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Breach in Tibet lake: China
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, August 12
The panic-stricken residents of 56 villages along the banks of the Sutlej were in for yet another tense night with the Chinese authorities informing the Government of India that a breach had started appearing in the Parchu lake blockade in Tibet and that it could give way any time.

Earlier in the day a ‘false’ alarm was raised by the government that the Chinese authorities had carried out a series of controlled blasts to release water which could enter the Indian territory within two to four hours. There was no reason to disbelieve as the information was given to mediapersons by none other than the Chief Secretary, Mr Shamsher Singh, around 1.30 pm. The flood water was expected to reach Sumdoh, where the Parchu enters the country, latest by 5 pm. However, till late evening, there was no increase in the discharge and it became evident that the information was incorrect.

Enquiries made by this correspondent revealed that the Chinese authorities had announced in the morning that the lake had started overflowing and the blockade could give way in four hours. In the meantime, information came from Kinnaur that the people living close to the border heard three blasts.

The government lost no time in pressing the panic button. Within moments, a message was flashed in five districts through which the river passes. Wireless messages were conveyed to all villages within 30 minutes and the rescue teams took positions to combat the disaster. The people, even those living well above the flood-warning zone, moved out of their houses in panic. Shopkeepers downed shutters in the main bazaar of Rampur.

However, it turned out to be false alarm. It came out that no blasts were carried out at the lake site and the blasts that some people claimed to have heard were conducted for making road. In fact, the Chinese authorities had informed that its team could not make it to the site and fell short by about 500 m because of the difficult terrain.

The people heaved a sigh of relief, but just when they thought that the nightmare was over, came the news of the breach appearing in the blockade. Despite the false alarm and discrepancies, the government could not discount the information being given by the Chinese authorities.

The latest data regarding the status of lake puts the depth of the lake at 45 m, as many as 10 m more than the information given on August 9. The inflow of water had come down from 40 to 35 cubic metre per second (cumecs) and the outflow was at the same level at 7 cumecs. The total quantity of water accumulated in the lake had increased from 80 to 84 cubic million metre. Concerned over the prevailing uncertainty and the panic being caused due to lack of authentic information from China, the state government today urged the Centre to take up the matter strongly with the Chinese authorities and make them agree to allow the visit of an Indian team to inspect the lake site. It impressed upon the Centre that there was panic all around and people were reeling under the threat of flood. Such situation could not be allowed to continue. The threat could subside only after an Indian team inspected the site and gave first-hand assessment of the flood threat as also the measure to be taken to handle the crisis.

The Union Cabinet Secretary, Mr B.N. Chaturvedi, immediately convened a meeting to take stock of the situation. It was attended by the Secretary, External Affairs, and other senior officials. It was decided that Mr Chaturvedi would himself monitor the situation on daily basis.

Meanwhile, the false alarm turned out to be mock drill to test preparedness of the disaster-management mechanism put in place by the government .The wireless network was tested. The ITBP strengthened its rescue teams at Sumdoh, Juri, Rampur, Powari, Thangi, Morang and Khab on the request of the administration. The maximum strength had been deployed at Rampur.

Mahesh Chander Sharma adds from Sundernagar: With the spread of news of controlled blasting at Parchu lake in Tibet the various project authorities and officials of the district administration of Mandi and Bilaspur districts have once again sounded alert and started removing the local residents from the banks of the Sutlej in which a flashflood is expected .

The news of a controlled blast at the lake was confirmed by officials of the district administration, the BBMB and the Kol Dam authorities. The authorities also confirmed that rise in the water level was not recorded more than half feet.

The Kol Dam authorities have started moving machinery out of two diversion tunnels and the manpower from the banks of the river to higher places.

Many senior BBMB officials were seen visiting the 990-MW Dehar Power House at Slapper. It is learnt that if the water level rises the gates can be closed any time so that the water does not enter the power house.

The district administration has set up a control room at Mandi. The SDM and the Tehsildar, Karsog, have been camping at Tatapani and Phernu to monitor the situation.
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