Lancang River dams prove more beneficial than critical Western voices expected

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/13 22:08:39

Despite the persistent concerns expressed about China's exploitation of the Lancang River in the upper reaches of the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, China's dams have proved to have no detrimental impact on water security in the downstream countries. China will continue its efforts to enhance coordination with Southeast Asian countries, and regional cooperation along the river could be taken as a reference for other countries, India and Bangladesh included, to resolve disputes with China over water-resource exploitation.

The Mekong River Commission, an intergovernmental organization whose members include Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, said recently that "Chinese dams do affect water flows in the Lower Mekong Basin, generally reducing the flow during the wet season and increasing it during the dry season." It was a rare statement made by the downstream countries to respond to queries about China's exploitation of the Lancang River.

Western media outlets often criticize China's dams for retaining water to generate electricity while posing a serious threat to Southeast Asia by causing water scarcity in downstream countries - the commission's statement offers a strong answer to such views.

It is not easy to resolve disputes among countries that share transboundary rivers, but the scenario on the Lancang-Mekong River has shown that hydroelectric dams are not necessarily a bad thing for downstream countries. The key point is to enhance coordination and collaboration on water-resource exploitation and information sharing. For instance, the release of water from China's dams in the upstream region eased the drought afflicting some Southern Asian countries in 2016. This shows that the coordination mechanism among countries along the Lancang-Mekong River is effective. China should continue to improve the transparency of its water-resource exploitation in the Lancang River and share hydrologic information with downstream countries.

China is an upstream nation controlling the headwaters of several major transboundary rivers, including the Yarlung Zangbo River - upstream from the Brahmaputra River in India - where China's construction of dams is also a source of concern. It's no use blaming the Chinese dams, which aim to help with reasonable utilization of water resources. The best solution for resolving disputes between China and India over water-resource exploitation would be a cooperation mechanism to contribute to the sustainable use of the Brahmaputra River and to promote regional economic integration.

China is likely to adopt an open attitude toward sharing hydrologic information with India, but such goodwill gestures will only come in exchange for reciprocal cooperation from India.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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