Water - its shortage is one of the hot topics that are being discussed extensively now. And so man hasn’t failed to weaponize even that. While the developments in South East Asia are moving forward quickly with the Dragon claiming land from several of its neighbors - India, Bhutan, Vietnam, Tajikistan - it has been engaging in a new form of strategy altogether - weaponizing the basic element of life.
First, let’s start by discussing a bit about China’s geography. China controls the flow of water to 18 downstream nations such as Vietnam and Laos. It is more than 5000 rivers. With such power concentrated in the hands of just one country, massive calamities can be triggered.
But how does Beijing manage to turn water into a weapon? The answer is simple - construction of dams. China has been able to construct more than 87000 dams including the Three Gorges Dam, which is one of the world’s largest. Due to this, it can instantly allow an excess flow of water triggering floods, or stop its flow causing droughts. It has also constructed a dam on the Bramhaputra River, one that originates in Tibet, flows via Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and then empties into the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh.
So, have there been instances of any such suspicious activity regarding China’s massive dam infrastructure? You guessed it right - there has been. In 2019 Thailand’s sugar output hit a nine-year low due to a shortage of water in the Mekong River. Similar instances transpired in Laos and Cambodia. Initially, China blamed the condition on low rainfall. However, satellite images showed the reservoirs in the dams on the Mekong River teeming with water.
World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldin had remarked. “The wars of the 21st century will be fought over water.” Will this be true? Is Beijing for a much-anticipated war? Only time will tell.
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