As the conflict between India and China simmers, the Chinese media has accused India of disturbing the peace and tranquility near Pangong Tso by “inciting tussles” and increasing human activity which is also threatening the unique ecosystem of the high-altitude lake.
The Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto land border between India and China, also passes through the 134-km long lake.
Quoting a research paper published by the Indian government-funded National Center for Microbial Resource-National Center for Cell Science, a Global Times report states that increased human activities, especially from tourists staying in the villages near Pangong Tso, Ladakh, have led to an influx of nutrients allowing bacteria to prosper.
The study on the lake’s bacterial community structure indicated the impact of increased human activity in the contested region along the LAC. The Global Times claims that its reporter found out tents to accommodate about 10,000 people in the Maan village, near the lake.
Praveen Rahi, a researcher from the Centre, has told GT that samples for the research were collected in August 2016. The GT report highlights that at the time, there was less militarization in the region, but the situation has changed now due to the border stand-off.
Chinese researchers have also raised concerns over the fragile ecosystem of the lake. They claim that there has been a rise in water level in the lake due to climate change and melting of glaciers but they haven’t witnessed major changes on the Chinese side of the lake.
The GT report claims that Chinese researchers are worried that change on the Indian side would jeopardize China’s efforts to preserve the lake.
The Chinese media has accused India of increasing military facilities, building roads on the Indian side in the backdrop of the border stand-off. It also claims that India began construction of a military camp on Finger 3 in 2013 and 2014. Indian facilities were seen in satellite images near Finger 4 in 2020, it claims.
On the other hand, China started mobilizing troops along the lake with military vehicles, earth-moving machinery, and erection of structures starting from June last year, satellite images reveal.
— d-atis☠️ (@detresfa_) June 23, 2020
Pangong Tso is one of the friction points between India and China along the LAC. No disengagement of troops has taken place near the lake. Fingers 1 to 8 refer to mountain spurs from west to east on the north bank of Pangong Tso. Chinese troops have set up prefabricated huts, new tents, and makeshift storage facilities on Fingers 4 to 8.
Despite multiple rounds of diplomatic and military-level talks, the eight-month-long border standoff is unlikely to end anytime soon.