Is China Polluting The Mighty Brahmaputra?

Posted by Basanta Nirola in GlobeScope
December 13, 2017

The Brahmaputra is facing the crisis of pollution in Assam. The 2,900 km long river, the lifeline of the region is in an extremely hazardous condition now. Suddenly, the water of the Brahmaputra River in Assam has turned muddy and has changed its colour. According to Himanta Biswa Sarma, “People have also reported cement mixture in water.” The Government of Assam is suspecting that dam building activities in China could be a reason for the pollution.

According to The Times of India, the Assam government raised its finger at China for the polluted Brahmaputra River. Also, according to this news report, a cabinet minister in Assam Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma said that dam building activities across the Indian border could be a reason for pollution of the Siang River in Arunachal Pradesh, which has now contaminated the Brahmaputra River as well. The Siang is the principal constituent of the Brahmaputra River. The minister also added, “The question is where this cement came from. Maybe, there is work on dam construction going on in China or, perhaps, an accident might have occurred in China.”

According to The Quint, the chief minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal asked that the Indian government take up the matter with Beijing. The Yarlung Tsangpo river originates in the Tibetan Himalayas and enters India as Siang in far-eastern Arunachal Pradesh state before flowing downstream to Assam as the Brahmaputra. The river finally empties into the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh.

Reporting on the issue, The Indian Express highlighted that Ninong Ering, Congress MP from Arunachal Pradesh, had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had said that China’s construction of a 1000-km tunnel to divert water from the Brahmaputra had seriously affected the quality of the river. The MP stated in his letter that the water had become ‘thick’, ‘black, ‘muddy’ and ‘cement-like’ as it entered India; he also asked the Prime Minister to take ‘immediate action’ in this regard.

Meanwhile, Colonel Vinayak Bhat (Retd) also claims that China may be using a secret tunnel to divert Brahmaputra water into a desert in China, in an article for The Print. He also released satellite pictures where he firmly added that satellite images clearly show stone crushers and cement plants at the site. The products of this facility are obviously used inside these tunnels for construction purposes.

Whatever the reason for pollution in the water of Brahmaputra River, it will have a long-term ecological and environmental impact on the entire Brahmaputra valley. It should also be our responsibility to take necessary action to keep the river pollution free.  If we find a single proof against China, it will become the government’s responsibility to see how the problem should be tackled. Here comes the responsibility of the central government to resolve the problem, probably through diplomacy.

The Assam government should approach the Centre in this regard, following which the Centre should take up the issue with China. It can also be said that the national media is hardly covering the issue. So, we the people of Assam ask the national media to take some time out of the Gujarat elections, be a little more concerned and stand for the people in times of need.


Image source: Parag Sankhe/ Flickr