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Arunachal Floods -- Dam Breach in Tibet, China 'Hushed' It Up

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 00/07/11; July 11, 2000.]

Indian Express

Bombay - India

BEIJING, JULY 10: Confirming fears raised by the Arunachal Pradesh Government last week, a Chinese official today said a dam breach in Tibet did cause floods in northeastern India, claiming 30 lives and leaving more than 100 missing.

As first reported in The Indian Express, senior Arunachal ministers had rushed to Delhi to ask for relief. Minister of Home Kameng Dolo had said that the Centre should "take up the matter with China and ask them what exactly went wrong. Without the Centre's intervention, we are helpless."

Arunachal officials had said that the flash floods two weeks ago could be linked to the breach of a Chinese dam on the Tsangpo river.

An official of China's Water Resources Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region government in Lhasa told AFP today that the 60-m-high and 2.5-km-wide dam was actually not an artificial dam but a natural one, formed by a major landslide that occurred on April 9.

"That landslide, the biggest ever seen in Asia and the third biggest in the world, created a dam in a matter of eight minutes," said the official, who declined to be identified. He said the Tibet government spent over 60 million yuan ($7.2 million) to canalise the river but couldn't prevent the dam from collapsing recently.

He refused to elaborate and warned that Tibet was a very sensitive issue with Beijing. The landslide was not reported in the Chinese state media and apparently not explained to the Indian government.

Meanwhile, the Arunachal Pradesh government is still looking into the exact cause of the dam breach. "We strongly believe there could be artificial reasons for the river Siang to flood the hills," State Minister of Information and Public Relations Takam Sanjay told AFP. "The source of the Siang river is in China and we want the Indian government to get detailed information and investigate the matter in collaboration with their Chinese counterparts," he said. "Floods of this magnitude were never ever recorded in our history," he added.

The Tsangpo river, which originates in Tibet, flows into India and is called Siang in Arunachal Pradesh before it becomes the Brahmaputra. More than 50,000 people in five districts of Arunachal Pradesh were left homeless by the floods in the past two weeks, while several parts of the state were still cut off from the rest of the country. The death toll is estimated at 30. The Arunachal Pradesh government had put the estimated loss at more than $22.9 million.

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