Skip to Main Content

However, despite the lack of water-sharing treaties between China and the lower riparians of the Mekong, the existence of multilateral cooperation across a variety of issues suggests that there is a relatively greater level of cooperation in developing the Mekong River Basin than there is for the Ganges River Basin. Although China's relations with its Mekong co-riparians are not conflict-free, India's relations with its riparian neighbors tend to be more acrimonious than China's and its neighbors, with a high level of rhetoric and vitriolic accusations. Wolf et al. (2003) have developed a Basins at Risk (BAR) event intensity scale that captures the spectrum of cooperation and conflict that can exist among riparians. See Table 2 for scale. On this scale, in the Ganges, India and its co-riparians have displayed ‘strong verbal expressions displaying hostility in interaction’ (−2) as well as, on occasions, engaging in ‘diplomatic–economic hostile actions’ (−3). In the case of the Mekong, although lower riparians take a dim view of China's cascade of eight dams, the most vocal protests have not come from states but from environmental non-governmental organizations and other non-state actors. The fact that lower riparians are equally culpable in damming the Mekong probably contributes to the lack of coordinated protests from the lower riparians. China's economic influence and the dependence of the Mekong states on China also explain the lack of protests. However, the existence of multilateral platforms in the Mekong River Basin in an array of issues including navigation, infrastructure development, tourism, and trade and investment is a sharp contrast to the low level of cooperation in the Ganges. On the BAR scale, the cooperation among Mekong states would rank quite high up on the cooperative scale, from 1 to 5, just short of ‘international freshwater treaty; major strategic alliance (regional or international)’.

Table 2.

BAR event intensity scale.

BAR scaleBAR event description
−7 Formal declaration of war; extensive war acts causing deaths, dislocation, or high strategic costs 
−6 Extensive military acts 
−5 Small–scale military acts 
−4 Political–military hostile actions 
−3 Diplomatic–economic hostile actions 
−2 Strong verbal expressions displaying hostility in interaction 
−1 Mild verbal expressions displaying discord in interaction 
Neutral or non-significant acts for the inter-nation situation 
Minor official exchanges, talks or policy expressions – mild verbal support 
Official verbal support of goals, values or regime 
Cultural or scientific agreement or support (non-strategic) 
Non-military economic, technological or industrial agreement 
Military, economic or strategic support 
International freshwater treaty; major strategic alliance (regional or international) 
Voluntary unification into one nation 
BAR scaleBAR event description
−7 Formal declaration of war; extensive war acts causing deaths, dislocation, or high strategic costs 
−6 Extensive military acts 
−5 Small–scale military acts 
−4 Political–military hostile actions 
−3 Diplomatic–economic hostile actions 
−2 Strong verbal expressions displaying hostility in interaction 
−1 Mild verbal expressions displaying discord in interaction 
Neutral or non-significant acts for the inter-nation situation 
Minor official exchanges, talks or policy expressions – mild verbal support 
Official verbal support of goals, values or regime 
Cultural or scientific agreement or support (non-strategic) 
Non-military economic, technological or industrial agreement 
Military, economic or strategic support 
International freshwater treaty; major strategic alliance (regional or international) 
Voluntary unification into one nation 

Source:Wolf et al. (2003).

Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal