The launch of the Mekong Dam Monitor is likely to place further pressure on Beijing to provide timely, accurate and robust hydrological data on water levels and dam operations on the Mekong River.
Covid-19 and Food Security in the Pacific: Considerable Challenges with an Opportunity to “Build Back Better”
While the health implications of Covid-19 in the South Pacific have been limited, the economic consequences of the pandemic have been severe. The loss of tourism revenue and remittances from overseas have reduced incomes and household spending. The economic downturn has limited economic access to food supplies, which has weakened food security. Efforts to “build back better” in the wake of the pandemic could focus on agricultural development, with significant benefits for regional food security.
The imposition of Chinese trade barriers against Australian agricultural exports have been widely reported, but they leave a series of unanswered questions. Why is China targeting particular industries with particular instruments? What are the costs of the barriers for Australia and China? What are the drivers from within China? How can Australia realistically respond?
Discussions between New Delhi and agricultural interest groups are unlikely to achieve consensus. The market reforms are likely to be implemented and will assist in improving food security outcomes.
While most of the South-East Asian region has managed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus and prevent a public health crisis, the regional economic downturn has resulted in weaker food security and a rise in poverty.
Improved relations with the United States and Israel could help Sudan repair its economy and improve food and water security. As that will help it gain access to international finance and assist it in expressing its interests in regional water sharing negotiations.
While there is uncertainty about future climate conditions, it is probable that South Africa, Australia and other regions with similar climate conditions will experience severe droughts that could deplete water sources, mainly as a result of climate change.
As Iran inaugurates the first stage of a major water transfer project this month, history shows that similar projects failed to alleviate water insecurity as they did not address the root causes of water scarcity.
Beijing recognises that there are growing concerns within China about environmental conditions, especially in relation to air, water and soil pollution. In recent years it has introduced new laws and set a range of goals to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Chinese officials admit that while environmental conditions have improved in recent years, they fall short of public expectations. Beijing is expected to announce new environmental goals in the upcoming 14th Five-Year Plan. If they are as poorly implemented as those in the previous plan, they are also likely to fall short of public expectations.