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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

China to dam its way to power over Asia?

September 14, 2010

Tibetan Review
September 11, 2010

To wean itself off dirty coal energy, China has
launched an ambitious new program of hydropower
expansion. The goal is to raise its exploitation
of national hydropower potential from one-third
to 60% by 2020. And the best hydropower locations
are almost all in the Tibetan plateau, noted
Steven Solomon, author of WATER: The Epic
Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization, in
an article on www.forbes.com Sep 9.

And as Asia gets more thirsty under the effects
of relentless global warming, it is China which
through its political control of Tibet lords over
the commanding heights of the continent’s water
towers. And the country is moving aggressively --
and unilaterally -- to exploit them for its own ends, according to Solomon.

The headwaters of the mighty rivers Yangtze,
Yellow, Mekong, Salween, Brahmaputra, Indus,
Sutlej, among others, all originate in the snow
packs and glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau, the
"water towers of Asia." More than 1.5 billion
people downstream depend upon its waters.

How China builds and manages its dams, and exerts
it power, will have a major impact on the
seasonal river flows, water quality and
ecosystems in the lower reaches -- and on the
food security, energy production, and political
stability of the nations there, Solomon feels.

In particular, he notes, India is warily watching
China build giant hydropower dams on the
Brahmaputra and worrying -- despite vigorous
dismissals by Beijing -- that China might divert
the river to supplement its gigantic South to North Water Diversion Project.

He expects that within 10 years China would open
the world's largest hydropower dam at the
Brahmaputra's great bend, feeding headlines about
Sino-India border disputes. He expects the
Geostrategic balances by then to tilt in China's favour.

Solomon notes that cooperation can offer positive
sum benefits like providing cheap, renewable
regional hydroelectric power and evening out the
wide, monsoonal variations in river flows. China
wants to be viewed as cooperative and is moving
in the right direction by sharing data and other
gestures. But the big question, he says, is
whether it is moving far and fast enough.

But the bigger danger remains of the water towers
themselves starting to go empty due to the
effects of global warming, for then everyone will be in trouble.
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