By Santha Oorjitham
New Straits Times, May 25, 2011
Tension over precious water resources in Asia is already rising, warns Brahma Chellaney in an interview with SANTHA OORJITHAM
Q: The Tibetan plateau supplies water to 47 per cent of the world’s population. How would you rate cooperation between upstream and downstream countries on managing water resources?
A: There are treaties among riparian neighbours in South and Southeast Asia, but not between China and its neighbours.
For example, the lower Mekong states of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam have a water treaty. India has water-sharing treaties with both the countries located downstream — Bangladesh and Pakistan.
There are also water treaties between India and its two small upstream neighbours, Nepal and Bhutan. But China, the dominant riparian power of Asia, refuses to enter into water-sharing arrangements with any of its neighbours.
Yet China enjoys an unrivalled global status as the source of trans-boundary river flows to the largest number of countries, ranging from Vietnam and Afghanistan to Russia and Kazakhstan.
Significantly, the important international rivers in China all originate in ethnic-minority homelands, some of them wracked by separatist movements. The traditional homelands of ethnic minorities, extending from the Tibetan Plateau and Xinjiang to Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, actually span three-fifths of the landmass of the People’s Republic of China.