India Paid Rs 150 Million To China For Data On Rivers, Reveals RTI

India Paid Rs 150 Million To China For Data On Rivers, Reveals RTI
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An RTI application from the Ministry of Jal Shakti revealed that India paid approximately Rs 158 million to China for hydrological information on the Sutlej and Siang rivers that originate in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), The Quint reported.

The data provided by China are from the three hydrological stations at Nugesha, Yangcun and Nuxia on Siang river (Yalung Zangbu) from 15 May to 15 October, and from Tsada on Sutlej river (Langqen Zangbo) from 1 June to 15 October every year.

Notably, China did not charge anything for the data provided between 2002 and 2007, and no data was provided in 2017 due to "logistical constraints", the reply mentioned.

The reasons that prompted China to levy fixed rates for the data on the rivers after providing them without any charges for many years were not known, an official pointed.

A treaty on sharing of hydrological information on rivers was deemed essential by the Indian government to tackle floods that cause havoc in the Brahmaputra basin frequently.

The main purpose of the agreement is flood control and disaster mitigation in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and in other downstream regions.

India has a similar treaty with Nepal as well, but that is provided free of cost.

In 2002, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two neighbours for sharing of hydrological information on the Yarlung Zangbu (Siang) during the flood season by China for three stations on the river, on water level, rainfall and discharge.

The agreement was renewed in 2008, 2013 and 2018 for another five years.

Another MoU was signed in 2013 on the Siang, which increased the originally envisaged duration of data from between 1 June and 15 October to between 15 May and 15 October.

According to the 12th report compiled by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on water resources, this agreement opened up other areas of cooperation in the water sector. It has no expiry period.

In 2005, a similar agreement was signed for the Sutlej river (Langqen Zangbo), which was renewed in 2010 and 2015.

The signing of the MoU on Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers with China was followed by Implementation Plans outlining the modalities regarding technical details on hydrological information, data transmission method, cost settlement, etc. These plans also provided details of stations, frequency, type, duration and format of transmission of data to be supplied.

Following the visit of then-Chinese President Hu Jintao to India in 2006, an Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) was established to discuss cooperation on sharing of hydrological data during the flood season, emergency management and other issues on the two transborder rivers. The ELM meetings are being held annually and alternately in India and China.

On 17 November last year, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on water resources was informed by an official of the Ministry of Jal Shakti that "China is such a country with which we do not have much cooperation at the moment", which was mentioned in the report submitted last August.

While the Committee expressed satisfaction over the sharing of data by China, it was apprehensive over the run-of-the-river projects in the neighbouring country as they could adversely impact India's plans to harness water resources in the Northeast.

The official's statement before the committee on cooperation with China is echoed by some bureaucrats, who are of the opinion that the current level of interaction on rivers leaves much to be desired.

"It is doubtful if China would seriously pay heed to India's concerns. It will share data to the extent that it does not hinder plans to harness the vast reservoir of water resources in Tibet," a retired official of the Brahmaputra Board pointed out. "There are enough examples to cite from the problems faced by China's other neighbours."

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