The Mekong River summit has recently convened leaders from all 6 riparian nations. This is a big step forward in terms of regional cooperation & dialogue, and should be viewed as an important event.
I have been curious how the demand for water breaks down within the basin, both by nation and activity. Specifically, relative to the whole flow of the river, which activities use the most water?
According to the Mekong River Commission (from a document they published in 2004), 80% of all water abstractions are agricultural in nature in the Lower Mekong Basin (comprised of Lao PDR, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia). This suggests the potential for enormous water savings through the development of rice varieties that are tolerant to pests and drought.
The discussion of water security in the Mekong Basin, is implicitly tied to food security. It is in the best interests of the MRC nations to examine the largest water demand activity in the LMB, and focus their actions accordingly.
A particular glitch in the current web-coverage of the Mekong situation is the number of Chinese dams on the Lancang, or upper Mekong River. Above, you can see a graphic originally provided by International Rivers. I have edited the colors used to indicate the dams (changing the three colors used to denote different categories of construction status from dark blue, black and white, to yellow, red and green). I also edited the inset map to clarify the location of this part of the Mekong.
Hopefully, this map will help to provide some clarity as Chinese hydroelectric projects move forward.
World Water Day: Why business needs to worry “…industrial use of water will almost double by 2030. It currently accounts for 16% of total usage – more than half of it for energy production – and this will grow to a projected 22% by 2030 with China alone accounting for 40% of the additional demand.” BBC News, March 22
Delhi water table falling by 2m/yr “Delhi will soon push up the demand for water even further. That may lead to an unprecedented crisis, with no relief of surplus availability,” said NCRPB member secretary Noor Mohammad. ” Times of India, March 22
Polluted Water Killing, Sickening Millions “…3.7 percent of all deaths are attributed to water-related diseases, translating into millions of deaths. More than half of the world’s hospital beds are filled by people suffering from water-related illnesses, it said.” NY Times, March 22, 2010
Besieged Gaza denied water “The head of Gaza’s water authority says he has plans and the means to import water from other countries until self-dependency is reached, but Israel’s blockade is the only thing in the way.” Al Jazeera, March 22
With War And Neglect, Afghans Face Water Shortage “Only 1.5 million hectares of agricultural land were irrigated in 2002 and an additional 300,000 hectares rehabilitated since — less than half the area irrigated in 1979, when the war began — said the East West Institute think tank in a report last year.” March 24, 2010
Hillary douses Pak’s ire on water; says it’s a bilateral issue “We’re well aware that there is a 50-year-old agreement between Pakistan and India concerning water,” Clinton told a Pakistani interviewer” Times of India, March 24
Although global media has been rather light on the drought in China, the China Daily news website has consistently had excellent coverage. Here is a list of headlines & links:
Drought paralyzes power supply
Yunan’s flower industry wilting
Peter Gleick recently posted some remarks regarding dam building Southern California. Find his post at Circle of Blue here. I agree with his perspectives on the need for fiscal responsibility when it comes to these mega-projects of the Central Valley Project in California (seen on the right). Especially when the beneficiaries are the same farmers who still owe money on previous enormous public works projects.
However, I am curious about alternatives to dams. He says
“It won’t solve agriculture’s more fundamental challenges. It won’t restore our Delta ecosystems. It won’t satisfy new urban demands. In the end, the massive new infrastructure proposed for public financing would be an expensive distraction from real solutions.”
Okay. Of course I believe you. But, I’m left wondering what are “agriculture’s more fundamental challenges?” Is it water use efficiency? Is it crop choice? Is it entrenched dogma about water rights?
Also, what are the “real solutions” you mention?
Clarification on these points could help facilitate a more productive discussion about how to move forward.