China alerts India as 6,000 evacuated in Tibet after landslide blocks river

China has been keeping India updated on the blockage, which could potentially affect water levels in lower regions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 6:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 11:04pm

About 6,000 people have been evacuated following a landslide in Tibet that blocked the flow of one of the region’s key rivers, China’s emergency services said on Thursday.

A barrier lake was formed on the Yarlung Tsangpo, the headwater that feeds into India’s Brahmaputra River, after the Wednesday morning collapse of a cliff in the deep valley through which the river flows, the local emergency response bureau said in a report carried by state media.

No deaths or injuries have been reported and the bureau said China has been keeping India updated on the blockage, which could potentially affect water levels in lower regions.

The landslide struck near a village in Menling County and water in the lake had risen to a height of 40 metres (131 feet) by Thursday, the bureau said.

With its towering peaks and glaciers, Tibet is the source of numerous Asian rivers, adding to China’s strategic influence over its southern neighbours. Fast-rising temperatures have caused those glaciers to melt at an increasing pace, throwing a shadow over future water resources for China and other Asian nations.

China and India promise to keep peace on their border after last year’s Doklam stand-off

Last year India blamed China for breaking an earlier agreement to share hydrological data after floods in northeastern India left 3 million people stranded.

In 2006, India and China signed a pact under which China would share hydrological data for the Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers, both of which originate in Tibet. The agreement was renewed in 2013 and in 2015.

But after last year’s floods, there was speculation that China held back the data in retaliation for the 73-day military stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Doklam, a territory claimed by both China and India’s ally Bhutan.

The tide in relations between the two Asian giants turned this year after an informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan.

One of the two pacts reached at the end of the summit requires China to provide hydrological data during the flood season from May 15 to October 15 every year, and if water levels exceed mutually agreed limits during the non-flood season.

China accordingly issued India an early warning when water levels started to rise in the Tsangpo this August – its highest level in 150 years – giving the Indian authorities enough time to prepare and minimise flood damages this year.