China’s Water Bomb in Himalayan Region
China is home to about 20% of the world’s population and has only 7% of its water resources. Its southern regions are water-rich, in comparison to the water-stressed northern part. It has an ambitious plan to link its south and north through canals, aqueducts and the linking of major rivers to ensure water security.
In pursuit of these goals, China being an upper riparian state in Asia, has been blocking rivers like Menkong affecting S-E Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Similarly, Chinese projects in the Himalayas region have only recently begun to operate amid protests from India. There are now multiple operational dams in the Yarlung Tsangpo basin with more dams commissioned and under construction.
Yarlung Tsangpo is the upper stream of Brahmaputra’s .These constructions present a unique challenge for Indian policy planners.
First, they will eventually lead to the degradation of the entire basin. Massive amounts of the silt carried by the river would get blocked by dams leading to a fall in the quality of soil and eventually a reduction in agricultural productivity.
Second, the Brahmaputra basin is one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive zones.
Thirdly, the location of dams in the Himalayas poses a risk. Seismologists considered the Himalayas as the most vulnerable to earthquakes and seismic activity. The sheer size of the infrastructure project undertaken by China poses a significant threat to the population living downstream.
Similarly, during the 2018 Dokkan border stand-off between India and China, later stopped communication of water flow level from its dams. This effectively rendered India blind to floods during the stand-off.
To conclude, Chinese dam projects on the Brahmaputra are a threat to the lives and livelihoods of and downstream population.