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The Brahmaputra Basin

The Mekong River Basin

What Is Going On Today

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Geography

The Mekong River flows from Tibet to China, walking the borders between Burma and China, Burma and Laos, and Thailand and Laos, and travels through Cambodia and Vietnam discharging into the South China Sea.



Hydropolitics of the Basin

As a result of historical colonization and involvement in this region, it is not surprising that the river basin has experienced a lot of foreign involvement.  In 1949 the United Nations Economic Commission for the Far East established the Bureau of Flood Control, but shortly after Vietnam broke out in civil war.  Later, the Mekong Committee, also a UN commissioned organization was established.  Comprised of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and South Vietnam this later became the Mekong River Commission (MRC), as it is still known today.

Chinese involvement in the politics in the basin has been, for the most part, limited.  As a non-UN member until 1971, the People’s Republic of China had no role in the Mekong River Commission or its predecessor.  China’s role in the region, however, is important and its actions have already had effects on the downstream nations.  Opening talks with the MRC only in 1996, China has to date built two dams on the Mekong River, the Dachaoshan and Manwan dams both completed with no discussion with downstream countries.  The reasons behind China’s lack of cooperation are rooted in its domestic issues and geography.  With a huge population and growing need for resources, China has made unilateral decisions that may well provide water for its people, but have adverse effects on other nations.  China needs to make a change in how they view their role in the world.  With cooperation and consideration in the region, all parties may improve the lives of their citizens without the environmental degradation that China has already inflicted on the region.