China-India: The Brahmaputra River
The Brahmaputra River is particularly important to the agricultural industry in India’s Assam plains, and worries have arisen recently regarding a series of hydroelectric plants that China is in various stages of construction on its Tibetan plateau. Some experts believe that these projects will reduce the flow of the Brahmaputra in India, compounding an already tenuous water situation in the affected areas.
While there is no comprehensive bilateral treaty in place for the sustainable management of the Brahmaputra River, some steps have been taken recently by the Modi and Xi Jinping governments, mainly in the form of an information sharing agreement for hydrological data. But until cooperation becomes more entrenched, the Brahmaputra River remains a potential source of friction between two of the world’s preeminent rising powers.
Ethiopia-Egypt: Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Nile River
In 2011, the Ethiopian government announced plans to build the ‘Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’ – a $4.1 bn, 6,000MW-capacity hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile near the border with Sudan. The dam is meant to capitalize on Ethiopia’s considerable hydroelectric potential and provide electricity for not just Ethiopians but regional populations as well. However, some fear that this dam will trade one problem for another. And by shoring up its energy supply, Ethiopia might be jeopardizing its water security by increasing the volatility of a river that already has a long history of being difficult to predict.
The potential impact on water supplies, particularly downriver, is a grave concern in Egypt; which, unlike neighboring Sudan, has consistently opposed the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam from the start. Cairo’s legal argument defers to treaties from 1929 and 1959 that guarantee Egypt two-thirds of the Nile’s waters along with the right to veto any upstream projects – a right that was ignored when Ethiopia unilaterally went ahead with construction.
Turkey-Iraq: Ilisu Dam and the Tigris River
Turkey’s newly re-elected Erdogan government has been keen to push through the final part of its long-running Southeastern Anatolian Project: the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River near the border of Syria. The Ilisu Dam is the most recent in a long line of Turkish projects meant to tap into the hydroelectric potential of both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and once completed the Ilisu Dam will generate 1,200 MW, or roughly 2% of Turkey’s energy needs.