China and theDevelopment ofthe Mekong RiverJnani Pongpakatien, Aiwa Pooamorn, Thaniya Theungsang
Background• Critical shared resource between China (44% of Mekong = Lancang), Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam• Provide for the livelihoods of more than 80 million people• Chinas 7 planned hydropower stations: tap 60% of the flow of the river• Unilateral decision (Goh, 2009)
Is China thwartingattempts to ensurethat all riparian statesbenefit from thedevelopment of theMekong River?• Economic and Political Aspects• Ecological and Social Impacts• Conclusion
Economics• Chinas high demand for energy. Eight-dam Lancang cascade designed to produce 15,600 MW (Cronin, 2009)• Chinese state-owned corporations investing in hydropower development in Lower Mekong following a Build Operate Transfer model. Local gov will control dam only after 30 or 50 years. (Tao, 2012)• Many dams are silting up much faster than the 50-100 years originally anticipated (Cronin, 2009)
Politics• China’s own development of the river drives the logic of building more dams further downstream (Hirsch, 2011)• US Lower Mekong Initiative to counter Chinas influence (Hirsch, 2011)• China is not a member of the Mekong River Commission but is increasingly engaged as a dialogue partner• Bilateralism over multilateralism
Politics• China will be able to control the quantity of water released to downstream countries (Goh, 2009)• Worst affected states will be those furthest downstream, Vietnam and Cambodia.• Lack of any formal agreements means that there are no safeguards in place
Ecological• variety species endemic to Mekong threatened to be extinct, less diversity, less food source• water level decreased, natural current altered, Tonle Sap floodplain less fertile• sediments locked up, less fertile land downstream for agriculture• saline water intrudes,vietnamese agriculture decline
Ecological (continued)• deforestation = severe irreversible damage to the ecosystem• Lifespan of the dam becomes much shorter than expected, about 20 years left (Cronin, 2010)• future pollution from future development eg. copper & bauxite mining etc.
Social• Subsistence-based living becomes hard for downstream; subsistence level fail, industrial level thrive• widening gap between the rich & poor• Chinese resettlement caused by Lancang dams (Goh, 2009)• authority suppress the data & local participation, local peoples voice not heard
Social [cont]• MRC is not being used as a voicing channel• China doesnt look basin-wide, their EIA focus only on impacts within its territory -- >disproportional impacts (Goh, 2009)
Conclusion• Electricity generation and exports, commercial navigation, boost econ development• Environmental and human security = externalities?• Poor channels for communication between China and LM states• LM states cannot challenge China directly o relative power (economics, military, etc.) o Chinese aid and investment (infrastructures)
Is China thwarting attempts to ensure that all riparian states benefit from the development of the Mekong River?
•Conclusion II• In general, yes o Even with the political interests for soft power... o And China does bring in investment in SEAsian countries... o Economic interests - such as electricity generation paramounts o Revenue generated do not go to the local people in the most part o Irreversible ecological impacts
References• Cronin, R. (2009). Mekong Dams and the perils of peace. Survival, 51(6), 147-160.• Goh, E. (2004). China in the Mekong River basin: the regional security implications of resource development on the Lancang Jiang. Singapore: Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies.
• Hirsch, P. (2011). China and the Cascading Geopolitics of Lower Mekong Dams. The Asia Pacific Journal, 9(20).• Tao, Z. (2012). The Inadequacies of Chinese Overseas Investment Regulations: A Case Study of the Myitsone Dam, Myanmar. Retrieved from http://www.icird.org/2012/files/papers/Zu o%20Tao.pdf
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