The Brahmaputra continues to flow with its massive load of polluted water. The testing of the water, which is described even as ‘black’ or ‘blackish’ by people in responsible positions, has been repeated with water collected from 15 locations being sent to laboratories for testing. The familiar official stand on such matters (of pretending to be waiting for the results and then of refraining from making such results public) is much in evidence even in respect of the polluted waters of the Brahmaputra. Perhaps the only bit of gratifying information related to the river in its present condition is that the water treated in the water treatment plants of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) is free of pollution and fit for drinking. The one disconcerting and somewhat embarrassing facet of our assumptions relating to the pollution of the river is that Chi is solely responsible for what is happening to the water of the Brahmaputra. One bit of information that is doing the rounds is that Chi is building a 1,000-km long tunnel to divert Brahmaputra waters to the arid regions of Xinjiang, and that this is likely to be the reason for the waters of the Brahmaputra getting polluted and turning muddy. There are also allegations from certain quarters that toxic chemicals have been poured into the river to pollute its waters.
The Water is Still Muddy
It is quite tural that only a major power which is in a position to do anything with the waters of the Brahmaputra can be suspected of polluting the river. However, even if there are strong reasons to suspect that Chi is in some way responsible for polluting the river, there should have been irrefutable evidence marshalled before making any allegations in this regard. There are reasons to believe that the allegations have been made with good reason. Satellite pictures indicate that the construction of massive new dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet with an underground tunnel is the major cause of turbidity. The Exterl Affairs Ministry of India has raised the matter with Chi. But there are reasons to believe that this has been done without the homework necessary to make an undeniable and irrefutable allegation about Chi being responsible for polluting the Brahmaputra waters. On Wednesday, Chi denied plans to construct a tunnel to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra amid reports of highly polluted waters from its main stem Siang flowing into India. In response to questions about these reports on blackened, muddy waters with cement and sludge of the Siang river in Aruchal Pradesh, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, “I would like to point out that Chi’s position on the Eastern part of the Chi-India border is consistent and clear.” He refuted reports that the waters of the Brahmaputra may be polluted due to a tunnel being constructed on the Chinese side. “I have never heard of the project mentioned by the Indian side. It is hoped that the Indian side will not conduct unfounded speculation and reports,” he said in a written response to a question in this regard. It will be recalled that in October, Chi had denied reports of plans to build a 1,000-km long tunnel to divert Brahmaputra waters to Xinjiang, saying that the report was untrue. So, what we are left with now are the muddy waters of the Brahmaputra and a few related denials from Chi vis-à-vis its role in the pollution of the river. Experience should have taught us that Chi can be very prompt about denying allegations that are uncomfortable even though they may be true. That is precisely why India might have been better off delaying the charges made to Chi about the pollution of the Brahmaputra by a few days so that the Exterl Affairs Ministry would have had time to make its allegations completely watertight and totally irrefutable with satellite pictures of the massive dams and the underground tunnels being constructed.