Saturday, July 29, 2023

Water: It's A Problem Being Downstream From China

These are some big rivers.  Irrawaddy, Mekong, Brahmaputra and and...

From Nikkei Asia, July 24:

China dams make 'upstream superpower' presence felt in Asia
Enormous water diversion projects spark concern across region

Drought in China dried up parts of the Yangtze river last year – but the largest water transfer apparatus ever built still drew from it to supply Beijing’s needs.

More than a billion cubic meters flowed through the colossal South-to-North Water Diversion Project in 2022. It traveled from a reservoir in central China to millions of households in the capital 1,200 kilometers away. The journey, via underground tunnels and canals that cross the Yellow River, roughly equaled the distance between Amsterdam and Rome.

The movement highlights the scale of China’s measures to shore up water security – and the profound potential effects these have on neighboring countries.

    Many of Asia’s transboundary rivers originate in the Indo-Tibetan plateau in China. They flow into 18 downstream nations such as India, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh and Vietnam, delivering water to a quarter of the world's population.

That alone makes the world's second most populous nation an upstream superpower with enormous influence over irrigation of much of the continent. Projects such as building dams and hydropower plants potentially fuel existing regional political tensions – and create new ones.

This article is the first in a three-part series in which Nikkei Asia will explore the effects that the actions of upstream nations – exacerbated by climate change – have on countries downstream.

"These [measures] of course have created major concerns from the downstream countries, such as environmental concerns that have potential impacts on water resources and the ecosystems," said Dr. Hongzhou Zhang, a water specialist at Nanyang Technological University.

China’s problems are part of a growing global threat of water shortages. By 2030, half the world will face water stress or outright shortages, manifested primarily through food insecurity and access to electricity, the United Nations forecasts.

Asia, home to more than half the world's population, will feel the pressure most intensely because of the imbalance of demand and supply, according to the think tank Asia Society.

Countries that neighbor China – including India, Bangladesh and Vietnam – rely on the Third Pole, the area with the most glaciers outside Antarctica and the Arctic. It includes the Tibetan Plateau and the surrounding Hindu Kush Himalayan mountain ranges....


We've looked at different aspects of what's up with Asian H₂O, hydrology, geopolitics, industry and agriculture previously:

 "China Is Weaponizing Water"
If demography isn't destiny, geography might be.

"Mekong's falling water level riles China's downstream neighbors"

"Countries worldwide tackle water stresses"
More On China And Their Fetishization of Sand
"Himalayan dams become economic burdens"
"Laos the latest China debt trap victim "
"China’s plans for gigantic Brahmaputra dam strains relations with India further"
"China Eyes Hydropower Projects Around The World"