Tsangpo blocked, 6000 evacuated, Catastrophe feared

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Around 6,000 people have been evacuated following a landslide in Tibet that blocked the flow of one of the region’s key rivers, China’s emergency services said Thursday.

A barrier lake was formed on the Yarlung Tsangpo, the headwater of India’s Brahmaputra River, following the Wednesday morning collapse of a cliff in the deep valley through which the river flows, the local emergency response bureau said in a report carried by state media.

No deaths or injuries have been reported and the bureau said China has been keeping India updated on the blockage, which could potentially affect water levels in lower regions.

The landslide struck near a village in Menling County and water in the lake had risen to a height of 40 meters (131 feet) by Thursday, the bureau said.

With its towering peaks and glaciers, Tibet is the source of numerous Asian rivers, adding to China’s strategic influence over its southern neighbors. Fast rising temperatures have caused those glaciers to melt at an increasing pace, throwing a shadow over future water resources for China and other Asian nations.

Meanwhile Arunachal East MP Ninong Ering has alleged that landslides in China, which have blocked the Milin section of the Yarlung Tsangpo river (sometimes called Yarlung Zangbo), since the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday will have an impact on the lower reaches of the river in India.

Yarlung Tsangpo becomes phenomenally wider and is called the Siang downstream from Arunachal Pradesh. After reaching Assam, the river is known as Brahmaputra.

In a letter written to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and MoS water resources Arun Ram Meghwal, Ering apprised them of the current situation and said that the Chinese side is closely monitoring the situation. He also asked the Central government to proactively engage with the Chinese authorities over the matter.

According to a report published in Seattle Times, China’s emergency services was quoted as saying that on Thursday around 6,000 people have been evacuated and shifted to safer locations after a massive landslide in Tibet blocked the flow of the region’s main rivers.

The local emergency response bureau, in the report, said that a massive barrier lake was formed on the Yarlung Tsangpo following the collapse of a cliff through which the river flows. The landslide occurred near a village in Menling County in Tibet and water level in the lake has risen to a staggering 40 metres by Thursday.

The current situation of rivers along Yingkiong, Pasighat and Tuting in Arunachal Pradesh is also grim, and are drying up rapidly due to the blockade of Yarlung Tsangpo river in China, Ering further alleged. “It will also pose big threats to downstream dwellers and ruin their lives forever,” he wrote.

With its towering peaks and glaciers, Tibet is the source of numerous Asian rivers, adding to China’s strategic influence over its southern neighbours. Fast-rising temperatures have caused those glaciers to melt at an increasing pace, throwing a shadow over future water resources for China and other Asian nations.

 

In 2006, India and China signed a pact under which China would share hydrological data for the Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers, both of which originate in Tibet. The agreement was renewed in 2013 and in 2015.

 

But after last year’s floods, there was speculation that China held back the data in retaliation for the 73-day military stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Doklam, a territory claimed by both China and India’s ally Bhutan.

 

 

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