A portion of an embankment along the Sutlej River in Punjab crashed on Sunday due to heavy flow of water, The Indian Express reported. Subsequently, authorities put the Ferozepur district administration on high alert. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directed National Disaster Response Force teams to be kept on stand by.

Punjab officials have blamed Pakistan for the calamity.

“Pakistan has released water in huge quantity, causing damage to the embankment in Tendiwala village, and there is danger of flooding in some villages,” a government spokesperson said. “The district administration has announced evacuation in most sensitive villages along the Sutlej river as a precautionary step and deployed teams of the health department and food and civil supplies department.”

“Tendiwala is the last village on the border where Pakistan has released excess water via a creek,” Ferozepur Deputy Commissioner of Police Chander Gaind said. “Sutlej water first goes to Pakistan side and later comes back to India. Tanneries in Pakistan’s Kasur district release polluted water in this creek.”

Drainage Department Superintending Engineer Pawan Kapur said departmental teams are working to contain the damage to the embankment since Saturday.

Fazilka Deputy Commissioner of Police Manpreet Chhatwal also blamed Pakistan. “Eighteen villages of our district are affected and their geographical location is the reason for flooding as they are surrounded by Pakistan on three sides and there is little scope of water to drain out,” he said. “The pollution control department has taken samples of water coming from Pakistan to ascertain what pollutants are coming through the water.”

Water as a weapon

This comes days after Pakistan accused India of using water as a weapon amid the Kashmir dispute. Relations between the two countries have worsened after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

Islamabad had accused New Delhi of waging “fifth-generation warfare” and alleged that the unexpected release of water into the River Sutlej that flows from India to Pakistan was an attempt by India to flout the longstanding Indus Water Treaty between the two countries. India said that according to the treaty, advance information needs to be given in a situation when “extraordinary discharges of water from reservoirs and flood flows” could harm the other party.

Earlier in February, India had decided to stop its share of excess water that used to flow to Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 had said “blood and water cannot flow together” after suspending a meeting on the Indus Water Treaty.

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