1st Edition

A River Flows Through It A Comparative Study of Transboundary Water Disputes and Cooperation in Asia

Edited By Selina Ho Copyright 2021
    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    A River Flows Through It: A Comparative Study of Transboundary Water Disputes and Cooperation in Asia explores water disputes in Asia and addresses the question of how states sharing a river system can be incentivized to cooperate.

    Water scarcity is a major environmental, societal, and economic problem around the world. Increasing demand for water as a result of rapid economic development, high population growth and density has depleted the world’s water resources, leading to floods, droughts, environmental disasters, and societal displacement. Shared river basins are therefore often a source of tension and conflict between states. In regions where relations between countries have historically been conflictual, scarce river water resources have exacerbated tensions and have even sparked wars. Yet, more often than not, states sharing a river basin are able to come to some form of agreement, whether they are far-reaching ones such as water-sharing agreements or those that are more limited such as the sharing of hydrological data. Why do riparian states cooperate, especially when power asymmetries between upstream and downstream countries are characteristic of transboundary river basins? How do non-state actors affect the management of international rivers? What are the conditions that facilitate or hinder cooperation? This book wrestles with these questions by exploring water disputes and cooperation in the major river systems in Asia, and by comparing them with cases in Africa, Europe, and the United States.

    This book will be of great value to scholars, students, and policymakers interested in transboundary water disputes and cooperation, hydro-diplomacy, and river activism. It was originally published as special issues of Water International.

    Introduction: Comparing transboundary river cooperation in Asia

    Selina Ho

    1. Taking Stock: International Water Conflict and Cooperation: challenges and opportunities

    Jacob D. Petersen-Perlman, Jennifer C. Veilleux and Aaron T. Wolf

    Part 1: Water disputes and cooperation in Asia

    2. China’s transboundary river policies towards Kazakhstan: issue-linkages and incentives for cooperation

    Selina Ho

    3. China’s "old and new" Mekong River politics: the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation from a comparative benefit-sharing perspective

    Sebastian Biba

    4. Assessing the Indus Waters Treaty from a comparative perspective

    Neda Zawahri and David Michel

    5. The Heilongjiang (Amur) River in Sino-Russian relations: from conflict towards cooperation

    Wan Wang and Xing Li

    6. River activism, policy entrepreneurship and transboundary water disputes in Asia

    Pichamon Yeophantong

    7. Dam Diplomacy? China’s new neighbourhood policy and Chinese dam-building

    Carla P. Freeman

    8. Multi-track diplomacy: current and potential future cooperation over the Brahmaputra River Basin

    Yumiko Yasuda, Douglas Hill, Dipankar Aich, Patrick Huntjens and Ashok Swain

    Part II: Lessons from Africa, Europe, and the United States

    9. Infrastructure development and the economics of cooperation in the Eastern Nile

    Marc Jeuland, Xun Wu and Dale Whittington

    10. The remarkable restoration of the Rhine: plural rationalities in regional water politics

    Marco Verweij

    11. The dilemma of autonomy: decentralization and water politics at the subnational level

    Scott M. Moore


    Selina Ho researches and writes on Chinese politics and foreign policy, focusing on water disputes and infrastructural politics. She has published widely on China’s water disputes, and is the author of two books, Thirsty Cities: Social Contracts and Public Goods Provision in China and India (Cambridge University Press, 2019) and Rivers of Iron: Railroads and Chinese Power in Southeast Asia (co-author, University of California Press, 2020). She is Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.