Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Library

Library Prize for Undergraduate Research bannerUCLA

Dams, Development and the Future of Sino-Indian Hydro- Politics


China and India's miraculous economic growth has undoubtedly improved the livelihoods of millions of people, but it has also increased demand for already scarce water resources in the region. The hydro-political relationship between the two countries is particularly interesting due to China’s hold of the Tibetan Plateau which houses the heads of most major rivers in the region. China’s general unwillingness to cooperate with their downstream neighbors has become cause for concern, especially for India’s growing economy and population. This study analyzes the quantitative economic and resource consumption changes of China and India since 1980 to demonstrate the sharp changes linked to export-oriented economic development. These data are supported by a holistic analysis of key domestic policy changes as well as current domestic water-related issues in order to fully grasp the current circumstances and hypothesize the potential for escalation to conflict. Using Feron’s rationalist framework, I analyze the key sources of conflict as credibility problems, incomplete information and the indivisible nature of water. These three issues work cyclically and feed into one another, any solution for the issue would have to acknowledge all three elements. This study suggests that domestic water efficiency improvements such as increased water-recycling and smarter irrigation infrastructure coupled with bilateral solutions like joint hydraulic projects on the Brahmaputra and codified data sharing agreements can foment cooperation between the nations. This thesis ultimately establishes a link between the globalization-led development in the region and India and China’s changing hydraulic needs in order to determine the actions necessary to avoid international conflict and ensure long-term water and energy security for both states.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View