China resumes sharing Siang water flow data with India

[Joydeep Gupta]

NEW DELHI, May 17: China resumed providing water flow data on the Siang river with India on 15 May, according to officials in the ministry of water resources, river development & Ganga rejuvenation here.
The Siang is the main stem of the Brahmaputra, the trans-boundary river that starts in Tibet and flows through India to Bangladesh before meeting the Ganga.
China and India have a memorandum of understanding (MoU) under which China provides this data to India from 15 May to 15 October each year. The water flow data is crucial for flood control planning in India and downstream Bangladesh, and is seen as a sign of cooperation between the Asian neighbours.
The officials confirmed that the data had started coming in to the commissioner (Brahmaputra and Barak) in the ministry.
There was considerable disquiet in India in 2017 when China stopped providing the Brahmaputra water flow data after the armies of the two countries had gone eyeball to eyeball over a border dispute in Doklam, a plateau in the high Himalayas near the tri-junction of the borders of Bhutan, China, and India. Many analysts in India had seen the data block as a fallout of the 73-day Doklam standoff, though China had consistently maintained it was due to upgrading of its water flow measurement stations in Tibet.
The relationship between the two countries has improved since the standoff ended last winter. On 28 March this year, at the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Hangzhou with officials in India’s water resources ministry, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing, “We will continue with the cooperation on hydrological information.”
The meeting was the 11th of the India-China Expert Level Mechanism on Trans-Border Rivers. The mechanism had been set up under an MoU signed in 2006. That MoU includes cooperation for emergency management – an issue that was discussed during the meeting.
This original MoU on sharing hydrological data on the Brahmaputra was signed in 2002, then renewed and expanded twice, in 2008 and 2013.
Officials in New Delhi were happy that after the meeting in March, the Chinese government had been prompt in providing water flow data on the Siang, the river known as the Yarlung Zangbo in China. (This report originally appeared on the website