Water Issues in South Asia

Satisfactory Essays
Water Issues in South Asia

If there is any single most important issue that mars bilateral

relations among the countries of the subcontinent, it is water. The

issues of cross-border water distribution, utilisation, management and

mega irrigation/hydro-electric power projects affecting the upper and

lower riparian countries are gradually taking centre-stage in defining

interstate relations as water scarcity increases and both drought and

floods make life too often miserable.

Thanks to its location, size and contiguous borders with other South

Asian countries, it is India, in its capacity as both upper and lower

riparian, that has come into conflict with most of its neighbours,

except Bhutan, on the cross-border water issues. Given an atmosphere

of mistrust, an upper riparian India has serious issues to resolve

with lower riparian Pakistan and Bangladesh and, despite being lower

riparian, with the upper riparian Nepal. This, however, does not mean

that India is solely responsible for certain deadlocks, even though

its share of responsibility may be larger than other countries which

have their own physical limitations and political apprehensions.

As elsewhere in the world, and more particularly in the subcontinent

where population explosion continues and environmental degradation

worsens, water resources, like energy, are going to be much lower than

the increasing demand, even if they are harnessed to the most optimum.

Given the depleting resources of water, the issues of human security,

and water security as its most crucial part, are going to assume

astronomical proportions. The issues of water distribution and

management are bringing not only countries of the region, but also

states and regions within provinces into conflict since they are not

being settled amicably within a grand framework of riparian statutes

respecting upstream and downstream rights.

What is, however, quite appreciable is that the countries of the

subcontinent have made certain remarkable efforts to resolve their

differences over water distribution through bilateral agreements.

India and Pakistan signed the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) in 1960

allocating three eastern rivers (Ravi, Sutlej and Beas) to India and