[ M Doley ]
The formation of three natural dams on the Yorlung-Tsangpo river in Tibet has created panic among the people downstream in Arunachal Pradesh. As reported in the media, the dams have become like a ticking bomb just waiting to explode.
If the dams burst, the resulting flood downstream could be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. The concern expressed by MP Ninong Ering over the issue is based on facts and must be taken seriously.
A landslide had occurred on 9 April, 2000, on the Yorlung-Tsangpo river. The earthquake-triggered landslide had blocked the river, creating a dam. Within 12 hours the natural dam gave way on 1 June, and the downstream areas in Arunachal and Assam were flooded, leaving a trail of devastation.
According to reports, the flood claimed at least 30 lives, and more than 50,000 people in five districts of Arunachal Pradesh were left homeless. The state government put the damages at Rs 100 crore.
The landslide was neither reported in the Chinese state media nor explained to the Indian government.
Replying to Ering, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that the government would remain engaged with China, including through expert level mechanism, on the issue of trans-border rivers to safeguard the interests of the country.
However, the Centre appears to be concerned only with the decontamination of the river, but not with the formation of the natural dams and the danger being posed by them.
Satellite imagery shows that blockages have occurred at three locations along a 12-km stretch. Although the dams are significantly smaller than the one that had formed in 2000, there is every possibility of these three dams merging into one, making it a larger one.
Since we cannot see any immediate solution to the problem, constant satellite monitoring is the only option to keep track of how the dams are changing, in order to allow the people downstream to prepare accordingly.
It is high time the state government created mass awareness on the issue, so that the people can prepare themselves to face any eventuality in case the dams are breached.