Raging Sutlej threatens Kinnaur
Pioneer News Service, 28 June 2005 / Rinku Ghosh / Simla/ New Delhi

Note: India's river Water and flodding is under China's control. This is too dangerious for India and must not be toletated, and should be corrected by India by getting control over the land where these lakes reside, namely the Tibet.

The overflowing Pare Chu in Tibet left a trail of destruction in the Kinnaur valley of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday even as Kinnaur was on full alert. The torrent washed away five bridges over the Sutlej and damaged key bridges in areas near the Nathpa-Jhakri hydro power.
The Pare Chu peril- Jagdish Yadav/ Pioneer

Among the worst affected is the commercial town of Rampur, where the swollen Sutlej has broken banks and left many homeless. Two villages of Jango and Lio have been washed away but there has been no loss of human lives because the evacuation process started just in time.

Whether the situation could get worse is not immediately known. The Government is not sure whether the surge of water is overflowing from the artificial lake formed on the Pare Chu or whether its walls have been breached. It expects a satellite picture of the site on Monday. The lake is perched atop an inaccessible valley making a spot visit difficult.

The artificial lake has been holding an expanding mass of water since August 2004. It is believed that glacier melting, exacerbated by an unusually hot summer, and followed by incessant snowfall has caused the artificial lake on the Pare Chu to either overflow or breach. The peaks around Chitkul village close to the Indo-Tibetan border received a fresh coat of snow as late as June 12. The waters of the Sutlej had been rising for the past three days.

The Centre's Crisis Management Group, chaired by Cabinet Secretary BK Chaturvedi, held an emergency meeting of top officials here after large parts of the valley were put on alert. A close vigil is being maintained at Kinnaur, Rampur, Bilaspur and Mandi districts of the State. Army helicopters are on stand-by in Chandigarh. The Centre has also rushed two companies of the specialised disaster management force.

"The alert comes because of a sudden rise in water level of river Pare Chu," Home Secretary VK Duggal said in New Delhi. "The levels shot up to about 50 metres but have now stabilised at 30 metres," he said. At least 4,500 people were evacuated during the day. "There has been no loss of life yet," he said.

The Centre is co-ordinating with the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) and Indo Tibetan Border Force (ITBF) for evacuating people believed to be at risk from the rising waters.

As a precaution all the six power generation units of the 1,500 mw Nathpa Jhakri hydro power project along the Sutlej and its tributaries were shut down on Saturday. The gushing waters have also brought with it several tonnes of silt down the Sutlej, raising the silt content in the river to 8,000 particles per ml (PPM). The desilting chambers of the hydropower units are capable of handling only 5,000 ppm. This is a second time in a week that the plant has been forced to shut down, affecting power supplies within the state and to the Northern Grid. Had the plant not been shut down yesterday, it could have been severely damaged today.

A crucial bridge linking Rampur to Kinnaur has been severely damaged at Jagatkhana, snapping this town's lifeline with northern parts of Himachal Pradesh. According to Kinnaur SP Arvind Sharda, the Pare Chu overflow has washed away four bridges upstream of Sutlej ahead of the district headquarters town of Reckong Peo towards Pooh, and one downstream near Karchham. These bridges were crucial supply and link lines to Kinnaur.

Senior police officials say that the Pare Chu level has stabilised after the flooding though IAF helicopters are patrolling the banks of the Sutlej and the highway to Kinnaur has been closed.

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