chinese checkers : arm-twisting with rivers

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The pollution of the Siang/Brahmaputra river has continued unabated for more than a year. Oily, mucky water is flowing down the river with increased turbidity and pollution. This flow of polluted and contaminated water has seriously affected the lives and livelihoods of lakhs of people living in the Siang/Brahmaputra belt and Bangladesh.

The continuing contamination of the Siang river, which originates in Tibet and China, has led to a rise in the riverbed, leading to the making of a dangerous and rampaging Siang river. It is estimated that the riverbed of the Siang has been raised by several feet, leading to the river spreading sideways and causing massive soil erosion.

The most probable reason for this rise of the riverbed is the prolonged deposit of cement/oil mix caused by massive construction/mining activities along the Tibetan side of the river. Certain reports indicate that massive tunnels are being constructed to divert the waters of the Tsangpo/Siang to other areas. During last month itself, there was panic among the people living along the Siang and the Brahmaputra twice due to flashfloods caused by blockages and landslides in Tibet. Though many people were evacuated and disaster relief forces were activated, luckily no major damage was caused.

It seems that most of the crises in our region emanate from China. There is a history of conflicts with our northern neighbour. Everyone knows about the Sino-India conflict of 1962, when the Chinese forces entered almost 100 kms inside Indian territory. There have been many border violations, like the Sumdorong Chu incident in 1987.

Readers may recollect the flashfloods which occurred in Arunachal Pradesh in 2000. These floods happened without rains in the area, and were termed the ‘China floods’, with many lives and livestock having been lost and many areas washed away.

This was followed by the 74-day eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation over Doklam some months ago. After that, there have been few cases of incursions into India by Chinese troops. There was Chinese incursion in the Tuting sector on 28 December, 2017, when Chinese workers were found to have illegally built a track 1 km into Indian territory.

The latest were reports of intrusion by Chinese troops into Arunachal Pradesh in Dibang Valley district on 22 September.

Rivers are international property and belong to all citizens of the areas through which they flow. The right to river water is one of the most fundamental universal rights and cannot be denied. Presently there is no water treaty between India and China. The government must initiate steps for a water sharing treaty with China at the earliest. Since states like Arunachal and Assam would be directly affected by any conflict with China, we need long-term confidence-building measures and a water sharing treaty with China at the earliest. Is anyone seriously interested?

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