30: Turning off the Tap: Tensions between China and Downstream Neighbors over Dams and Drought

05.29.2020 - By The Belt and Road Podcast

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After a year of record breaking drought, the Mekong River water has level reached a historical low. Continued water stress, which is likely due to climate change, will permanently change the ecology of the region and water stress is already impacting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the region dependent upon the river. Proponents of hydrological dam development along the Mekong, which is primarily done by Chinese developers both in China and in downstream countries (Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam), have emphasized the potential for dams to regulate water flow. But recent conditions have raised questions as to whether dams have exacerbated current water stress and how dams could be differently managed to relieve drought conditions. They also have galvanized calls for stronger mechanisms for transnational information sharing and governance - China currently considers water management data a state secret and does not consult downstream countries about the management of its domestic dams. Brian Eyler of the Stimson Center and Alan Basist of Eyes on Earth discuss with Erik Myxter-Iino the growing upstream/downstream river governance issues that have arisen as a result and the future environmental, socioeconomic, and political challenges raised.

Read related articles:
1. How China Turned off the Tap on the Mekong River (Brian Eyler, Stimson Center)
2. Science Shows Chinese Dams are Devastating the Mekong (Brian Eyler, Foreign Policy)
3. Understanding the Mekong's Hydrological Conditions (Alan Basist & Claude Williams, Mekong River Commission)

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