Dilemmas in and Pathways to Transboundary Water Cooperation between China and India on the Yaluzangbu-Brahmaputra River
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Materials and Methods to Calculate Water and Population Distribution among the Riparian Countries
2.2. Methods to Assess the Progress of Water Cooperation and IWRM Implementation in the BRB between China and India
3.1. Water Resources Distribution in the BR Basin
3.2. China-India Water Cooperation
3.2.1. Water Cooperation Process Since 1950s
- In 1955, China began to provide the discharge data from three gauges on the mainstream of the Yaluzangbu River to India from 15 July to 15 October, as requested by the Prime Minister of India in 1954. In 1957, China provided hydrological information on rainfall, water level, and discharge of the above stations .
- China stopped providing hydrological information to India from 1963 to 2001, after the border conflicts between China and India in 1959–1962.
- An agreement between China and India on environmental cooperation was signed in 1993, after a bi-lateral trade agreement in 1983 and the gradual restoration of Sino-Indian relations.
- In 2002, China and India signed the first MOU on the provision of hydrological information of the Yaluzangbu/BR, in response to India’s flooding concerns. For example, in June 2000, a flood killed 30 Indians and left 50,000 homeless, after a break in a natural dam formed by a landslide on a tributary of the Yaluzangbu River in Tibet. During 2002–2015, the China-India cooperation on transboundary rivers continued to develop, and a series of MOUs and corresponding implementation plans were signed for sharing hydrological data on the Yaluzangbu/BR and the Langqen Zangbo/Sutlej River, during the flood seasons. The China-India Expert Level Mechanism on Trans-Border Rivers (ELM) was established in 2006.
- In 2018, the top leaders of each country met informally, which led to a cooling down of tensions . This resulted in the signing of an MOU and an implementation plan on the provision of hydrological information for the Yaluzangbu/BR, and the 11th meeting of the ELM was held in Hangzhou (China).
3.2.2. Issues on Transboundary Rivers in Sino-Indian Diplomatic Relations
- Issues involving Sino-Indian transboundary rivers have been a concern, and cooperation has been facilitated by both governments since 2003. This followed communication between the ministries of water resources was supported by the Protocol on Cooperation between China and India in 1997 and the MOU on the provision of flood season hydrologic information by China to India was signed in 2002. As the former Prime Minister of China Wen Jiabao  said, “to properly preserve, utilize, and manage the trans-border rivers is our shared responsibility. We are ready to further improve the joint working mechanism.” The two sides agreed to promote and enhance further cooperation and strengthen communication on the utilization and protection of transboundary rivers.
- Cooperation on transboundary rivers is being extended, for example, by the provision of hydrologic information of one river to two rivers, from information sharing on emergency management and other issues, and by communication between the two ministries of water resources, and the establishment of ELM. Water cooperation between the two countries is being developed in the background of China-India relations; as the Prime Minister of China Li Keqiang said , “in the larger interest of China-India relations, as well as the humanitarian spirit, we have been providing assistance to the Indian side in terms of sharing flood-season hydrological information and managing emergency.”
- The value and achievements of transboundary river cooperation have been recognized. From the Chinese perspective, the ongoing cooperation on transboundary rivers has contributed positively to building mutual understanding and trust, and has proved valuable in flood forecasting and mitigation. The Indian side has expressed deep appreciation for data being made available that has helped ensure the safety and security of its population along the rivers, and for the assistance and efforts in emergency management by the Chinese side.
3.2.3. Duties Undertaken by China and by India in Water Cooperation
- Duties of the Chinese side: To provide hydrological information on water level, discharge, and rainfall of Nugesha, Yangcun, and Nuxia stations at 8:00 and 20:00 (Beijing Time) from 1 June to 15 October each year to the Indian side; to provide hydrological information when water levels exceed mutually agreed levels during the non-flood season; to provide water level, discharge, and rainfall data of earlier years (10 years) during flood season with respect to the three stations; to provide documents relating to the catchment area of the Yaluzangbu River and the historical information as available on the occurrence of floods and natural disasters; to provide information on any abnormal rise/fall in the water level/discharge and other information which might lead to sudden floods on the basis of existing monitoring and data collection facilities. Among the above duties undertaken by the Chinese side, the duty on the provision of hydrological information of earlier years was cancelled from 2008, and another on the data provision period was changed from 15 May instead of 1 June to 15 October, since 2014.
- Duties of the Indian side: to provide the Chinese side information regarding data utilization in flood forecasting and mitigation, since the 2008 MOU.
- Duties of both sides: To identify the agreed water levels during the non-flood season; to identify costs involved and discuss the modalities for apportioning the expenditures; to identify the implementing agencies of each; and to guide the implementing agencies to discuss and finalize the Implementation Plan after signing of the MOU.
- Duties of the Chinese side: To provide hydrological information of water level, discharge and rainfall of Nugesha, Yangcun, and Nuxia stations, within 30 minutes after 08:00 and 20:00 (Beijing time) every day, from 1 June to 15 October during 2002–2013, and from 15 May to 15 October, since 2014; to provide hydrological information on water levels and discharge if the water levels of the above-mentioned stations are close to or are reaching warning levels during the non-flood season; to conduct a trial provision of hydrological information at 12:00 (Beijing time) on 28 May, during 2002–2013, and on 12 May since 2014, in order to guarantee the timely provision of hydrological information; the rating curve of water level and discharge, with observed discharge data from each of the stations, use this information in the next year, in order to guarantee the precision of the hydrological information; to transmit hydrological information to the Indian side directly, in the form of text, in accordance with the agreed e-mail addresses via the Internet and; to send the data again if the Indian side does not receive the data and informs the Chinese side in time. For 2002, to provide the pre-flood section data of the above-mentioned stations above the maximum flood level of 0.5 m (this was not included in the later implementation plans).
- Duties of the Indian side: To reply in a timely manner to the Chinese trial provision on 28 May or 12 May; to inform the Chinese side by e-mail or fax immediately, if the Indian side does not receive the data; to transfer payments for the provision of the hydrological information and the operation of the hydrological station at the end of every April, within the period of validity of the implementation plans, since 2010; to provide information regarding data utilization in flood forecasting and mitigation; to provide information of the hydrological station of India, which is on the mainstream and close by China’s Nuxia station, including the station’s name, latitude, and longitude, and type of data observed, since 2010 and; to submit other requirements through diplomatic channels for the duration of the hydrologic information provision of 2002, which is not included in the later plans.
- Duties of both sides: To comply with the corresponding MOUs; to agree to the warning water levels for the relevant stations in non-flood season; if necessary, to dispatch hydrological experts to each other’s countries, in order to conduct study tours according to the principle of reciprocity, after mutual consultation through diplomatic channel, and in order to ensure the normal provision of hydrological information.
3.2.4. Roles of the ELM in Transboundary Water Cooperation
3.2.5. Progress of IWRM Implementation between China and India in the BRB
- Non-cooperation: no formal or informal cooperative arrangement.
- Preliminary cooperation: riparian countries have expressed the intent for cooperation, but have no cooperation either, substantively or procedurally.
- Issues cooperation: a cooperative arrangement exists between riparian countries to address a specific issue(s).
- Emerging comprehensive cooperation: Riparian countries are developing or have recently developed a cooperative arrangement, to establish a legal framework, address multiple issues, and include coordination mechanisms.
- Continuing comprehensive cooperation: Riparian countries have developed a cooperative arrangement for an ongoing legal framework for shared management of the basin, and have continued to collaborate to address multiple issues related to the shared waters and solutions include shared benefits.
4.1. The BR’s Water Issues Concerned by People in Different Fields
4.2. Transboundary Water Cooperation and China-India Relations
4.3. Views Presented through the Media on Sino-Indian Water Relations in the BRB
Conflicts of Interest
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|Countries/Disputed Area||Length of the Mainstream/km||Drainage Area/103 km2||Annual Runoff/km3||Population/Million (2017)|
|South Tibet (China)/Arunachal Pradesh (India)||278||81.6||80.5||1.6|
|Year||Events||Cooperation on Transboundary Water|
|1950||Diplomatic ties established in 1950; the prime ministers visited each other in 1954.||Provisions of discharge data in 1955, and of hydrologic information (discharge, rainfall, and water level) in 1957.|
|1959||Border conflicts in 1959–1962.||In 1963, China stopped the provision of hydrologic information.|
|1984||Agreement on trade in 1984. Indian prime minister visited China in 1988.||In 1993, agreement on environmental cooperation signed, along with gradual restoration of Sino-Indian relations|
|1997||Protocol on Cooperation||In 2002, MOU and the Implementation Plan on the Yaluzangbu/BR.|
|2003||Declaration on the Principles of Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation in 2003; Joint Declaration in 2005||MOU in 2005 and Implementation Plan in 2008. The Expert Level Mechanism on Trans-border Rivers (ELM) established in 2006, and the Work Regulation in 2008. MOU in 2008 and Implementation plan in 2010.|
|2010||Joint Communique||MOU in 2010 and Implementation Plan in 2011 on the Langqen Zangbo/Sutlej River.|
|2013||Joint Declaration; Agreement on Border Defence Cooperation.||MOU in 2013 and the Implementation Plans upon the Yaluzangbu/BR in 2013 and in 2014. MOU on Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-border Rivers in 2013.|
|2015||Joint Declaration||In 2015, MOU upon the Langqen Zangbo/Sutlej River.|
|2017||73-day Doklam standoff||In 2017, provision of hydrological information and annual meeting of China-India expert level mechanism stopped.|
|2018||Informal summit of the top leaders||In 2018, MOU and Implementation Plan upon the Yaluzangbu/BR; the 11th meeting of the ELM held; China notified of emergency information on a landslide on the mainstream to India.|
|Year||Document||Cooperation Intentions and Achievements|
|1997||Protocol on Cooperation||To facilitate exchange of information between the respective ministries.|
|2003||Declaration on the Principles of Relations and Cooperation||To work towards exchange of flood season hydrological data on common rivers as agreed.|
|2005||Joint Declaration||To cooperate in the exchange of flood season hydrological information on transboundary rivers agreed. The two sides expressed their satisfaction with the signing of a MOU on hydrological information provision.|
|2006||Joint Declaration||To set up an expert-level mechanism to discuss cooperation on trans-border rivers as agreed between them. The ongoing provision of hydrological data has proved valuable in flood forecasting and mitigation.|
|2008||A Common Version for the 21st Century||An example of how cooperation on trans-border rivers since 2002 has contributed positively to building mutual understanding and trust. The Indian side highly appreciates the assistance extended by China on the provision of flood season hydrological data, which has assisted India in ensuring the safety and security of its population in the regions along these rivers.|
|2010||Joint Communique||To promote and enhance cooperation in the field of trans-border rivers. The two sides noted the good cooperation in the field of trans-border rivers. The Indian side appreciated the flood-season hydrological data and the assistance in emergency management provided by China.|
|2013||Joint Declaration||To strengthen further cooperation on trans-border rivers. To cooperate through the ELM on provision of flood-season hydrological data and emergency management and exchange views on other issues of mutual interest. India expressed appreciation to China for providing flood-season hydrological data and the assistance in emergency management.|
|2013||Joint Declaration on Future Development Vision of Strategic Cooperative Partnership||To further strengthen cooperation, within the ELM, and work together on provision of flood-season hydrological data and emergency management, and exchange views on other issues of mutual interest. Deeply appreciated the resources and efforts by China in making available data on and emergency management of the trans-border rivers. Welcomed the signing of a MOU on Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-border Rivers.|
|2014||Joint Declaration on Building a Closer Partnership for Development||Within the ELM, to cooperate on hydrological data provision, emergency management, and exchange views on other issues of mutual interest. The Indian side appreciated the flood-season hydrological data and the assistance in emergency management provided by the Chinese side.|
|2015||Joint Declaration||To cooperate on provision of flood-season hydrological data and emergency management, and exchange views on other issues of mutual interest, within the ELM. The Indian side appreciated the flood-season hydrological data and the assistance in emergency management provided by the Chinese side.|
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Feng, Y.; Wang, W.; Liu, J. Dilemmas in and Pathways to Transboundary Water Cooperation between China and India on the Yaluzangbu-Brahmaputra River. Water 2019, 11, 2096. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11102096
Feng Y, Wang W, Liu J. Dilemmas in and Pathways to Transboundary Water Cooperation between China and India on the Yaluzangbu-Brahmaputra River. Water. 2019; 11(10):2096. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11102096Chicago/Turabian Style
Feng, Yan, Wenling Wang, and Jiang Liu. 2019. "Dilemmas in and Pathways to Transboundary Water Cooperation between China and India on the Yaluzangbu-Brahmaputra River" Water 11, no. 10: 2096. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11102096