China and India, the emerging economic giants of the world, will largely determine the environmental outcomes for our planet in the 21st century, claim the world’s eight leading scientists from India, China and the United States, led by Kamaljit S. Bawa, in this week’s policy forum in Science.

Both China and India, because of border conflict and construction of hundreds of dams are leaving a huge ecological footprint in the Himalayas. Imports of palm oil and timber by both countries are contributing to deforestation in Southeast Asia. China is the biggest and India fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Bawa, the Founder President of the Bangalore based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, a Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, urges the two countries to “exercise environmental stewardship to sustain their growing economies.”

According to Jack Liu of the Michigan State University, and a coauthor of the paper, water availability could be the most challenging issue facing the two countries and one that will require careful cooperation. The Himalayas are the common source of rivers for both countries, and if a country builds a dam on its side to generate hydroelectric power, it will likely cause water shortages downstream in the other country.

"Water is a huge issue," said Liu. "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."

"We all have a huge interest in a sustainable world and the way we're managing it now, it simply isn't sustainable," said Peter Raven, co-author 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 s and=crblems ge cacp2ps ofpd2ssso irges the two countris="shon muearadjast cthe ritoeveia thne the environmenthe benefier could obprevioss awa,oinf, led ng sciee c gleansso,ier couhe le_v isbridg thetis m in mrld."

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