Friday, March 23, 2007

Asian Rivers

I have stated more than once before that the Asian environmental crisis will undermine the rise of Asian nations to world power. Alan Boyd's Asia Times story on the horrid conditions of Asian rivers only makes me feel stronger about this. Dams, human population growth, and especially massive unregulated industrial pollution are placing these rivers in extreme danger. The Yangtze is the worst but the Ganges, Mekong, Indus, and most other major Asian rivers also face incredible challenges. Multiple species have already gone extinct and thousands of others, from large water mammals to plants, are in serious trouble.

As Tom Le Quense from the World Wildlife Federation says, "We're talking about a complete collapse of the system - they're so polluted, so over-extracted or so cut up by dams that it's really not functioning as a river anymore. It's a challenge that humanity faces not far off the scale of climate change." I could not agree more. Moreover, I simply do not see how China and India can grow very much more and not face the complete collapse of their environmental base.

Without functioning water systems, human civilization cannot survive. That sounds apocalyptic, but it is also true. China, India, and to a lesser extent nations like Vietnam, Burma, and Laos, are reaching a point where they have to decide whether they want to survive.