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The Rediff Special/ Nitin Gogoi
Army suspects Chinese hand behind flash floods in N-E
The army has asked the defence ministry to take up with Beijing the matter of recent flash floods in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
Army authorities from the eastern command headquartered in Calcutta, suspect that the floods were triggered off after a dam burst on the Chinese side in early June.
Army officials suspect that the Peoples Liberation Army of China may have blasted the dam to experiment the impact of flash floods in the sensitive north-east and to study the damage such a flood may cause on the Indian side.
The potential to cause damage, officials concede, is enormous as the flash floods, besides destroying property, crops and leaving over 26 people dead, washed away three strategic bridges -- Sagarm, Dite Dimea and Nubo -- all considered crucial from the defence point of view.
The floods mainly affected the four districts of East Siang, Upper Siang, West Siang and Dibang valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
The flash floods in Arunachal Pradesh have left experts clueless, with puzzled ministry of water resources officials not ruling out the defence implications, even while trying to figure out the cause of the floods, which are considered unprecedented.
Although news of floods in distant north-east may not be hot for Delhi, the flash floods that hit the border state of Arunachal Pradesh in June has made officials at the Central Water Commission and the MWR sit up and take notice.
As officials pore over the technical data, a new dimension that the Chinese Army in Tibet, as part of an experiment, may have deliberately blasted the dam has been added to the already hazy picture.
According to Nabam Rebia, member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh, puzzled by the nature of the floods and the equally mysterious response of China, the Government of India's remote sensing agency hired a Canadian satellite to take a close look at the scene of the breach. Top officials who confirmed this said, "All the technical details and pictures from the area are with us now and confirm that a breach had taken place on a dam on the river Tsangpo leading to flash floods in the north-eastern region."
According to the official, who had seen the technical data, the flash flood occurred because of a breach in a dam located in an area pinpointed as latitude 30.15 degrees north by 94.50 degrees east, which falls in China controlled Tibet.
The Tsangpo river runs along 1625 km in Tibet, 918 km in India and 363 km in Bangladesh before falling into sea. In the north-east, the river is known as Siang in Arunachal Pradesh and Brahmaputra in Assam.
The theory that the breach may have serious defence implications has gained credence because of several inexplicable events. Sources claimed that the first unusual aspect was that the water level of Siang in Arunachal Pradesh recorded an increase of 30 metres within a span of less than 10 hours on June 11, a phenomenon considered unprecedented in the region.
Then came the response of Government of China to the floods. Interestingly, news reports from foreign news agencies quoted unnamed officials as confirming that a breach had indeed occurred in a natural dam on the river in Tibet. But when the MEA contacted China, it was conveyed that there had been no floods on the Chinese side of the Brahmaputra and instead the occurrence of floods on the Indian side was attributed to natural causes, Minister of State for External Affairs Ajit Panja revealed in Parliament last week.
The next unusual event was when a German construction company, Lurgi, that specialises in dam construction claimed on its website that it had built a pendulum dam in the area under adverse conditions. However, the item was mysteriously withdrawn soon after the floods occurred and all attempts made by the MWR were stonewalled by the company, sources disclosed.
If the German company's claim that it had built the dam was true, then it contradicts the version of a Chinese engineer who was quoted as having said that the dam was natural, and was created by soil erosion. The same engineer further stated that the dam was breached following rain in the area and despite massive attempts to canalise the river it could not be saved.
Sources said they have to take all this very seriously because it is also the area where the Siang hydel project is coming up. The impact of such a flood on the multi-purpose project has to be now factored in. In all, the Centre proposes to spend about Rs 250 billion on three multi-purpose projects in the area, official said.
Sources said a team of officials drawn from various fields, including the CWC, was going through the entire sequence of events and the technical data now in their possession to figure out what exactly happened.
Meanwhile, the Arunachal Pradesh government has drawn the attention of the central government to the sudden floods that have left the state devastated, urging it to take up the issue with China.
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