Is China Stealing Everyone's Water?

Discussion in 'China' started by ajtr, Aug 24, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    China's Water Grab

    Forget the South China Sea. If America really cares about strengthening its presence in Asia, it'll focus on the Mekong River instead.

    In recent weeks, the United States has taken some assertive steps in the South China Sea -- and Beijing is watching anxiously. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an explicit move away from the administration's usually conciliatory tone when she declared in late July that it would be in America's "national interest" to help mediate the disputes among China and several other Asian countries over islands and maritime rights in the sea. Then, on July 22, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the United States would resume ties with Indonesian special forces after a 12-year hiatus, with the aim of eventually restoring full military-to-military relations. He also confirmed other collaboration with China's maritime rivals, including a series of multilateral military training exercises in Cambodia, joint U.S.-Vietnam naval exercises, and serious discussions with Hanoi on sharing nuclear fuel.
    It's clear that the United States is truly "back in Asia," as Clinton promised in January. But another, subtler regional push, one that's flown under the radar in Washington, has an even greater capacity to upset Beijing: America's interference in the Mekong River region. Clinton recently met with the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam and pledged $187 million to support the Lower Mekong Initiative, which has the stated aim of improving education, health, infrastructure, and the environment in the region. It doesn't have the same firepower as military training exercises -- but privately, several Chinese Ministry of National Defense officials have told me that they believe this new, softer approach in the Mekong has the potential to achieve something that all the naval partnerships in the world cannot.

    The 2,700-mile-long Mekong River begins on the Tibetan plateau and runs from Yunnan province in China through Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. China has built three hydroelectric dams on its stretch of the Mekong (called Lancang in China) and will complete a fourth dam in 2012. At the moment, water levels of the lower Mekong are at record lows, threatening the livelihood of an estimated 70 million people in the countries south of China, where subsistence agriculture supports a large majority of the population. These countries blame Beijing for damming up water to benefit Chinese citizens while people downstream are starving.

    There is no conclusive proof that the Chinese dams and water policies are responsible for the low water levels downstream, but Beijing's refusal to allow extensive inspection of its activities in the Lancang -- as well as its disdainful attitude toward the smaller complainants -- hasn't reassured the smaller countries that they're being treated fairly. They fear a future in which their access to water will be controlled by China's Ministry of Water Resources.

    Beijing can be disdainful and bullying toward smaller countries when it comes to its own interests, as observers of Mekong River politics will confirm. But China's approach in much of Asia is basically a hearts-and-minds one. It is a major distributor of cheap, no-strings-attached loans to other Asian governments, especially to those countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand, that are occasionally drifting away from Washington's embrace. Its diplomats are the most numerous and hardworking in all of Asia, spreading a form of regionalist "Asian values" that is specifically designed to exclude American influence. Political officials and strategists in Beijing increasingly talk about a bottom-up approach to regional supremacy, using economic and cultural arguments to persuade Asian elites that Chinese leadership is the sure and benign path to regional prosperity in the future -- not American partnership.

    Because of this, Washington's willingness to get involved in the Mekong River dispute could create an almost perfect counterweight to China's strategy among the tens of millions of people dependent on the river for sustenance. Political elites in almost every Asian country (exceptions include North Korea and Burma) are predisposed to prefer American power over China. However, these days people are increasingly wondering what's in it for them. While there have been over 40 bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements signed between Asian states, including a China-ASEAN pact that was activated this year, America has concluded and ratified only one, with Singapore. This is why America's ability to keep Beijing in check over the Mekong River could remind millions of ordinary Asians that U.S. primacy in the region still matters, that American diplomatic clout and military presence has maintained the peace in Asia and kept vital sea lanes safe and open for commerce for decades.

    Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage often counseled that "getting China right means getting Asia right." Strengthening alliances with countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia is still the most important part of this strategy. Establishing new security partnerships with countries such as India, Vietnam, and Indonesia is also critical. But economic development and future prosperity is the region's top priority. For the tens of millions of Asians in these countries that depend on the Mekong River for their survival and livelihood, nothing matters more than a policy that addresses water rights.

    It is still too early to say whether Barack Obama's administration will pursue wholeheartedly its newfound interests in the Mekong. But lending America's weight to local "bread and butter" issues is a clever way for Washington to win millions of new friends in the region -- and keep one very eager competitor at bay.
     
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  3. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Wonder what will happen to the brahmaputra. Will India go to war with China to make sure there are no dams built that compromises indian interests?
     
  4. mayfair

    mayfair Elite Member Elite Member

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    One thing we must do is to rationalise our water resources management, such that such disruptions do not throw us completely off gear. This includes construction of small check dams and storage reservoirs involving local communities so that we efficiently harvest maximum available water in the catchment area of the major river basins. These objectives may be better realised by involving local communities who most depend on those resources. Once we have done that, we'll be on a much stronger wicket vis-a-vis China and Pakistan.
     
  5. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    What if there is no water coming from China, what will India manage. Its a question which India has to play out well.
     
  6. mayfair

    mayfair Elite Member Elite Member

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    My point is not all water originates from upstream glaciers. Rivers (perennial and non-perennial) as they flow towards the sea or to another river/lake gather plenty of water from rains in the catchment area and from their tributaries along the way. I am sure this is especially true in the case of Brahmaputra basin, a large chunk of which lies in high precipitation area. We must learn to manage this water at least.

    Plus, we have to be vigilant and assertive to ensure that we are not denied our rightful share by China. However, I do not trust our political leadership to accomplish anything worthwhile here.
     
  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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  8. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Govt action plan on user right

    Kalyan Barooah
    NEW DELHI, July 23 – Waking up to the threat of Brahmaputra river being diverted by China, the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) has asked Arunachal Pradesh Government to urgently allot one major storage project close to the international border, in each of the three river basins, as part of India’s action plan to establish its user right.
    In order to pre-empt any diversion of water by China there is an urgent need to establish existing user’s right of Brahmaputra River by taking up construction of storage projects on Siang, Subansiri and Lohit rivers originating from China, said Union Minister for Water Resources Paban Kumar Bansal in a letter to Congress Party’s Lok Sabha Chief Whip Paban Singh Ghatowar.

    The direction by the CoS to Government of Arunachal Pradesh follows a recommendation by the Inter-Ministerial Technical Expert Group (IMTEG), which was tasked to draw up an action plan to establish India’s user right.

    The recommendation, however, is at variance with Arunachal Pradesh’s policy of setting up run of the river projects in upper reaches of Brahmaputra River, which is being opposed by Government of Assam.

    However, reports of China working on a plan to divert Brahmaputra River prompted the Centre to set the IMTEG under a joint secretary in the Ministry of Power. The CoS, which is headed by the Cabinet Secretary, was assigned to look into the issue that has triggered major controversy.

    “Based on TEG’s report, the CoS has recommended that Government of Arunachal Pradesh should expeditiously allot at least one major storage project in each of the three basins including Subansiri, Siang and Lohit Basins as close to the international border as possible in order to formulate our existing user rights,” Bansal said.

    Further, an inter-ministerial group (IMG) constituted on the direction of the Prime Minister’s Office to evolve a suitable framework to guide and accelerate the development of hydro-power in the North-eastern region, has also recommended for the allotment of at least one storage project in upper reaches of Siang, Subansiri and Lohit Rivers, the MoWR added.

    The expert group is keeping a close watch on trans-border Rivers flowing out of China to India, he added.

    On the issue of setting up North East Water Resources Authority (NEWRA), the Minister admitted to some reservations by Arunachal Pradesh to the proposal. The high level group set up under the Minister of Water Resources has made all efforts to evolve a consensus on formation of NEWRA. The setting of the authority would, however, depend on the concurrence of Arunachal Pradesh, which is still pending.

    Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh has allotted 78 projects for hydropower development in Brahmaputra Basin with a capacity of 33,382 MW in all the sub-basins of the State, in addition to three projects with 2710 MW under development.

    The State Government has, however, been suggested to take up storage projects wherever feasible. Now, since the State Government has already allotted the projects in all the sub-basins there is little scope left for overall integrated planning of Brahmaputra Basins for optimal utilisation of water, Bansal said, expressing his ministry’s helplessness.

    On the impact of the Subansiri Lower Hydro Electric Project (SLHEP), the minister said the State-owned National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) is executing the main project with a live storage capacity of 442 MCM. It would afford some flood moderation, as the reservoir would be maintained at minimum draw down level during Monsoon season.

    About banning of up stream projects on Subansiri River, the Supreme Court last year on the recommendation of National Board of Wildlife has passed an order stating that ‘any proposal in the up stream of the river would be considered independently on its merit by the standing committee as and when submitted by the proponents’.

    In keeping with the order of the apex court, Arunachal Pradesh Government allotted Subansiri Middle Project (1600 MW) to Jindal Power Limited. Recently, the State Government has also allotted one Subansiri Upper Hydro Electric Project o KSK Energy Ventures, the minister divulged.

    The minister’s reply comes at a time when a controversy is raging in the State following the expert panel report calling for complete halt to all construction works on Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project site at Gerukamukh.

    An eight-member expert committee, constituted last year jointly by the Department of Power, Assam, NHPC and All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), found “gross inadequacy” in the design of the mega dam, as well as, its construction.

    The panel also recommended that the entire project was “redesigned” with sufficient reduction in dam height and production (power generation) capacity to minimise adverse economic (livelihood) and environmental impacts.
     
  9. gogbot

    gogbot Regular Member

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    The Diversion of water will not be so significant,
    Many of the river's tributaries that feed the river exist in India.

    Nothing to get worked up over. It's not idea but not so bad either.
    Worst case , we may need to invest more into irrigation to increase our efficiency of the rivers water.
     
  10. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    There is need to have river water sharing treaty on trans-boundary rivers.
     
  11. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    As long as run-of-the-river dams are built in China it shouldn't be a problem. But if dams are built in the scale of 3 gorges dam, then it can be a big problem.
     
  12. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    China's Water Grab



    Beijing can be disdainful and bullying toward smaller countries when it comes to its own interests, as observers of Mekong River politics will confirm. But China's approach in much of Asia is basically a hearts-and-minds one. It is a major distributor of cheap, no-strings-attached loans to other Asian governments, especially to those countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand, that are occasionally drifting away from Washington's embrace. Its diplomats are the most numerous and hardworking in all of Asia, spreading a form of regionalist "Asian values" that is specifically designed to exclude American influence. Political officials and strategists in Beijing increasingly talk about a bottom-up approach to regional supremacy, using economic and cultural arguments to persuade Asian elites that Chinese leadership is the sure and benign path to regional prosperity in the future -- not American partnership.

    Because of this, Washington's willingness to get involved in the Mekong River dispute could create an almost perfect counterweight to China's strategy among the tens of millions of people dependent on the river for sustenance. Political elites in almost every Asian country (exceptions include North Korea and Burma) are predisposed to prefer American power over China. However, these days people are increasingly wondering what's in it for them. While there have been over 40 bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements signed between Asian states, including a China-ASEAN pact that was activated this year, America has concluded and ratified only one, with Singapore. This is why America's ability to keep Beijing in check over the Mekong River could remind millions of ordinary Asians that U.S. primacy in the region still matters, that American diplomatic clout and military presence has maintained the peace in Asia and kept vital sea lanes safe and open for commerce for decades.

    Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage often counseled that "getting China right means getting Asia right." Strengthening alliances with countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia is still the most important part of this strategy. Establishing new security partnerships with countries such as India, Vietnam, and Indonesia is also critical. But economic development and future prosperity is the region's top priority. For the tens of millions of Asians in these countries that depend on the Mekong River for their survival and livelihood, nothing matters more than a policy that addresses water rights.

    It is still too early to say whether Barack Obama's administration will pursue wholeheartedly its newfound interests in the Mekong. But lending America's weight to local "bread and butter" issues is a clever way for Washington to win millions of new friends in the region -- and keep one very eager competitor at bay.
    Beijing can be disdainful and bullying toward smaller countries when it comes to its own interests, as observers of Mekong River politics will confirm. But China's approach in much of Asia is basically a hearts-and-minds one. It is a major distributor of cheap, no-strings-attached loans to other Asian governments, especially to those countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand, that are occasionally drifting away from Washington's embrace. Its diplomats are the most numerous and hardworking in all of Asia, spreading a form of regionalist "Asian values" that is specifically designed to exclude American influence. Political officials and strategists in Beijing increasingly talk about a bottom-up approach to regional supremacy, using economic and cultural arguments to persuade Asian elites that Chinese leadership is the sure and benign path to regional prosperity in the future -- not American partnership.

    Because of this, Washington's willingness to get involved in the Mekong River dispute could create an almost perfect counterweight to China's strategy among the tens of millions of people dependent on the river for sustenance. Political elites in almost every Asian country (exceptions include North Korea and Burma) are predisposed to prefer American power over China. However, these days people are increasingly wondering what's in it for them. While there have been over 40 bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements signed between Asian states, including a China-ASEAN pact that was activated this year, America has concluded and ratified only one, with Singapore. This is why America's ability to keep Beijing in check over the Mekong River could remind millions of ordinary Asians that U.S. primacy in the region still matters, that American diplomatic clout and military presence has maintained the peace in Asia and kept vital sea lanes safe and open for commerce for decades.

    Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage often counseled that "getting China right means getting Asia right." Strengthening alliances with countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia is still the most important part of this strategy. Establishing new security partnerships with countries such as India, Vietnam, and Indonesia is also critical. But economic development and future prosperity is the region's top priority. For the tens of millions of Asians in these countries that depend on the Mekong River for their survival and livelihood, nothing matters more than a policy that addresses water rights.

    It is still too early to say whether Barack Obama's administration will pursue wholeheartedly its newfound interests in the Mekong. But lending America's weight to local "bread and butter" issues is a clever way for Washington to win millions of new friends in the region -- and keep one very eager competitor at bay.
     

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