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HomeCHINA'S STEALING SPYING AND OTHER CRIMINAL ACTINGChina's water hegemony policy a huge threat to neighboring countries.

China’s water hegemony policy a huge threat to neighboring countries.

Water stands as the paramount human resource, and China’s efforts to assert control over extensive water sources give rise to ecological, political, and human challenges.

The global scarcity of potable water, particularly in Asia, poses a significant risk for future conflicts. With only 2.5% of Earth’s water being freshwater, and Asia already facing critical water shortages, an MIT study warns that by 2050, the region may experience severe water scarcity. In this context, the competition for water resources becomes a potential threat to long-term peace and stability in Asia, with broader implications for human rights.

To address this imminent crisis, nations are taking measures to conserve fresh water and, in some cases, establishing themselves as global water hegemons. China, in particular, serves as a prominent example. Despite being a water-stressed country, China has invested heavily in water-based resources globally, impacting the environment and local populations. The construction of over 308 dams in 70 countries, generating 81 GW of power, has raised concerns due to environmental damage and displacement of millions downstream.

China’s influence on water resources extends to Central Asia, where its activities, such as dam construction and water diversions, pose threats to neighboring countries’ vital water sources. Additionally, China’s practices in Xinjiang, including energy, manufacturing, and agriculture, raise concerns about contamination of transboundary waters crucial for the region’s water security.

China’s geographical advantage, with six major Asian rivers originating within its borders, grants it control over upstream water resources. This position raises fears of water weaponization, as witnessed with dams on the Mekong River impacting downstream nations. China’s unilateral and maximalist approach to water management, prioritizing its own “water sovereignty,” hampers regional cooperation and puts downstream countries at risk, leading to ecological and human rights problems.

While China holds a substantial portion of the world’s freshwater in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, its underutilization for hydropower raises concerns about downstream impacts. However, as part of its 14th Five-Year Plan, China aims to increase dam construction, potentially intensifying downstream consequences.

Tensions in the Himalayas escalate over China’s dam projects on rivers flowing into India and Bangladesh, exemplified by the proposed Medog Dam near the Indian border. China’s potential control over water resources earns it the label of a “water hegemon.” Concerns also arise from China’s actions on the Brahmaputra River, with diversion and dam projects threatening downstream water availability.

China’s extensive investments in hydropower abroad, amounting to $114 billion in the past two decades, raise suspicions of neo-colonial ambitions to secure resources at the expense of other countries. Beyond geopolitical concerns, China’s water hegemony exacts an environmental toll, affecting ecosystems, biodiversity, and the well-being of local populations.

As China combines territorial expansion with water resource dominance, nations in South and Southeast Asia must reassess their water security strategies and collaborate to mitigate the potential threats posed by China’s actions.

The proposed Medog Dam, located near the Indian border, adds to the growing concern. This massive dam could significantly impact downstream countries like India and Bangladesh, potentially straining India’s water resources for agriculture. Conversely, mismanagement of the dam could lead to devastating floods in India, like the 2000 Tibetan dam burst that caused widespread flooding. Recent alterations in the Yarlung Tsangpo River’s flow due to landslides further highlight the unpredictable nature of the situation and the potential threat of “water bombs” unleashed by sudden changes.

Raising concerns for downstream neighbors, China has taken decisive action regarding the Brahmaputra River, a crucial water source for both Bangladesh and northern India. To fuel a large hydroelectric project in Tibet, China recently diverted the flow of one of the Brahmaputra’s tributaries, essentially cutting it off. This disruption adds to ongoing worries, as China is also actively pursuing the construction of a dam on another Brahmaputra tributary, potentially leading to a chain of artificial lakes within the river system. Both projects have the potential to significantly impact water availability and flow patterns downstream, prompting anxieties about future access and usage of this vital resource.

China’s extensive investment in hydropower abroad, totaling $114 billion in the past two decades, raises concerns about its motives. Critics argue that these investments, concentrated in resource-rich regions like Southeast Asia, are driven by a “neo-colonial” ambition to secure resources and materials for China’s own economic growth, often at the expense of other countries. This concern is further fueled by China’s dominance in the global hydropower market, with an estimated 70% share. The environmental toll of China’s water hegemony extends beyond the immediate geopolitical concerns, affecting ecosystems, biodiversity, and the well-being and human rights of local populations in the interconnected web of transboundary waters.

Strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellany observed how China’s territorial claims in the Himalayas and the South China Sea are paralleled by “stealthier efforts” to control water resources in shared river basins. Given this trend, countries in South and Southeast Asia face a potential threat from China’s combined strategy of territorial expansion and water resource dominance. It is therefore crucial for India and other affected nations, to re-evaluate their water security strategies and collectively plan for the future.

Read more on “Bitter Winter”

This post is based on the information of the magazine “Bitter Winter”

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