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Approaching the Mekong in a Time of Turbulence


Approaching the Mekong in a Time of Turbulence (2019).. Coclanis, Peter A. (Ed.) (pp. 219-234). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.


Disputes regarding trans-boundary waters are almost always fraught with difficulty, so it is no surprise that disagreements over rights to the Mekong are proving problematic. Not only are the six nation-states comprising the GMS quite different from one another, but one—the PRC—is a great power. The fact that the source of the Mekong is located on the Tibetan Plateau—that is, within the territorial bounds of the PRC obviously complicates matters further regarding water rights. This paper will address issues regarding governance over the Mekong, issues becoming increasingly pressing every year because of climate change, on the one hand, and upstream dam-building/river diversion schemes, on the other. In so doing, the author will examine several approaches to/rationales for river governance—first-recourse governmental regulation, Chinese IR theories, natural law/environmental ethics, etc.—but will make the case for the efficacy of a transactions-cost approach to addressing issues of trans-boundary water rights on the Mekong. This more voluntaristic approach—which emphasizes efficiency and the accurate ascertainment and allocation, and effective enforcement of property rights regarding concerned parties, public and private—is based loosely on the work of Ronald Coase.


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Advances in Global Change Research