' protest in East Siang district, Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday. Pix by Litem Eshi Ori

Students in Arunachal Pradesh’s East Siang district hit the streets on Wednesday calling for a Sino-Indian water treaty to check downstream impact of “activities” in the Yarlung Tsangpo river in China.

The protest comes days after water in the Siang river suddenly dried up by more than a meter due to blocking of the Yarlung Tsangpo in a landslide. Yarlong Tsangpo is called the Siang when it enters Arunachal Pradesh from Tibet Autonomous Region in China and is known as the Brahmaputra as it flows further downstream into Assam.

East Siang and at least five districts in neighboruing Assam were put on high alert on October 18 after China informed Indian authorities that the area could see flashfloods in case of a breach of the artificial lake created upstream due to erosion. But it did not have much adverse impact as China informed Indian officials in New Delhi that the artificial lake got cleared naturally.

“Turbidity and sudden rise in the Siang river a few months ago inundated crops and destroyed agriculture fields in the villages not only in East Siang district but also in Assam’s Dhemaji district. The Siang river suddenly dried by more than 1.3-meter on October 19 and sudden rise in water the next day created panic among people living in the vicinity. Following this, some barrels with Chinese marking came flowing down in the Siang, which contained isocyanate, an explosive material used in big construction sites. This implies that China is carrying out major construction activities in the Siang river in their side and the claim of natural disaster and landslide is just a farce and bereft of truth. Keeping the recent developments in mind, India government should assert and reach out to China for a water treaty to address the issue,” the student unions said in their memodandum to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, which was sent through deputy commissioner, East Siang district.

General Secretary of All East Siang district students’ union, Tonong Darang told DH that a water treaty was necessary as it posed threat to life and ecology of the areas along the banks of the Siang and Brahmaputra rivers. “Siang in Arunachal and the Brahmaputra in Assam occupy a very important space in the life and minds of people in the two states,” he said.

Congress MP from Arunachal Pradesh Ninong Ering had earlier written a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeking her intervention to address the issue.

China signed a memorandum of understanding in April this year to share hydrological data of the Yarlung Tsangpo with India to reduce the downstream impact but lacks a joint mechanism to address the downstream impact.