Security concerns in Asia focus today on maritime and territorial disputes in Northeast Asia, yet the potential for conflict over access to fresh water across the continent may be equally dangerous. Asia’s exploding demand for water makes it the most water-scarce continent per capita. Many of its water sources cross national boundaries, creating the potential to raise international tensions as water becomes less available. The water security challenges facing China and India in particular may have consequences not just for the two rising powers, but also for Asia as a whole. How policy-makers manage that demand and deal with cross-border water conflicts deserves greater attention.
On January 24, the Asia Society and the India Project at Brookings hosted a discussion on the water security challenges facing Asian nations, with a particular focus on China and India. Discussants also highlighted how water security challenges interact with those involving energy and food security, disrupting economies, governments and environments and imposing further hardships on the poor. Panelists included Brahma Chellaney, professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, and Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center. The Asia Society also recognized Chellaney for his receipt of the 2012 Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award for his book, Water: Asia’s New Battleground (Georgetown University Press, September 2011).