Water torture - If China won’t build fewer dams, it could at least share information | Leaders | The Economist
If China won’t build fewer dams, it could at least share information
Its secrecy means that farmers and fisherman in downstream countries cannot plan
May 14th 2020 edition
May 14th 2020
RIVERS FLOW downhill, which in much of Asia means they start on the Tibetan plateau before cascading away to the east, west and south. Those steep descents provide the ideal setting for hydropower projects. And since Tibet is part of China, Chinese engineers have been making the most of that potential. They have built big dams not only on rivers like the Yellow and the Yangzi, which flow across China to the Pacific, but also on others, like the Brahmaputra and the #Mekong, which pass through several more countries on their way to the sea.
China has every right to do so. Countries lucky enough to control the sources of big rivers often make use of the water for hydropower or irrigation before it sloshes away across a border. Their neighbours downstream, however, are naturally twitchy. If the countries nearest the source suck up too much of the flow, or even simply stop silt flowing down or fish swimming up by building dams, the consequences in the lower reaches of the river can be grim: parched crops, collapsed fisheries, salty farmland. In the best cases, the various riparian countries sign treaties setting out ho