Brahma Chellaney: Water shortages pose a threat to Asia’s peace and stability
Freshwater is a life-supporting resource.
By digging deeper wells and overexploiting river resources, combined with irrigation subsidies, Asia is accelerating water resource depletion and environmental degradation.
TRANSBOUNDARY PROBLEM Water contamination until now has been mainly a domestic issue, as highlighted by the pollution problems affecting the Yellow River in China and the Ganges in India.
But the contamination of the Siang signals that this problem is becoming a transboundary issue.
Beijing has withheld hydrological data from New Delhi on upstream river flows in 2017 in breach of two bilateral accords.
This undermined India’s flood early-warning systems during the critical monsoon season.
The region also exemplifies another important trend — that dams and democracy do not go well together.
Dam building has run into major grassroots opposition in Asian democracies like Japan, South Korea and India, driving up project costs and acting as a damper on hydropower expansion.
Indeed, China has become the global leader in dam building, boasting more large dams than the rest of the world combined.
Several other developments are also undermining Asia’s hydrological and climatic stability and fostering a cycle of chronic flooding and droughts.