Above, a watershed in Wuqi County, China, after crop fields on the slopes were converted to grass and tree cover. Researchers are advocating for collaboration and cooperation between the growing nations of China and India to address environment issues facing the planet, including water availability, biodiversity loss, and climate change. (Credit: Guanliang Liu)

MICHIGAN STATE (US)—In a recently published report in the journal Science, researchers advocate using scientific collaboration to help break down political barriers between China and India, two nations with growing economies and populations—and growing influence on the global environment.

“China and India are the two largest countries in terms of population,” says Jianguo “Jack” Liu, a coauthor of the report and a distinguished professor of fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University. “Even while the rest of the world is in a recession, the economies of China and India are growing and the countries’ consumption of raw materials is increasing. Cooperation between the two is vital to mitigating negative environmental impacts.”

“We all have a huge interest in a sustainable world and the way we’re managing it now, it simply isn’t sustainable,” adds Peter Raven, coauthor and president of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Raven also is a foreign member of both the Chinese and Indian academies of science. “The problems get worse every year; biodiversity loss and climate change have clear global significance.

“Our thesis is the two countries share so much adjacent territory that the environmental benefits should be obvious and, informed by scientific analysis, should provide a bridge between them.”

According to Liu, water availability could be an increasingly challenging issue facing the two countries and one that will require careful cooperation. Many rivers flow through both China and India—if one country builds too many dams on its side to generate hydroelectric power, it will likely cause water shortages downstream in the other country.

“Water is a huge issue,” Liu says. “It’s being discussed extensively. We need to make people aware of the benefits of cooperation. It’s more than just China and India that will be affected if these two countries don’t work together. The environmental impacts will be felt around the world, including in the United States.”

“One thing we have learned from the recession is that without sustainability there cannot be unlimited growth,” adds Kamaljit Bawa, University of Massachusetts-Boston distinguished professor of biology and president of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment in Bangalor, India. “The two countries are not facing recession and it is time for them to exercise environmental stewardship. Future economic growth is contingent upon this stewardship.”

Researchers from the Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems in Zurich, Switzerland; University of California-San Diego; Yale University; Jawaharlal Nehru University, in Delhi, India; and Kunming Institute of Zoology, in Yunnan, China, contributed to the work.

Liu’s research is supported by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, the National Science Foundation, and NASA.

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