Water Wars? Thirsty, Energy-short China Stirs Fear

China’s decision to dam all the major rivers originating on the Tibetan Plateau has sparked anger and fear from residents of neighboring countries as they try to deal with a number of resulting problems. AP reports:

The blame game, voiced in vulnerable river towns and Asian capitals from Pakistan to Vietnam, is rooted in fear that China’s accelerating program of damming every major river flowing from the Tibetan plateau will trigger natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies, divert vital water supplies.

A few analysts and environmental advocates even speak of water as a future trigger for war or diplomatic strong-arming, though others strongly doubt it will come to that. Still, the remapping of the water flow in the world’s most heavily populated and thirstiest region is happening on a gigantic scale, with potentially strategic implications.

On the eight great Tibetan rivers alone, almost 20 dams have been built or are under construction while some 40 more are planned or proposed.

China is hardly alone in disrupting the region’s water flows. Others are doing it with potentially even worse consequences. But China’s vast thirst for power and water, its control over the sources of the rivers and its ever-growing political clout make it a singular target of criticism and suspicion.

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