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Are Main Rivers in Himalayas Under Threat?

If concerted efforts are not made to recover two missing radiation detectors in the Himalayan ranges, another Chernobyl could erupt, poisoning two of Asia's biggest rivers, a Japanese filmmaker has warned.

Yoichi Shimatsu, a former editor of Japan Times who now runs an independent documentary-making agency, is asking all SAARC countries along with China and Unesco to mobilise search and recovery operations on the slopes of Mt Everest and another Himalayan range, the Nanda Devi, to locate two radiation detectors planted there by Western governments to spy on China's nuclear programme.

The Ganges and the Brahmaputra are under threat from these devices, says Shimatsu, who was here to release his presentation on the misuse of scientific research on Mt Everest.

The first incident goes back to the 1960s after China conducted its first nuclear test in 1964, unnerving both neighbour India and the US, both of whom wanted to know what was happening on the other side of the bamboo curtain. New Delhi and America's CIA formed an alliance to plant a nuclear-powered sensing device on the Nanda Devi to intercept messages from China and spy on its missile launches.

CIA operators and accomplished mountaineers from the Indo-Tibet Border Police were entrusted with the mission, which however ended in a fiasco with the detector getting lost in the mountain. In 1968, the CIA and the Indian authorities launched a frantic search of the slopes to locate the sensor that contains plutonium, a highly radioactive element but were unsuccessful.

When news of the missing sensor became known, it created a furore in Indian parliament, forcing then prime minister Morarji Desai to make a detailed statement.

Though the Indian government says there is little danger of the plutonium breaking out of its protective sheath, Shimatsu says the menace can't be ruled out and once that happens, the waters of the Ganga, one of Asi
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