May 1, 2012 — Climate change combined with rapid population growth and urbanization is placing intense pressure on South 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. South Asia is also 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. The basins straddle national borders, and relations among countries in the region are mired in tension, including around water sharing. As water scarcity intensifies, effective management of these river basins is increasingly critical to long-term peace, stability, and economic development in the region.
A new grant from the Skoll Global Threats Fund will help The Asia Foundation address these challenges in the Teesta River Basin – one of the region’s most contested sub-basins, which straddles the border of India and Bangladesh. With the involvement of civil society partners from both countries, our work will focus on increasing effective cooperation on water governance decisions. The first step involves conducting a stakeholder mapping and political economy analysis to better understand the power dynamics behind decision-making and policy implementation in the basin. The study will provide insights into the realities of water governance, which will help to inform civil society engagement and provide recommendations for further actions. The long-term goals throughout South Asia are to reframe the debate on water governance to include social, human, and environmental perspectives, improve transboundary civil society collaboration, and increase transparency and accountability in water governance.