In a shocking development that would have long-term environmental implications, water of the Brahmaputra River, called Siang in Arunachal Pradesh, has turned from crystal clear to thick dark black containing large quantities of heavy slag, creating panic in the frontier state.
The development is attributed to massive construction work by China of a 1,000-km tunnel to divert waters of the Brahmaputra, (known in Arunachal as Siang) before it becomes the Bhramaputra.
The Siang is the principal constituent river of the Brahmaputra and flows for 1,600 km through southern Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo or Yarlung Zangbobefore entering India. Siang is also known as Dihang in India, which after flowing for 230 km joins the Lohit and the Dibang join at about 35 km downstream of Pasighat in East Siang district to form the Brahmaputra river.
Congress MP Ninong Ering in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there was no other reason that the mighty Siang should be dirty and black in November, and that this tragedy has come to pass due to heavy excavation on the Chinese side.
The Siang is the lifeline of northern Arunachal Pradesh and the East Siang district authorities have been forced to declare the water not fit for human consumption.
Although China has denied any plans to divert Bhramaputra waters to the Taklamakan desert in the Xinjiang province, the latest developments could point to Chinese construction activity in the area.
''After the report appeared, the river Siang has become muddy and slushy. It is already two months that the Siang has turned black and contaminated. It is an unusual phenomenon. The reason for the river getting dirty is unknown. I have already put questions for discussions in Parliament under rule 377. But since it is not in session, I am requesting you to use your good office to seek the reason of the river being muddy in this season when the water is crystal clear. Construction of a 600-km long tunnel has already started in the Yunnan province as a rehearsal,'' Ering said in his letter.
Earlier, NITI Aayog had come out with a proposal to construct a single multi-purpose river valley project on the Siang river in Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. But in October the Siang Indigenous Farmers' Forum (SIFF) had opposed the move and appealed the government to stop it in the larger interest of the tribal communities of the area.
''While we have been opposing the earlier proposed Siang Stage I and Siang Stage II hydel projects on the ground that those would displace hundreds of indigenous tribal families in the larger Siang region, the NITI Aayog is now bent upon wiping us out in the interest of producing power for people of other regions of the country. Our communities are small, and thus don't appear to be important for the government and the NITI Aayog,'' Tasik Pangkam, general secretary of the SIFF had said.
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu had said that opposition to hydro-electric projects in his state was fueled by narrow vested political interests and hence required adequate awareness programmes to dispel the fears. People in his state often fall prey to misinformation and thus carry a lot of negative notions about large dams, Khandu had said.