Water: Asia's New Battleground?


Security concerns in Asia focus today on maritime and territorial disputes in Northeast Asia. Yet, the potential for conflict over access to water across Asia may be equally dangerous. Asia's exploding demand for water makes it the most water-scarce continent on a per capita basis. Many of its water sources cross national boundaries and, as less water is available, international tensions may rise. The water security challenges facing China and India in particular may have consequences not just for the two rising powers, but also for Asia as a whole. Therefore, how policy-makers manage that demand and cross-border water conflicts deserves greater attention.

On January 24, the Asia Society and the India Project at the Brookings Institution will host a discussion on the water security challenges facing Asian nations, with a particular focus on China and India. Discussants will also highlight how water security challenges interact with those involving energy and food security. Panelists will include Brahma Chellaney, professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, and Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Turner will cover how three colliding trends — rising food scarcity, booming energy demand, and declining fresh water reserves — are disrupting economies, governments, and environments in Asia. Based on the Woodrow Wilson Center's China Environment Forum joint research and reporting initiative with the Michigan-based NGO Circle of Blue, Turner will discuss the major water-energy confrontations in India and China.

Chellaney will discuss his work on water stress as Asia's defining crisis of the 21st century. He will also discuss how the water demand-supply gap is likely to create obstacles to continued rapid economic growth, stoking interstate tensions over shared resources, exacerbating long-time territorial disputes, and imposing further hardships on the poor. This was the subject of his book Water: Asia's New Battleground. This event will also recognize Chellaney for his receipt of the 2012 Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award for that volume.

Matthew Stumpf, Director of Asia Society's Washington Office, will provide introductory remarks and Tanvi Madan, Fellow and Director of the India Project at Brookings, will moderate the discussion. 

After the program, panelists will take audience questions.


Brahma Chellaney is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He served as a member of the Policy Advisory Group headed by the Foreign Minister of India, and as an adviser to India's National Security Council. He has held appointments at Harvard University, the Brookings Institution, Johns Hopkins University, and the Australian National University and is the author of five previous books, including Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India, and Japan.

Jennifer Turner has been the director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center for 13 years. She also serves as editor of the Wilson Center's journal, the China Environment Series, and has co-produced the research and publication of Choke Point: China, a multi-media exploration of water-energy confrontations in China. Turner holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Comparative Politics from Indiana University, Bloomington.

For questions, please email AsiaDC@asiasociety.org or call 202.414.2800.

Thank you for your interest. This event is at capacity. Please email AsiaDC@asiasociety.org for information on future events or to subscribe to Asia Society Washington's listserv.

This event is hosted in coordination with the India Project at Brookings.

Event Details

Thu 24 Jan 2013
3:30 - 5 p.m.
The Brookings Institution, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Add to Calendar 20130124T203000 20130124T220000 UTC Asia Society: Water: Asia's New Battleground? The Brookings Institution, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW