In This Review

Water: Asia's New Battleground
Water: Asia's New Battleground
By Brahma Chellaney
Georgetown University Press, 2011, 400 pp

Owing to growing populations, richer lifestyles, and government mismanagement, water is desperately scarce in Asia (a region defined in this book as including much of the Middle East). Climate change will threaten supply more in Asia than anywhere else, potentially curbing the region’s economic growth. Complicating matters further, much of the region’s water comes from contested areas. Tibet, for example, is the biggest regional source, supplying water to 11 countries. Detailing a number of ecological and economic risks, as well as threats to Tibetan spiritual and cultural life, Chellaney criticizes plans China reportedly has to divert water from and build hydroelectric dams on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra River, which runs into India and Bangladesh. Ranging widely across the region, this forcefully written study warns of a growing risk of interstate conflicts over water. The only way to avoid such outcomes, Chellaney argues, is to adopt a cooperative, rule-based approach to water management -- a hard sell for sovereign states.