The Lancang/Mekong and the Nu/Salween Rivers
Promoting Regional Watershed Governance and Distributive Justice for Downstream Burmese Communities
This paper examines some of the current obstacles to watershed governance and distributive justice for the diverse ethnic communities in eastern Burma that rely upon the Lancang/Mekong and Nu/Salween Rivers for their economic livelihoods and cultural survival. More than two dozen largescale dams are planned for these two river systems. Nearly all of them will be built and/or financed by the People's Republic of China (PRC), although other non-state actors are also centrally involved. The paper outlines some of the key forces driving the PRC to construct new dams in Yunnan despite mounting evidence that such projects will undermine rather than enhance human security and sustainable development in the region. Three projects are discussed: the Lancang/Mekong and Nu/Salween Cascades as well as the proposed Tasang Dam in northeastern Burma, which the stateowned China Export-Import Bank (CEIB) is considering financing. Special attention is focused on the environmental impacts of impoundment and the future political and economic costs of the PRC's failure to take the interests of downstream countries and their ethnically diverse populations more fully into consideration. The paper concludes with constructive recommendations towards the creation of a collaborative regional plan based on the principles of integrated river basin management.