The Purple Flag River Water Diversion Venture Proposal (Purple Flag River) is a brand new huge inter-basin water diversion proposal in China. It’s not an official venture and has not obtained approval from the Chinese language authorities; nevertheless, because the semi-official launch of the proposal in November 2017 by the S4679 Analysis Group, it has attracted loads of consideration. The proposal goals to yearly divert 60 billion cubic meters of water from the key rivers of the ecologically fragile Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, together with three transnational rivers (Mekong, Salween, and Brahmaputra), to arid Xinjiang and different elements of northwest China.
As a transboundary venture, the Purple Flag River proposes to not solely cross a number of provincial borders in China, however to additionally scale back the stream of those transnational rivers. This has has raised concern. How rather more energy may this venture proposal give China, an upstream nation and the regional hydro-hegemon, over lots of Asia’s main rivers? To date, students in China have expressed varied hydrological issues over the Purple Flag River, as has India, whereas the opposite downstream international locations are but to publicly discuss their issues associated to this venture proposal.
Nevertheless, the venture proposal is lacking one essential aspect that’s vital: info sharing with the numerous downstream international locations whose entry to the shared water sources could also be affected. On this article, we argue that the S4679 Analysis Group should embrace the downstream international locations in consultations, as a result of they matter significantly.
China’s relationships with its neighboring international locations are of important significance to its nationwide safety. Sustaining correct dialogue with neighboring international locations has been the Chinese language authorities’s official overseas coverage and method. Nevertheless, the continued proposal analysis on the Purple Flag River has not been made public. Consultations or info sharing dialogues held between China and the related downstream international locations are but to be reported. Ignoring the downstream area, nevertheless, could trigger pointless pressure between China and the related South and Southeast Asian international locations.
Upstream-downstream water battle is common and nothing new. Even inside China, water battle between upstream and downstream areas happens between varied provinces that battle for entry to and management of shared water sources, similar to over the Yellow River.
Nevertheless, the potential upstream-downstream conflicts from the Purple Flag River proposal are prone to be much more critical. In transnational water conflicts, essentially the most upstream nation could management the stream and majority of transboundary water sources, a lot to the detriment of the downstream nations that additionally depend upon the identical water sources. The extra highly effective riparian nation might also be capable of use varied political, financial, and navy instruments to control relations with the much less highly effective neighboring nations. This may end up in a serious energy imbalance in favor of the dominant nation, which controls the entry to and amount of water sources over smaller, weaker nations.
If the Purple Flag River is constructed, how would the downstream area’s entry to water be affected? Might China use it to “flip off the faucet” to cut back or halt totally the water stream from the transnational rivers to the downstream international locations?
In an excessive case, China may impose forceful water diplomacy towards the opposite riparian nations, holding 25 p.c of the world’s inhabitants hostage by utilizing water as a coercive weapon to cut back or halt totally the water stream from these transboundary rivers to the numerous downstream international locations. To ally these fears, China may embrace Purple Flag River consultations as a part of each its broader overseas coverage and initiatives with neighbors.
For comparability, the large Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest energy station by way of put in capability, holds lower than 1 p.c of the Yangtze River’s whole discharge. As an influence station designed to regulate the flood of the Yangtze, it has little influence on the downstream stream. In distinction, the Purple Flag River is a gigantic home cross-basin water proposal. Not like a dam, which shops water earlier than releasing it, water diversion represents an absolute internet loss. Which means that the venture proposal plans to take a major quantity of water from shared water sources and never return it. Therefore, the Purple Flag River’s proposed diversion of 21 p.c of water from the higher streams of three transnational rivers (Mekong, Salween, and Brahmaputra) could also be seen as a controversial difficulty.
Nevertheless, the proposed influence is definitely very small. Within the case of the Mekong, the discharge from the river’s higher stream accounts for simply 2.96 p.c of the the river’s whole discharge. As for the Brahmaputra, the discharge from the higher stream is 9.59 p.c, regardless of China having the best spatial share of the river basin. As for the Salween, the discharge from the higher stream is 13.9 p.c. As these percentages are fairly small, because of this the proposed 21 p.c of the higher stream discharge for the Purple Flag River can be fairly small.
For the Mekong, the proposed diversion of 21 p.c of water sources from the higher stream means it will divert 0.6216 p.c of the river’s whole annual discharge. For the Brahmaputra, the proposed diversion of 21 p.c of water sources from the higher stream accounts for two p.c of the Brahmpautra’s whole annual discharge. And for the Salween, the proposed diversion of 21 p.c of water sources from the higher stream involves 2.919 p.c of the river’s whole annual discharge.
Primarily based on our calculations, the proposed 21 p.c diversion from the higher streams of three transnational rivers is definitely fairly small by way of their general stream. This means that the estimated internet loss from every of the three transnational rivers shouldn’t be as extreme as initially thought. Nonetheless, communication with the downstream international locations is critical to emphasise these factors.
If it turns into an official venture and is constructed, the Purple Flag River can have huge implications for the area. With robust fears of water insecurity all through Asia, how can China steadiness home water challenges, similar to supplying sufficient water for its rising inhabitants and industries, whereas dealing with worldwide competitors from the downstream international locations, the place there’s additionally rising demand? The downstream international locations are additionally prone to turn into more and more involved by the Purple Flag River’s diversion of shared transnational water sources for China’s personal profit.
A few of the downstream international locations, similar to Vietnam, are already more and more involved by what they see as China’s want for navy, technological, political, and economical regional dominance and the uneven energy steadiness between China and the numerous downstream international locations. The Purple Flag River would probably be seen by the downstream area as an extension of China’s actions in South and Southeast Asia and is prone to be considered with nice warning by the downstream area. The downstream nations might also worry that the Purple Flag River will pressure them to battle towards one another and towards China to safe entry to water sources.
To keep away from such water insecurity fears – and in addition pre-empt the publication of extra exaggerated media experiences on the potential hydrological impacts of the Purple Flag River – China may contemplate together with the downstream area when planning and constructing mega hydro-engineering tasks. Though inside home upstream-downstream conflicts will be resolved by the related nationwide authorities, transnational water tasks want additional dialogue to keep away from disputes and conflicts.
One attainable answer is for the senior scientists of the Purple Flag River’s S4679 Analysis Group and their counterparts within the downstream international locations to carry consultations on the venture proposal. Made up of Chinese language academicians, professors, and younger students, S4679 Analysis Group is led by Tsinghua Professor Wang Hao. An academician of China’s Academy of Engineering, Wang additionally serves because the engineer-in-chief of China Institute of Water Sources and Hydropower Analysis and the chair of the Knowledgeable Group on Dialogue for the “Purple Flag River Subject.” He has been a core member of the Counselor Advisory Committee of China’s Ministry of Water Sources.
Considering that the Purple Flag River could possibly be a geopolitically delicate proposal because of the lack of session, it is suggested that the senior scientists like Wang, from each China and the downstream international locations, may arrange common conferences or perhaps a “Purple Flag River Fee” to share knowledge on transnational rivers. Such conferences may convey collectively water specialists, environmental scientists, and ecological specialists to debate intimately all potential hydrological impacts for each the home water receiving area and the downstream area. Economists, hydraulic engineers, and political scientists may additionally present opinions on the feasibility of the Purple Flag River and its many multidimensional cross-border impacts.
As China shouldn’t be all the time energetic participant in present river commissions, a China-led information-sharing mechanism could possibly be arrange in order that knowledge will be shared between all riparian nations. This might take the type of water sharing committees and/or agreements.
As of October 2021, China has not signed a water-sharing treaty with any of its neighbors, nor has it signed worldwide water treaties that govern transboundary waters all over the world. In 1997, China together with Turkey and Burundi – three upstream international locations on main rivers – voted towards the Regulation of the Nonnavigational makes use of of Worldwide Watercourses (UNWC) on the 1997 U.N. Basic Meeting. Nearly all of China’s 17 downstream riparian nations usually are not signatories both.
Organising a data-sharing settlement or committee may allow all riparian nations to alternate info knowledge on flooding, droughts, snowmelt, and rainfall. It may additionally supply coverage options, enhance water administration practices, and work with native riparian communities. On this method, info sharing between China and the downstream international locations would mood water safety issues whereas the sharing of information may result in higher water conservation and ecological preservation inside every of the riparian nations. Each consultations and knowledge sharing mechanisms may allow the varied sides to precise their opinions and keep away from conflicts, leading to a a lot fuller understanding of the mega hydro-engineering water diversion proposal by residents and the governments of China and the downstream nations. This is able to, in flip, additionally scale back fears over water (in)safety and its penalties.