Siang Valley on alert following Yarlung Tsangpo landslide overflow

[ Tongam Rina ]
ITANAGAR, Oct 19: There has been a land slide in the main stream of Yarlung Tsangpo (Siang) in Tibet leading to a formation of a massive dam, on Oct 16 that blocked the flow of the river but reported to be over flown now.
As per the latest report, the river has over flown the block point at Milin Section, 70 kms from Nuxla Hydrological Station at about 1400 hours on Oct 19 forcing the state government to declare flood alert in Siang Valley.
According to an information received from Secretary, Disaster Management Bidol Tayeng, the water is flowing at the speed of 18,000 cubic meter/second and that the water level of Siang is expected to suddenly rise on Oct 19/20.
The department said that next 24 hours will be crucial as water is likely to reach Tuting in Upper Siang by morning of Oct 20.
The department however says that “it is only case of overflow over the debris of block point and not any breach of the blockage”.
Upper Siang deputy commissioner Duly Kamduk said that volume of the Siang River had drastically reduced after the landslide.
In Tuting, the water level has gone down by 2 meters, Kamduk said while speaking to this daily.
But as the upper reaches of the Siang is currently overflowing the debris blockage, the district, which borders Tibet is faced with probable flash flood.

Chintan Sheth, researcher at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka said that it is unlikely that there will be repeat of 2000 floods which devastated the Siang valley because of the lesser volume of water.

However, the volume can potentially cause a catastrophic flood.

He said that “what happens after it flows out and spreads at Pasighat is anyone’s guess. The left bank of the Siang in East Siang (Sigar, Railing, Borguli, Seram, Namsing in Mebo Subdivision) is vulnerable because of severe bank erosion”.

Anirban Dutta Ray, a researcher with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore said that impact might be bigger in Assam as the communities live closer to the river.
The disaster management department quoting the Indian Embassy in Beijing informed that the Chinese Authorities were unable to reach the landslide location and have given up hopes of reaching there.
The reported that more than 6,000 people have been evacuated after a barrier lake formed following a landslide in the Yarlung Tsangpo River in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region on Thursday. It reported that the landslide struck during the early hours of Wednesday near a village in Menling County, blocking the river’s waterway as the amounts of water in the lake surpassed 300 million cubic meters.
Quoting Chinese Ministry of water resources, the Central Water Commission (CWC) said that the landslides blocked the river from late October 16 which will have an impact on the water situation of the lower reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo. It further reported that China will adopt the flood reporting channel as stipulated in the memorandum of understanding on flood reporting on the Yarlung Zangbo-Brahmaputra River to inform the Indian side of the relevant news of China’s temporary monitoring downstream of the landslide.
On Friday afternoon, state government officials held a video conference with Union Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha and Indian Embassy in Beijing and CWC, Guwahati regarding the overflow of the river.
According to a govt statement, the Chief Secretary Satya Gopal said that the current landslide was purely a natural calamity and that the Chinese Government was sharing information cooperating with India.
“Unlike year 2000, this time the Chinese Government has shared the information with India in advance for managing a possible disaster.
This was done as per MoU signed between India and China during June 2018 for sharing hydrological data of river Yarlung Tsangpo”, Secretary Disaster Management, Tayeng said.
Speaking to this daily, MP Ninong Ering who is currently in Pasighat said that necessary precautions are being taken to avert any situation.
The MP had written to Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and MoS Water Resources Arun Ram Meghwal to inform about situation along the Siang river. He said that India must proactively engage with the Chinese side on the latest landslide in Siang.
In the letter, he said that due to blockade of Yarlung Tsangpo, there is a big threat to downstream dwellers as he requested central government’s intervention.
Meanwhile, official sources say that eight companies of NDRF Forces are being air-lifted from Bhubaneshwar on Oct 20 which will be positioned at Tuting, Yingkiong, Pangin and Pasighat/Mebo.
A flood alert has been issued for Upper, West, East Siang and Siang districts advising evacuation from low lying areas and to keep police forces in ready position.
The advisory also included “restraining people from going to river, constant monitoring of Siang water level , activation of control rooms and alerting all Army/Defence/BRO establishment for any help.
In a letter issued to the District administrations of Siang Valley, the disaster management department has requested them to keep close watch and monitor the situation and take precautionary measures till the situation becomes normal.
The East Siang district administration has prohibited lifting of logs, trees, bamboo clamps or any uprooted Vegetative materials, which serve as Natural Flood Control Mechanism adding that necessary action under relevant provisions of law shall be taken against the violators.
Meanwhile, Vijay Taram of the Forum for Siang Dialogue (FSD) has urged the state govt to provide necessary infrastructure for the Siang Valley as the Siang is increasingly becoming unpredictable with flood even in lean season.
He further said that govt should stop mining of sand shingles and boulders to preserve the natural ecosystem of the river.

Meanwhile, the Central Water Commission tweeted that the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources has informed that the temporary station downstream of land slide dam has been flooded and they are unable to collect water level.
People residing near the Indo-China Border in Arunachal near Tuting, Yingkiong and Pasighat are advised to avoid river front and all river related activities and be in touch with local administration for plans of action, the tweet read