India Today - - UPFRONT - Il­lus­tra­tion by SIDDHANT JUMDE

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.

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