In yet another attempt to draw the attention of the Central government, Lok Sabha member from Arunachal East Ninong Ering has written to Union MoS for Water Resources Arjun Meghwal for revisiting water ties with China.
He said India once again faces the threat of an impending water war from China. The two countries have always faced tension over the Brahmaputra (downstream of Yarlung Tsangpo in China) that originates in Tibet, the ‘water-tower of Asia’.
Ering wrote that in the past decade, tensions often escalated between the two countries in their bid to maximise the hydroelectric power extracted from the river basin. Recently, a China-based news agency released a report stating that China plans to build a 1,000 km long tunnel (set to record as the world’s largest) between the geologically fragile Tibet and the region of Xinjiang province, with the aim to supply Tsangpo’s (Siang in Arunachal) water to the latter and turn it into ‘modern California’.
“Chinese officials were quick to refute the existence of such a project, especially since it proclaims devastation for the north eastern region of India, especially Assam and Arunachal Pradesh including Bangladesh which is heavily dependent on this river economically as well as ecologically. However, if history is any indicator, the country has carried out its hydrological projects unabashedly, leading to great devastation in countries like Vietnam which was agriculturally dependent on the Mekong River,” Ering said.
In such a scenario, there is a greater need for a diplomatic intervention, which can ensure that India doesn’t find itself holding the shorter end of the stick at the end of this ambitious project. North East India has faced great repercussions over the disturbed ties between the two countries in the form of Assam floods (when India didn’t receive Brahmaputra’s hydrological data from its upper riparian neighbour) or the border tensions in Arunachal Pradesh when China tried to rename places in the region. But the time has come when North East India gets a greater say in the matter over the water relations of the two countries. The government of India cannot ignore the threat that China poses and should strive to make the North East less dependent on water from the Brahmaputra, which is currently yielded as a weapon by our northern neighbour, Ering noted.
In this regard, Ering gave a few suggestions to resolve the matter by signing a treaty with China to limit them from tarnishing the ecological identity of the river Siang/Brahmaputra/Yarlung Tsangpo. This treaty would entail a cap on the number of projects the two governments could carry out on the river, he felt.
“China is also not a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, for it limits the hydropower capabilities of the country as the convention calls for “equitable sharing” of water. Diplomatic pressure must be mounted on China and Bangladesh can emerge as a great ally in this for its interests aligned with India on this matter,” Ering said.
In the same vein, Ering added that the North East is one of the biggest buyers for Chinese goods. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry can impose a trade embargo which can limit the economic trade between the two countries (in the region) in case of a water dispute.