India should augment water storage capacity in NE states: experts

NEW DELHI, Nov 5: India should augment its water storage capacity in the north-eastern states to tackle any shortage in case China undertakes a project diverting water from the Brahmaputra river, experts have recommended.
The recommendation came amid reports that Chinese engineers were testing techniques that could be used to build a 1,000-km-long tunnel to divert water from the Brahmaputra river in Tibet close to Arunachal Pradesh to the parched Xinjiang region.
China, however, has rejected these media reports as “false and untrue”.
While some experts felt India might not be affected in a big way in flood seasons even if China went ahead with the tunnel project, former Central Water Commission chairman A B Pandya differed on the extent to which the tunnel project would affect India.
Uttam Sinha, fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), a strategic think tank, said, “We are a little fortunate that compared to China, we get much of the Brahmaputra water (due to heavy rains in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam). So, it (the tunnel project) will not affect India much, particularly during the flood season.” The level of water in the Brahmaputra, known as the Yarlung Tsangpo river in southern Tibet, may go down during lean periods if China diverts water from it “creating some problems downstream”, he said.
Sinha stressed India should augment its storage capacity, particularly in Arunachal Pradesh, to tackle the ensuing shortage of water during the lean period.
A former senior official from the Union water resources ministry, who did not wish to be named, seconded Sinha’s opinion.
“When the river enters India, it is called Siang and not Brahmaputra. When several other rivers including Siang, Lohit and Dibang come together, Brahmaputra is born in Assam,” he said.
Even if China diverts the water through the tunnel project upstream, the Siang will get 30-40 per cent of the total water being received now which is still a “huge quantum”, he said.
Agreeing with them, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) coordinator Himanshu Thakkar also said the possibility of the river becoming dry did not arise.
The SANDRP is an informal network of organisations working on issues related to the water sector, particularly on issues associated with large dams.
However, Pandya differed with these experts on the extent to which the tunnel project would affect India.
“If we consider the remote possibility of China undertaking that project, the flow of river water will go down substantially in the north-eastern states. That may also lead to excessive problems during the flood season,” Pandya said.
India should enhance its storage capacity to deal with any problem arising out of the possible construction of dams by China in the Brahmaputra Valley, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, he added. (PTI)