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China warns India of flood-like situation after heavy rainfall: Assam, Arunachal Pradesh on high alert

Guwahati: Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, two of India's Northeastern states have been put on high alert after China reported that there has been a rise in the Tsangpo river's water level due to heavy rainfall. This river, known as Siang, upon entering India flows downstream to join the Brahmaputra. The respective state governments have sent out an alert, fearing a rise in water level in the river: the Siang in Arunachal Pradesh, Brahmaputra in Assam’s Dibrugarh district.

The state governments have been directed by the Centre to remain alert after it received the report from the Chinese government. According to the report, the Tsangpo river is swelling "with an observed discharge of 9,020 cumec." The report highlights that it is the highest level the river has reached in the last 50 years.

 China warns India of flood-like situation after heavy rainfall: Assam, Arunachal Pradesh on high alert

Partially submerged houses seen during flood in Golaghat. PTI

At present, three rivers in Assam — the Dhansiri, Brahmaputra and Jia Bharali — are flowing above the danger level, compelling 1,488 people to stay in relief camps. Assam's Dibrugarh district, located downstream of Siang river, has been alerted by the district administration. Leaves of all district administration officers have been cancelled and they have been asked to remain present at the headquarters to ascertain preparedness in the event of a water surge.

Laya Madduri, Deputy Commissioner of Dibrugarh, while speaking to Firstpost, said, "There are chances of a flood in the district due to swelling of rivers in Arunachal. But the district is prepared and necessary action has been taken to tackle any untoward incident."

Parthajyoti Das, a noted water expert from Guwahati has said that rising water level in Tsangpo since July can be due to a combination of factors. There is a possibility that initially, water level increased in Siang and then more water entered the river due to breakage of some of the landslide dams — a natural damming barrier in a river — that were formed last year in the Tsangpo, said Das. There were a series of earthquakes in November 2017 which destroyed some of these landslide dams in Tsangpo causing the water of Siang and Brahmaputra to turn brown or black in colour for a long time, he added.

Das said, "During that period we got a scientific explanation from several quarters that there are a couple of landslide dams which may burst in future and depending on how much water is released, suddenly or gradually, it could create a flood like situation in Arunachal and Assam."

"There is no concrete information or communication from our agencies. The whole terrain needs to be monitored 24 hours. China is providing information under the existing bilateral understanding and they are sending information everyday about water level and discharge on three different stations of Tsangpo. But we need to go beyond the exchange of hydrological data and ask the Government of China for information on topographic condition of the whole basin, where there are vulnerable areas of landslide dams," said Das.

According to official records of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, at least 50 people have died in flood and landslide in Assam this year. A report by All India Radio stated that nearly 15,000 people have been affected by flash floods in Assam’s Golaghat and Dhemaji districts. More than 600 hectares of crop area was severely damaged, according to the area administration.

It is to be noted that flood victims in Assam have been staging massive protests from time-to-time in Golaghat, along the Nagaland border, against the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation. They are protesting against the release of water from the Doyang Hydro Electric Power Project in Wokha district of Nagaland, above the specified limit, which has led to a rise in Dhansiri’s water level, affecting thousands of villages.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the office of Deputy Commissioner of the East Siang district, T Tatak, has asked the public to refrain from venturing into the river for fishing or swimming to avoid casualties. It has also asked the people living in low-lying areas like Jarku, Paglek, SS Mission, Jarkong, Banskota, Berung, Sigar, Borghuli, Kongkul, Namsing and Mer, along the Siang river, to remain alert.

In Nagaland, 12 people have lost their lives since July, due to flooding. Nagaland Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio, recently tweeted seeking Centre’s assistance to tackle the situation. Home Minister Rajnath Singh responded saying that NDRF teams are being sent to provide relief.

The author is a Guwahati-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com

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Updated Date: Aug 31, 2018 07:25:07 IST