Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu on September 7 passed the onus on the Adi society – people of the Siang valley – whether or not to build a barrage over river Siang.
Khandu’s comments came a day after he made a statement on the floor of the state assembly that China has decided to build a 60,000 MW dam project over river Siang in Tibet region and Government of India plans to construct a large barrage to ‘save’ Siang from potential hazards posed by the Chinese dam.
While attending the Banggo Solung celebrations at Mebo in East Siang district, he said that 30-40 years down the line people shouldn’t blame the leadership for not doing anything while China was building the mega dam.
Sharing reports of China proposing to construct a dam worth over 60,000 MW over river Siang in Tibet just before it enters Arunachal Pradesh, Khandu said while the Centre is responding to the development at its level, the concern of the state government is to save river Siang at all cost and also to keep its flow under control.
“History is witness that we cannot trust our ‘neighbour’. You never know what they can do. They can either divert the entire river flow drying up our Siang or release water at once causing unprecedented flood havoc downstream,” he said.
“The only solution to these threats,” Khandu added, “is that we too construct a barrage on the river Siang. While this barrage will save water from the tributaries within Arunachal to maintain the natural flow of Siang, it will also protect our land from flash floods. Hydropower generation is our secondary objective.”
Acknowledging the recurring land erosions by river Siang every monsoon in Mebo area as a major cause of concern, the chief minister said that construction of a ‘barrage’ on the river is the only viable option to tame its course and flow.
Khandu counted the massive losses caused by floodwaters of river Siang along the left bank in the plains of Mebo area.
“Couple of years ago, the all-important Mebo-Dhola road was breached. We constructed an alternate road. This too was eroded the next year. We then spent about Rs 35 crore through the department of water resources to construct flood protection structures. These too got eroded. The famous Daying Ering Wildlife Sanctuary on the right bank is also shrinking due to soil erosion. We need to find a long-term solution to the problem,” he said.
Khandu admitted that safeguarding a 23-km-long bank is not an easy task but the governments, both at the state and the Centre, are committed to make life easy for the 10-plus villages that bear the brunt of river Siang every monsoon.
He informed that the central government has asked the state government to submit a comprehensive plan for protection of both left and right banks as a single project. “The state government through WRD is working on it,” he said.
Meanwhile, hailing the Adi people for taking pride in their rich culture, Khandu reiterated his stand for passing on the heritage to the next generation without dilution. He urged the elders to encourage the young ones to participate in traditional practices and learn to speak their native languages, passed down since generations.
“Without our identity, we will be lost in the vast majority of people who have long lost their indigeneity,” Khandu added.
The celebration was also attended by Lok Sabha MP Tapir Gao, local legislator Lombo Tayeng, MLAs Kaling Moyong and Ninong Ering, advisor to CM Tangor Tapak, former ministers Roding Pertin and Bosiram Siram, former MLAs Ralom Borang and Tatung Jamoh, among others.