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The Brahmaputra Basin

The Mekong River Basin

What Is Going On Today

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“The battles of yesterday were fought over land. Those of today are over energy. But the battles of tomorrow will be over water.”

--Brahma Chellaney, Journalist

 

Introduction


The United Nations’ World Health Organization names water as “an essential resource for life and good health.”  But in many parts of the world, water is growing scarce due to industrialization and damming. 


Third in its glacial supply of water only to the North and South Pole, the Tibetan Plateau and its future is an imminent issue in the world today. Recently dubbed the "Third Pole," the plateau is home to the headwaters for 10 major rivers. Flowing to about 20% of the world’s population, these rivers cross borders and provide the livelihood of billions of people.  Major riverhead sites include the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Yellow, and Yangtze rivers.  These rivers flow to the regions of South Asia, South East Asia, and East Asia, totally providing water to 1.3 billion people (see table below).  Because of this important role in the region, what happens to Tibet and its rivers will determine the future stability of this whole area.  Today, however, due to global warming and increased damming of these rivers by the Chinese government the likelihood of these rivers continuing to flow freely is in jeopardy.

Considering Tibet’s precarious status in the world today, and the plans of the Chinese government for these rivers, this issue will be explosive and have lasting, international consequences.

The table below shows the major rivers in the region, how large they are and how many people they effect.

River

Basin Area (sq.km)

Human Population in the Basin

Brahmaputra

651,335

118,543,000

Ganges

1,016,124

407,466,000

Indus

1,081,718

178,483,000

Irrawady 

413,710

32,683,000

Mekong

805,605

57,198,000

Salween

271,914

5,982,000

Yangtse

1,722,193

368,549,000

Yellow

944,970

147,415,000

TOTAL

6,256,233

1,137,836,000

source ICIMOD 2009

For the purpose of this Website I will cover two case studies, the Brahmaputra and Mekong River Basins.