Potential conflict in the Greater Mekong Subregion - What will China do?

Updated On: Jan 27, 2006

Senators, academics and environmentalist have found that the two dams on Mekong's upper stream in Chinahave affected millions of people and the ecosystem downstream.

The seminar on the developing crisis in the MekongBasinhas revealed that the Manwan and Dachaoshan dams in China's Yunnanprovince had cause many problems for people in ThailandLaosand Cambodia. The Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries comprise of ChinaCambodiaLaosMyanmarThailandandVietnam.

`Seasonal floods and droughts, and the cycle of water levels in the Mekong River had changed since the opening of the dams in 1996 and people downstream could no longer predict seasonal floods and droughts for agriculture production', said Senator Chirmsak Pinthong.

The dams are built to generate electricity and to facilitate smooth navigation from Chinato Southeast Asia. It has been alleged that Thaksin government allowedChinato control the MekongRiverfor reasons of trade and personal interest after signing the free-trade agreement with Beijing.

Countries downstream have been trying to convince Chinato join the Mekong River Commission (MRC) set up in 1995 to regulate water utilization in the lowerMekong. Water in the upper stream can be better managed if Chinajoined as a member. Chinais currently only a dialogue partner of the body. What will Chinado as it tries to portray itself as a responsible regional power in this region will be interesting to watch.


*China blocking the flow of Mekong: experts (The Nation, 26 Jan)