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China Refuses to Share Hydrological Data as India Battles Floods

According to the 2006 India-China Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) on Trans-border Rivers, China is expected to share data with India from 15th May to 15th October each year.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:August 18, 2017, 8:09 PM IST
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China Refuses to Share Hydrological Data as India Battles Floods
A health official collects blood samples from a boy in a flooded village in Morigaon district of Assam, August 18. Image: Reuters
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New Delhi: Smarting under the One Belt One Road snub and the Doklam stand-off that has been on for over two months now, it appears China is finding other ways to niggle India. China has not shared crucial hydrological data with India during flood season this year.

According to the 2006 India-China Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) on Trans-border Rivers, China is expected to share data with India from 15th May to 15th October each year.

“At periodic levels, China is expected to share data with us. As per my knowledge, this year there has been no data shared by China,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

The hydrological data, especially with regards to Brahmaputra, is extremely crucial for the lower riparian State, India. Assam is reeling under unprecedented floods. West Bengal, Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, too, have been affected. It is during these tough times that data sharing can play a vital role. Though the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said it would be “premature to link the floods” in North East and preparedness on the ground with China withholding information.

There are two MoUs under ELM pertaining to Brahmaputra and Sutlej. In October 2013, the two governments decided to further strengthen cooperation on trans-border rivers. The joint-statement issued during the Prime Minister’s visit in May 2015 said, “The two sides will further strengthen cooperation through the Expert Level mechanism on the provision of flood-season hydrological data and emergency management and exchange views on other issues of mutual interest.” The last ELM meeting took place on April 12 and 13, 2016, in New Delhi.

Beijing’s attempts at building dams on the Brahmaputra or Yaluzangbu in China, ostensibly for hydroelectric projects, have also been of concern to India. The Zangmu hydroelectric project was fully operationalised in October 2015. According to reports, three more hydropower projects on the main stream of the Brahmaputra River in Tibet Autonomous Region were approved for implementation by the Chinese authorities.

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha in December 2015, Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said that the government was carefully monitoring all developments on the Brahmaputra River.
She said, “These four projects are considered to be "Run of the River hydroelectric projects". As a lower riparian State with considerable established user rights to the waters of the River, India has conveyed the views and concerns to the Chinese authorities, including at the highest levels of the Government of the People’s Republic of China. India has urged China to ensure that the interests of downstream States are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas.”

On the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Durban in March 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping had assured the then India Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, that Beijing was conscious of its responsibilities and the interests of the lower riparian countries. However, four years down the line, with several irritants cropping up in the relationship, China seems to have forgotten the promise that is crucial to safeguard the life and livelihood of people in India.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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