Water Asia’s New Battleground

Mar 29th, 2013 | By | Category: Advocacy, Biodiversity, Books, Development and Climate Change, Environment, Information and Communication, International Agencies, Publication, Research, River, Vulnerability, Water

Water Asia New BattlegroundWinner of the Asia Society’s Bernard Schwartz 2012 Book Award

The battles of yesterday were fought over land. Those of today are over energy. But the battles of tomorrow may be over water. Nowhere is that danger greater than in water-distressed Asia.
Water stress is set to become Asia’s defining crisis of the twenty-first century, creating obstacles to continued rapid economic growth, stoking interstate tensions over shared resources, exacerbating long-time territorial disputes, and imposing further hardships on the poor. Asia is home to many of the world’s great rivers and lakes, but its huge population and exploding economic and agricultural demand for water make it the most water-scarce continent on a per capita basis. Many of Asia’s water sources cross national boundaries, and as less and less water is available, international tensions will rise. The potential for conflict is further underscored by China’s unrivaled global status as the source of transboundary river flows to the largest number of countries, ranging from India and Vietnam to Russia and Kazakhstan; yet a fast-rising China has declined to enter into water-sharing or cooperative treaties with these states, even as it taps the resources of international rivers.Water: Asia’s New Battleground is a pioneering study of Asia’s murky water politics and the relationships between freshwater, peace, and security. In this unique and highly readable book, Brahma Chellaney expertly paints a larger picture of water across Asia, highlights the security implications of resource-linked territorial disputes, and proposes real strategies to avoid conflict and more equitably share Asia’s water resources.

Brahma Chellaney, one of India’s leading strategic thinkers and analysts, is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He has served as a member of the Policy Advisory Group headed by the foreign minister of India, and as an adviser to India’s National Security Council. He has held appointments at Harvard University, the Brookings Institution, Johns Hopkins University, and the Australian National University. He is the author of five previous books, including Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India, and Japan.


Contentious Flow

“How often has it been said that South Asia is the world’s water scarce region that has continued to squabble over its aquifers and rivers? How frequently have intra-state, inter-state and cross-border contentions been projected as new battleground in the region? And, yet none of the wars thus far in the region has ever been around ‘water’? The crucial question worth exploring from diverse perspectives is: does scarcity lead to conflict or encourages cooperation? While the Indus Treaty has withstood four wars, the Ganges Treaty has remained contentious despite any war being fought over it. But it cannot be said with any certainty that the region will show resilience should the countries fail to resolve their water conflicts.
All said, it will be fair to conclude that this region cannot escape the fact that it is part of the world devoid of any working institutions that can coordinate and integrate choices and that can collectively confront predicaments faced by states and governments – institutions able to sustain any degree of trust between neighboring states. In fact, in their absence, the sub-continent has remained vulnerable to the tyranny of geography.
No wonder, across borders there are joint river commissions to squabble over while provisions of the inter-state dispute redressal mechanism are enough to enrage states over their disputed share of river flows. Inventing new institutional mechanisms that can address the contentions from a regional perspective have been thwarted by the prevailing hydrocracy in the region. Under such a situation, would it not be prudent to draw river basin maps along linguistic lines to trigger a people-to-people engagement on the subject?
Given his background, Brahma Chellaney has viewed the potential water crises from a ‘battleground perspective’ whereas it is the paradox of common cultural lineage amidst mutual political mistrust that needs attention.” –Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma Link
“A formidable interdisciplinary book. [Chellaney] has done readers a great service in tracking down reams of scholarly information, beautifully knit together, covering a dazzling range of countries and disciples, from Bangladesh to Mongolia, climate change science to regional security doctrine. despite the vast scope of the book, the writing is clear and lively. Its main contribution is in synthesizing the many trickles of the international discussion on Asia and water into one single current.”—The Washington Monthly


“This well-researched volume is a fascinating blend of geography, hydrology and politics … A sobering read for those of us residing in Asia, and the weight of its message certainly deserves urgent and widespread attention.”—Asian Review of Books


“A book that must be on the desk of every reader interested in global issues that will impact peace, economic development and possible war.”—Cinema Rasik


“Masterful, pioneering study…superbly combines a panoramic picture of Asia as a ‘global water crisis hub’ with detailed case studies of potential water wars.”—Global Asia


“This is a well-written, thoroughly researched, and carefully analyzed book on a crucial subject matter. It is impressive for the richness and depth of the chapters, the interdisciplinary nature of the project and the marrying of materials from geopolitics, environmental studies, and geology. It contains a wealth of information on the complex dynamics involving water in the current and emerging Asian political and economic landscape. The book shows Chellaney’s thorough knowledge of the region, its intricacies, and its long history of connectivity in terms of water sharing.”—T.V. Paul, James McGill Professor of International Relations, McGill University


“A pioneering, comprehensive, and insightful analysis which provides also the strategies for a solution. This is a timely and enlightening book since, as Chellaney demonstrates, ‘what Asia confronts today, the other continents are likely to face tomorrow.'”—Yoon Young-kwan, professor of international relations at Seoul National University and former foreign minister of Korea


“The dominant conflict in geopolitics in this century is the scramble for energy, raw materials, and water. Brahma Chellaney is the first to publish an in-depth analysis of potential challenges and conflicts resulting from the scarcity of water in Asia. His book is particularly important to understand the impact and indeed risks in an era of a growing tendency, which one meanwhile can call resource imperialism.”—Friedbert Pflüger, director, European Centre for Energy and Resource Security, King’s College London


“We’re all familiar with conflicts over territory in places like Tibet and Kashmir, but Brahma Chellaney persuasively argues that the most precious resource in these disputes is not land, but water. In a world where nearly one billion people lack access to clean water, Chellaney shows how today’s economic growth could lead to tomorrow’s ‘water wars.’ With his policy prescriptions, he also gives us a way to stop these conflicts before they begin. This is a vital book for anybody interested in diplomacy and conflict in the twenty-first century.”—Stanley A. Weiss, founding chairman, Business Executives for National Security

Table of Contents

Introduction1. Asia: Global Water Crisis Hub

2. Murky Hydropolitics

3. The Tibetan Plateau: The World’s Most Unique Water Repository

4. Exploiting the Riparian Advantage: A Key Test Case

5. Managing Intrastate Water Conflicts

6. Mitigating Intercountry Water Disputes or Discord

7. Asia’s Challenge: Forestalling Bloodletting over Water


A: Interstate Freshwater Agreements in Asia since the Start of the Decolonization Process
B: Web Links to Key Asian Water TreatiesIndex

– See more at: http://press.georgetown.edu/book/georgetown/water#sthash.DtUiehjO.U3GHDXNk.dpuf



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