China Energy Industry

Chinadialogue: Talking about the Yarlung Zangbo

(November 17, 2011) The Yarlung Zangbo, or Brahmaputra, is a major international river passing through China, India and Bangladesh. Yet these countries share very little information on the river’s flow, or on their plans to build dams on it. Chinadialogue reports on a workshop that brought together scientists and journalists from across the borders, and discusses the real risks of huge dams on the river.

Talking about the Yarlung Zangbo

Beth Walker
Chinadialogue
November 17, 2011

There is a well-known Chinese story, told by the philosopher Zhuangzi, about a frog who lived down a well. The frog was happy wallowing in the shallow mud, believing that he was master of the water around him and lord of his universe, quite unaware of the great vast oceans beyond his narrow patch of sky.

Zhuangzi’s frog has something in common with Indian and Chinese policymakers today, as they set about their plans to harness the waters of the Yarlung Zangbo River, treating the river as their own domain – one that begins and ends miraculously at political borders and can be controlled from within.

Locked in a race to build the biggest dams, generate the most electricity and construct the greatest water storage, the two countries hope to ensure the water and energy security of their respective nations. But in their fight for security, the strategists are overlooking something essential to achieving it: communication and cooperation with those who share their precious resources. This, in turn, is reflected in the public debate.

At a media workshop organised by Chinadialogue’s third pole project last month, I observed the interaction between journalists and scientists from the two sides of the Himalayas with curiosity. I was struck by how little information about their neighbours filters through the national media of each. A journalist from Assam in northeast India emotionally declared: “We don’t understand what China’s doing or thinking.” Chinese journalist Wan Yan remarked that events along the river are reported by national media as isolated events: “There are reports in China about the floods in Bangladesh, but they do not mention that our countries share the same river system.”

Read the full article at Chinadialogue.

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