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Dams along the Mekong River. Source: International Rivers
China’s newly consolidated ability to stop the river’s flow to SE Asia points to an emerging new regional flashpoint
The Mekong River, a waterway that originates in China and snakes through five Southeast Asian countries, is emerging as a new security flashpoint, similar in dynamic to escalating conflicts in the South China Sea.
China has built 11 dams and has plans for another eight along its upper stretch of the river, which begins in the Tibetan Plateau, stretches through much of mainland Southeast Asia, and ends in Vietnam’s rice-producing Mekong Delta.
China now has the power to completely stop the flow of water to downstream nations, a pressure point that could be used to devastate their agricultural economies and create food scarcity in the event of a conflict.
Beijing could also leverage the threat to extract greater deference from Southeast Asian states or punish those that oppose Beijing’s expansionist policies, including in the South China Sea as well as its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) schemes in the region, analysts say.
Beijing could, for instance, threaten to cut off Vietnam’s Mekong River derived water supplies unless Hanoi yields to its demands in the South China Sea.
A similar threat could allow Beijing to have its way in Laos, a country highly reliant on its own hydropower dams, many of which have been built with Chinese loans and by Chinese construction firms.
https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/10/artic ... he-mekong/To be sure, Beijing cannot selectively turn off the water supply for, say, Vietnam alone, as cutting off the flow of the water downstream would also affect Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia.
Any such move would be made as a collective punishment against all of mainland Southeast Asia, rather than in response to the actions of just one nation. Still, the threat weakens Southeast Asian unity, analysts say.
More likely they would open the gates and flood the lower regions.
Now that's more of a threat!
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oops, getting some conflicting information
one report (SEA Globe, not science) says glacial melt was biggest source "before and after the rainy season"
But I am going with science - see below >>
Although the Mekong originates on the Tibetan Plateau and is the source of water for the populations of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, glaciers are a small component of water resources in the Mekong
Because the Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow River basins contain a relatively small amount of glacier area, it follows that discharge into these rivers results from snowmelt and rainfall.
As discussed in Chapter 2, in most basins, the contribution of rain far outweighs the contributions of snowmelt (e.g., Andermann et al., 2012). These three rivers are located in the eastern part of the HKH region, where annual precipitation is dominated by the summer monsoon (Bolch et al., 2012). On the basis of these considerations, discharge into the Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers is more influenced by the monsoons, and in the future, climate change effects on the monsoon will play a greater role than any changes in the glaciers.
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