THE CASE OF THE MUDDY RIVER
Last month, when the water of the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh suddenly turned black, many in India cried foul, saying it was upstream construction work in China that had muddied the water. A conspiracy theory started doing the rounds: China, it was heard, was planning to divert the water of the Brahmaputra—known as Siang in Arunachal Pradesh and Yarlung Tsangpo in China. China denied the allegations, saying that it would never damage its own river.
Kaushik Deka caught up with PEMA KHANDU, chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, to get the official position of the government on the controversy.
Q. Is this the first time the Siang has turned black?
Pema Khandu When this matter came up, I directed the Deputy Commissioners of East Siang and Upper Siang districts to send a detailed report. According to their reports, the flow level in the Siang appears to be normal compared with flow levels observed—and tested— earlier. But the report also noted that the river was muddy with forest debris, which is very unusual. We have sent soil and water samples from the Siang for testing; the reports are awaited.
Q. What will your government do next? PK I have written to the Union home minister, seeking his intervention and necessary action. I have also personally visited Yingkiong and Pasighat to inspect the river. We will plan our next moves based on the laboratory reports, and after consultation with the Government of India.
Q. Some reports blame it on construction work in China. What’s your government’s take on these reports? PK Nothing can be said at this moment... we can’t point fingers at others till we have concrete evidence. We have full faith in our prime minister and his team of dynamic cabinet colleagues. If any mischief from across the border is proven, I’m confident the Government of India will tackle the issue efficiently.
Q. There are several reports stating that China is planning to divert the Brahmaputra. Have you been in touch with the Centre about this?
PK I have seen the reports, but there’s no official word on this. If we go by the reports, the matter is grave. Since it’s in the realm of external affairs, I’m sure the Union government and PM will do what’s necessary.
Q. Dams have been proposed in Arunachal to harness the state’s hydropower. On how many of these is work currently in progress?
PK The hydropower potential of our state is estimated to be around 60,000 MW. Our government has a scientific approach to harnessing this clean energy for sustainable development, in consultation with the people. By early 2018, the 110 MW Pare hydroelectric project and the 600 MW Kameng hydroelectric project are expected to come on stream. This is the first significant step towards realising the hydropower dream of our people. Other projects are in various stages of implementation; these projects will remove misapprehensions and help us shape a collective progressive vision.