Policy Implications of Current Dam Projects on Drichu – the Upper Yangtze River

Tashi Tsering and Tibet Justice Center, 2004

As important as the development of the Yangtze River is to the future of China, policy makers and analysts ought to bear in mind that the river is also facing premature death in the headwaters. Most studies on the Tibetan Plateau glaciers point out that global warming is causing glaciers to melt faster; these perennial sources of melt water are expected to be exhausted within several decades.

The trends of burgeoning economic development and excessive dam construction and water diversion on the Yangtze are causing severe strains on the watershed’s ecological integrity and resilience to disturbance such that one Chinese scholar has predicted that, like the Yellow River (Chinese: Huang He) to the north “after only twenty years, the Yangtze would also have dry periods and would stop completely before reaching the sea near Shanghai.” This is a sobering warning. China thus needs a multi-stakeholder dialogue and debate on the consequences of large-scale construction projects on Yangtze’s headwaters, where, despite official protection, the situation is already, in the words of a Chinese journalist, “crazy and out of control.”

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Megoe Tso: The Damming of Tibet’s Sacred Lake

Tashi Tsering and Tibet Justice Center, 2005

Megoe Tso is the most sacred lake in the Kham region of traditional Tibet. Nearby, Minyak Ghangkar (Gongga) mountain – the highest peak in the Eastern Himalayas (7,556m) – is one of the most sacred mountains in the region. Megoe Tso Lake and Minyak Ghangkar Mountain have also traditionally served as pilgrimage sites for spiritual practitioners/ Tibetans believe these places are blessed by the presence of deities and past meditators, making the areas “energetic centers” that have the capacity to greatly aid spiritual aspirants who are sensitive to the qualities of such places…

The Megoe Tso dam project is part of a basin wide hydro-power development scheme for the Wasi River. According to project designs, a 50.5 m high and 260.5m wide dam will be built near the exit-end of Megoe Tso. The dam will be connected to another pumped storage power plant and the Jin’gai hydropower plant through tunnels and diversion channels.   Read more (in PDF)

Mekong: Managing a Transboundary River

Tashi Tsering, 2002

The different multilateral mechanisms that are available for the riparian states to plan and work jointly cannot be as efficient from a regional perspective simply because they are uncoordinated and their programs overlap each other. From the international environmental policy perspective, most of these mechanisms cannot provide the necessary framework for environmental protection due to their extractive economic interests, which are further obfuscated by political motives. A framework that gives a balanced importance to both economic development and environmental protection and gives equal decision making authority to all the riparian states (primarily) could facilitate a genuine regional endeavor for sustainable development.

The Mekong River Commission comes close to such an ideal mechanism. Unfortunately, its effectiveness as a regional mechanism to promote sustainable development has been seriously hampered by the nonparticipation of the two upper riparians. Furthermore, it suffers many political setbacks and loopholes, as well as institutional rigidity that question its policy outcomes from environmental (and social justice) perspective(s).

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