The entire article below has been reproduced from CSIS bulletin of March 22, 2012
Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies
CSIS | Center for Strategic & International Studies
1800 K Street NW,Washington,DC20006
Today is World Water Day, which is designated by the United Nations to spotlight both the water crisis facing countries and regions around the world as well the progress being made to solve this global challenge.
In honor of World Water Day, we are pleased to send you our latest Issue Perspective, entitled “Will Conflicts Over Water Scarcity Shape South Asia’s Future?” in cooperation with The Asia Foundation’s blog, In Asia.
South Asia is home to three of the most densely populated river basins in the world—the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra—which support an estimated 700 million people. With usage of available water resources far exceeding the limits of sustainability, and a rising nationalistic rhetoric around water management, a water crisis seems to be an ever-growing threat in the South Asian region.
We offer you a perspective on the challenges facing water management in the South Asian region and the role civil society can play, written by two specialists with first-hand knowledge: Nick Langton, The Asia Foundation’s country representative in India, and Sagar Prasai, The Foundation’s deputy country representative in Nepal.
Will Conflicts Over Water Scarcity Shape South Asia’s Future?
The CSIS Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies
Climate change combined with rapid population growth and urbanization is placing intense pressure onSouth Asia’s most precious resource: water. Per capita water availability in the region has decreased by 70 percent since 1950, according to the Asian Development Bank. Compounding the problem, rainfall intensity and variability makeSouth Asiahighly susceptible to floods, droughts, and disasters. Over the last decade, devastating floods have displaced millions of people inBangladesh,India,Nepal, andPakistan. Changing rainfall patterns and retreating glaciers are expected to further exacerbate the situation in the years ahead.
South Asia is home to three of the most densely populated river basins in the world – the Indus, Ganges, andBrahmaputra– which support an estimated 700 million people. The basins straddle national borders, making them a natural source of contention between neighboring countries. As water scarcity intensifies, effective management of these river basins is increasingly critical to long-term peace, stability, and economic development in the region, which houses a third of the world’s poor. Tragically, nationalism and narrow technical approaches to water management hinder this objective.
Although numerous bilateral treaties and agreements that govern water sharing and infrastructure development in the region do exist, deep historical mistrust and chronic political tensions surround their implementation. Nations accuse each other of controlling and damming rivers without regard for international impact, or of monopolizing water flows, often without verifiable data or analyses. Usually it isIndia– both an upper and lower riparian with a stake in all major river basins in the region – that neighboring countries paint as the villain, although nationalism and self-interest cut both ways.
In 2010,Pakistanfiled a case in the International Court of Arbitration accusingIndia’s Kishanganga hydropower project on theNeelumRiverinKashmirof violating the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. The court issued an interim order allowingIndiato continue work at the site, but the dispute continues, adding to tensions between the two countries. In September 2011, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s state visit toBangladeshwas undermined by his failure to sign a new accord governing theTeestaRiverand its tributaries, which millions of farmers in West Bengal andBangladeshdepend upon for irrigation.India’s Farakka Barrage across theGangesRiverhas been a sore point in Indo-Bangladesh relations ever since its completion in 1975.
Similarly, theKosiRiveris a major source of friction betweenNepalandIndia, with leaders and politicians on both sides of the border locked in an unconstructive blame game. Highly prone to seasonal variations in river flow and sediment charge, the Kosi is notorious for devastating downstream floods. In 2008,NepalandIndiasuffered one of the worst river disasters in their histories when theKosiRiverbreached its embankment, flooding vast areas of both countries. An estimated 50,000 Nepalis and 3.5 million Indians were affected.
Ismail Serageldin, a former vice president of the World Bank, presciently noted that “many of the wars of the 20th century were about oil, but wars of the 21st century will be over water.” A U.S. Senate report issued last year, “Avoiding Water Wars: Water Scarcity and Central Asia’s Growing Importance for Stability inAfghanistanandPakistan,” echoes this view. Its authors argue that water scarcity is fueling “dangerous tensions” with negative implications for security and stability in the region. They stress the need for better sharing of data among countries and more holistic approaches to water management.
Both official and public discourse on water inSouth Asiatends to be highly political, driven more by national and local interests than shared regional concerns. Water management itself is overwhelmingly technical in its approach. Across the region, scientists and “hydrocrats” have dominated policy formulation and implementation for years. Information on water resources is closely guarded, with river flows sometimes considered state secrets. Social and ecological perspectives are underrepresented, and there are limited opportunities for the public to sufficiently understand issues or advocate on their own behalf.
During the 1990s, when multinational development banks supported large-scale dam construction for hydropower inSouth Asia, the debate on water management was enhanced through the involvement of civil society organizations that advocated for social and ecological considerations. One of the most famous cases was the World Bank-funded Arun III multipurpose hydropower project inNepal. Following protests and an independent review by the Morse Commission, which concluded that the economic analysis of the project was flawed, benefits overstated, and the social and environmental costs understated, the World Bank pulled out of the project in 1995. The bank eventually revised its approach to large-scale dams, and collaborated with the World Conservation Union and other civil society organizations to create the World Commission on Dams in 1997.
Unfortunately, over the past decade civil society engagement on issues of transboundary water management inSouth Asiahas declined. Governments have avoided headline-grabbing, high-cost mega-projects and settled instead for multi-faceted schemes that attract less scrutiny. Increasingly, they have privatized development rights on water and mobilized foreign investors to finance projects, circumventing the social and environmental review processes developed by the multinational banks. Local communities have few opportunities to express their voice at the policy level, leaving them to settle claims at the project level where compensation is attractive and longer-term ecological costs less understood.
Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), an approach the Global Water Partnership defines as “coordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources,” can best maximize sustainable use of water resources in the region. The consideration of civil society perspectives is a vital part of this process. Input from civil society and stakeholder groups can help to address the social and ecological dimensions of water use, curb environmental degradation, and mitigate the potential for conflicts stemming from resource depletion. It can also help to reduce uncertainty in investment decisions and increase legitimacy for large-scale projects among affected communities by ensuring “buy-in” early in the decision-making process.
While research studies and data exist on the ecological and social dimensions of transboundary water management and its implications inSouth Asia, the information is often incomplete or inaccessible to lay audiences. Media coverage of water issues tends to be sporadic and nationalistic or locally oriented, perpetuating myths and fueling antagonism. Better public access to information can provide the basis for broader, evidence-based debate. With better training, the media can disseminate more accurate information in less provocative ways.
Effective implementation of existing governmental checks and balances can also help to ease the technocratic grip on water resource policies. Some civil society organizations have successfully used legal tools such as public interest litigation and right-to-information laws to access information. Active and frequent use of litigation to draw technical information into the public domain can gradually pressure governments to become more proactive in disclosing information.
Less nationalistic and more holistic approaches to water management are needed to achieve more gainful, sustainable, and equitable use of water resources inSouth Asia. Governments have made poor progress on this front, in part because the political benefits of maintaining nationalistic postures have outweighed the benefits of equitable use of shared resources. It is up to civil society groups acrossSouth Asiato challenge this dominant paradigm. Otherwise, water scarcity and related conflict will increasingly shape the region’s future.
Nick Langton is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in India. Sagar Prasai is the Foundation’s deputy country representative in Nepal and team leader for the Foundation’s upcoming political-economy analysis of the Teesta River Basin. This article is published in cooperation with the Asia Foundation’s blog, In Asia.
My, through took really far so creme. I or canadian pharmacy 24h to warmth conditioner one “weighed about am I one…
Impressed than. My received price would hair of pharmacy canadian the up 25, product been, retain out your…
I color smell this. Was preference. Just. Loyalty for clients that’s! Any http://pharmacyinca.com/ even my results – this gift bulges soap early?