Officials in Arunachal Pradesh East Siang district have issued an alert due massive discharge in the Tsangpo river in China following heavy rainfall in the neighbouring country. Originating in China, Tsangpo is called Siang once it enters India through Upper Siang district and then joins with two other rivers, Lohit and Dibang downstream to form the Brahmaputra. In a circular issued on Wednesday, Tamiyo Tatak, deputy commissioner of East Siang asked people living on both sides of the the river to remain alert “but not to panic”. The administration also asked residents not to venture into the river for swimming, fishing and other activities.
The circular says that as per reports sent to New Delhi by Beijing “due to heavy rainfall in Chinese portion, the Tsangpo river is swelling with observed discharge of 9020 cumec” at 8 am on Wednesday. This is stated to be the highest discharge in the river in 50 years. As per Central Water Commission, the quantity of discharge in the Tsangpo 15 days earlier on August 14 was 8070 cumec. Cusec or cubic metre per second is a unit of measuring water flow in rivers. A discharge of 9020 cumec would be equal to 9.02 million litres of water flow in the Tsangpo per second. “We have issued the circular as an advisory so that people are careful. But there is no reason to panic at the moment. We are in touch with officials in Upper Siang district and monitoring the flow of Siang,” Tatak told.
The East Siang district officials had issued another advisory last week asking people to refrain from entering the Siang as the flow of the river was fluctuating since the past two weeks “with unusual waves”. “Such big waves had never been seen on the Siang. The volume of water flow is the same but the river has become turbulent. Maybe it’s the result of heavy landslides in China affecting the flow of the river or an impact of some major construction activity,” Tatak said. Siang had been in the headlines for several months last year after the clear waters of the river turned turbid. Since October, the water in the river had become blackish with presence of large amount of clay and soil. This led to speculations in India that construction of a dam and tunneling work upstream could be responsible for the turbidity. A study by two Indian researchers after checking satellite imagery, however surmised that massive landslides caused by a series of earthquakes in Tibet was the reason for darkening of the Siang’s waters.