Bhutan on Friday said the supply of river water to Assam has been disrupted because irrigation channels have been affected by heavy monsoon rains, dismissing reports that the flow of water had been deliberately stopped.
People familiar with developments in New Delhi said on condition of anonymity that the reports of Bhutan deliberately stopping the supply of water for irrigation in Assam were “not true”.
“In fact, the Bhutanese side has categorically denied this, saying they have been carrying out repairs of channels to ensure the smooth flow of water to Assam,” said one of the people cited above.
It was reported in some media, mainly in the northeastern states, that Bhutan had stopped the flow of water through “dongs” or traditional irrigation channels. The reports had said thousands of farmers in Assam’s Baksa and Udalguri districts had been affected as they have been dependent on river water from Bhutan since the 1950s.
However, Assam Chief Secretary on Thursday clarified that Bhutan is not blocking water rather it helps in clearing the blockage of water.
Reacting to these reports, Bhutan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that authorities, especially in Samdrup Jongkhar district that borders Assam, were working “to ensure that the disruptions caused by the monsoon rains to the irrigation channels are addressed without delay” and water is available for farmers on the Indian side.
“Bhutan would like to request for the understanding of the farmers in Assam as sometimes there could be few delays in the flow of water due to disruptions caused by the heavy monsoon rains and the operational difficulties arising from the restrictions put in place by both the countries due to Covid-19,” the statement added.
The people cited above said all works along the border had earlier been affected by Bhutan’s strict Covid-19-related restrictions.
Bhutan’s statement described allegations about the deliberate stopping of river water as “distressing” and the news reports “totally baseless”. It said there was “no reason why the flow of water should be stopped at this time”. It added that a deliberate attempt was made “by vested interests to spread misinformation and cause misunderstanding between the friendly people of Bhutan and Assam”.