Rising Water Levels Solve Another Geopolitical Problem

We all know climate change is supposed to create more human conflict, but what about the problems it’s solving? Xinhua reports on an elegant solution to a long-simmering Sino-Russian border dispute:  In the next 10 days, the water level around Heixiazi Island is expected to submerge the whole land mass, which usually has an average ...

585559_island_12.jpg
585559_island_12.jpg

We all know climate change is supposed to create more human conflict, but what about the problems it's solving? Xinhua reports on an elegant solution to a long-simmering Sino-Russian border dispute: 

In the next 10 days, the water level around Heixiazi Island is expected to submerge the whole land mass, which usually has an average altitude of 37 meters, said an official with the flood control and drought relief headquarters with northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

China and Russia ended a century-long dispute over the island and held a border redrawing ceremony in 2008, declaring each side owned half of the 335-square-km piece of land, which is located at the confluence of the Heilongjiang River, known as the Amur River in Russia, and the Ussuri River.

We all know climate change is supposed to create more human conflict, but what about the problems it’s solving? Xinhua reports on an elegant solution to a long-simmering Sino-Russian border dispute: 

In the next 10 days, the water level around Heixiazi Island is expected to submerge the whole land mass, which usually has an average altitude of 37 meters, said an official with the flood control and drought relief headquarters with northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province.

China and Russia ended a century-long dispute over the island and held a border redrawing ceremony in 2008, declaring each side owned half of the 335-square-km piece of land, which is located at the confluence of the Heilongjiang River, known as the Amur River in Russia, and the Ussuri River.

Yes, the waters will subside eventually, but the long-term trends don’t seem promising. Precipitation in the area was 47 percent higher last month than in previous years and the current water level of the Heilongjiang River exceeds the previous record by more than half a meter, according to Xinhua. The Chinese half of the island is largely unihabited, though a small community apparently lives on the Russian side, which presumably will need to be evacuated. 

Perhaps Heixiazi, or Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island as it’s known in Russia, will one day meet a fate similar to New Moore Island, a territory in the Bay of Bengal claimed for years by both India and Bangladesh until it sank beneath the waves forever in 2010. Then there’s Okinotorishima, the tiny coral atoll that Japan has spent $600 million to protect from the surrounding seas. 

Sooner or later, water wins all island disputes.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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