Siang goes dry, says Arunachal Pradesh minister

Official, activists counter, say the statement is to allow dams on the river

By Anupam Chakravartty
Published: Wednesday 14 March 2012

imageActivists campaigning against damming of the Brahmaputra river system in Arunachal Pradesh have countered the recent statement by the state’s Minister of Water Resources Tako Dabi about drying up of the Siang river, a tribuitary of the Brahmaputra.

Dabi on March 3 reportedly accused China of diverting water from the upper reaches of the river and causing water shortage in the Siang.

According to Vijay Taram, convenor of Forum of Siang Dialogue, Dabi made the statement to expedite the construction of 2,700 MW hydropower project on the river. The dam is still in the planning stage and is yet to receive environmental clearance. “The drying up of the Siang is just a propaganda spurred by dam proponents,” Taram said, adding that the river appears dry because of the embankment that has altered its main course. The state authorities built the embankment along a long stretch of the Siang to protect Pasighat town, which got flooded in 2000. According to Taram, the Siang receives 80 per cent of its flow after entering India and diversion of its water by China cannot be blamed for its shortfall. Warning that his organisation will continue opposing any dam on the river, Taram said that the authorities should not allow construction of the dam based on Dabi’s statement.

Incidentally, according to L Angu, chief engineer of the state water resources department, the Siang's is flow above normal. On March 11, water level in the Siang was 80 cm above the normal water flow. “In the months of January and February, the Siang and other tributaries of the Brahmaputra go dry in patches. It is more pronounced in some years,” he says.

Meanwhile, Beijing has reportedly said that its diversion of water from the Yarlung Tsangpo (as the Brahmaputra is known in China) does not impact the downstream areas.

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