- Mar 21, 2009
25 Apr 2010 8ak: External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna just back from Beijing has confirmed that Chinese authorities have told him that they are building a dam on the Tsang Po river which after its 1,600+km in China becomes the Brahmaputra river in India as it traverses from Assam in to Bangladesh. After years of deceitfully denying the existence of the project in the face of satellite images, the Chinese are now asking India to be thankful that they are sharing this information because they are under no obligation to do so. According to AsiaNews "...with this project China will directly control more than 90 thousand square meters of land the sovereignty of which is disputed between India and China."
The dam threatens the water security of 200 million people in India and Bangladesh. Another 60 million or so people are threatened by another Chinese mega-dam-project - the 66 storey high dam on the Mekong/Lancang River is being blamed for the drying-up of the river that then travels to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. See USA Today "China's Dams seen as water hogs". In 1995, these four countries set up the Mekong River Commission but without the participation of Myanmar and China, precious little can be achieved. China refuses to share hydro-graphical data with any of these nations.
And China is in no mood to stop building dams. In 2005 a Chinese water management expert had publicly stated that despite its ambitious projects, China's growth will be impeded by the shortage of 11 billion cubic metres of water annually till 2030. In fact, China has in the last 2 decades taken over the global dam building industry since it can ignore human rights and environmental concerns. According to JapanFocus: "We are aware of at least 216 dam projects in 49 countries which have some form of Chinese involvement – and counting. Chinese companies are currently building 19 of the world's 24 largest hydropower stations."
] Adding to the water security problem is China's water pollution record. According to a pollution monitoring blog, Scipeeps "70% of Chinese lakes and rivers are polluted, not to mention 90% of their groundwater (which constitutes most of the "potable" water people use for drinking, cooking, etc.) This pollution means that 320 million Chinese citizens have no clean drinking water." Last month itself the Chinese authorities admitted (Reuters report) that China's water pollution figures are double the previous estimates.
India itself is in a huge water crisis. In Aug 2009, 8ak covered a Science Mag report with a new satellite image showing a 2,000km swathe of water-table depletion from East Pakistan to Bangladesh with Delhi at the epicentre. The report stated "satellite remote sensing of a 2000-kilometer swath running from eastern Pakistan across northern India and into Bangladesh has put a solid number on how quickly the region is depleting its groundwater. The number "is big," says hydrologist James Famiglietti of the University of California, Irvine--big as in 54 cubic kilometers of groundwater lost per year from the world's most intensively irrigated region hosting 600 million people. "I don't think anybody knew how quickly it was being depleted over that large an area." Today, ToI reported that 5,000 people in Suncity Gurgaon have been without water for 10 days and the water situation in Delhi NCR and parts of Rajasthan are equally bad. A more detailed coverage of the scary water security in the Asian region by JapanFocus.
But wait there is more. Due to China's one-child policy female foeticide is rampant as it is in India, Pakistan etc. This has resulted in both India and China alone having roughly an excess of 40 million males in each country. This will feed frustration in the region and manifest itself through social unrest.
With India's military modernisation program virtually blocked under the trifecta of incompetence - defence governance, defence research and defence production, S. M. Krishna's words that India is closely monitoring Chinese activities provide no reassurance since there is little India can do. Any military retaliation would be suicidal and China's economic miracle gives it the opportunity to dole out developmental projects in poor/developing nations and buy their support in international forums. Another reason that it needs India to be bogged down by Pakistan/Nepal and to neutralise its quest for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
After a severe drought in India/Asia last year, a normal monsoon predicted this year means that a war over water is unlikely. But most people dont realise that it would take only a 2 to 3 year continuous drought to set the region in flames. If you read Jared Diamond's "Rise and Fall of Civilisations" this scenario has occurred frequently in human history and caught completely unawares people who lived during a long period of good rains.
We end with a quote from Paulo Coehlo "Save the Planet? The Planet is saying "Save yourselves idiots, I'll be fine".
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