China blocks info on river water inflow, raises hackles

Hindustan Times, Shimla | By, Shimla
Aug 13, 2017 01:49 PM IST

Breach in Pareechu lake had caused floods in Himachal in 2005; Central Water Commission seeks intervention of Union ministry.

At a time when major rivers in Himachal Pradesh are in spate due to heavy rain, lack of information from China on water inflow from Pareechu rivulet that meanders through the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) has prompted the Central Water Commission (CWC) to seek intervention of the ministry of water resources.

A damaged road due to the flood in the Sutlej in Kinnaur district in 2005(Photo courtesy: HP government)
A damaged road due to the flood in the Sutlej in Kinnaur district in 2005(Photo courtesy: HP government)

A flooded Pareechu, a tributary of the Sutlej, had wreaked havoc in the state in 2005, causing huge loss of property. Currently, the Sutlej is flowing above danger mark.

India and China annually renew their protocol on sharing information on two major rivers — Brahmaputra and Sutlej. But China has reportedly stopped sharing information with India on water inflow in Pareechu. The lake across the Pareechu river, which was measured the size of 20 football grounds, burst in 2005 causing major flooding in the Sutlej. Gushing waters had washed away the strategic Hindustan-Tibet road, National Highway-22 at a number of places, 10 bridges and 11 ropeways. About 15 motorable bridges and 8 jeepable roads and footbridges were damaged on the 10-km stretch of NH-22 between Wangtoo in Kinnaur and Samdoh in Lahaul Spiti districts.

No loss of life was reported as the army and civil authorities anticipating the breach in glacial lake in Pareechu had evacuated 5,000 people along the Sutlej. Total losses caused due to flooding had been pegged at Rs 800 crore. Pareechu originates in India then it meanders into the mountainous terrain in China-occupied Tibet and then merges into the Sutlej near Sumdoh. Glacial lake on Pareechu was formed in 2004. The lake formed behind the landslide dam busted in June 26, 2005. In the wake of the 2005 flooding, India China signed a protocol for sharing information on the water level from Pareechu and the Sutlej. But China has not shared any information about the water inflow so far.

“Usually, the trial run for information-sharing begins in May-end. So far, China has not sent a single word on the water inflow from Pareechu. The other side has cited breakdown in the site set up for gathering information on water inflow,” AK Gupta, Director Central Water Commission regional officer, Shimla, told Hindustan Times.

“We have also informed the ministry about their (China) reluctance to share information. The Central Water Commission had set up two stations at Chumar near Leh and Sumdoh in Lahaul and Spiti where the Sutlej confluences with its main tributary Spiti river. Water flow is also monitored at Khab where a dam was built on the Sutlej to generate 1,500 megawatt electricity for the Nathpa Jhakri project,” senior scientific officer SS Randhawa said.

“The Himachal government constantly monitors the water flow in Pareechu through its department of science technology. But so far the department has been unable to get clear satellite images. Last time, we checked images on July 8 and there was no danger at that time. We use remote sensing technology to monitor the water bodies in the river catchment. But we have been unable to get clear images in the last one week as there are thick clouds over the catchment area,” Randhawa said.

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    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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