Even before this year’s delayed and inadequate monsoon recently brought some relief to the Indian subcontinent, researchers discovered widespread concern by local experts that their governments are mismanaging the water supplies on which a billion people depend for survival, and giving insufficient attention to climate change. A new report, Attitudes to Water in South Asia (SA), explores domestic water management and trans-boundary water issues in 5 countries – Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. It focuses on two river systems, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and the Indus-Kabul basins, which are vital to the lives of a vast population, according to a message received from Climate News Network on Monday. Chatham House – the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, worked on the report with India’s Observer Research Foundation, and similar partner organisations in the other four countries. Their findings are based on evidence from almost 500 interviews conducted in the five countries in 2013 with a range of water experts, government officials, policymakers and decision-makers from NGOs and the private sector. Observing that water is ‘highly politicised in the region, with strong links to food security and the livelihoods of the large proportion of the population dependent on agriculture’, the report underscores the relation between the domestic mismanagement of water in each country and the failure to address trans-boundary water relations.
‘In spite of the shared river system and the interdependencies, South Asian governments have signed few bilateral water agreements and no regional ones,’ the report says. ‘Those trans-boundary water treaties that do exist face criticism on a number of grounds: for time periods too short to too long; and for their lack of provision for environmental factors or new challenges, such as climate change.’ Yet the ability of countries in South Asia to deal with the possible effects of climate change will be in part determined by their ability to manage water, and also how they deal with weather events such as floods and droughts. For instance, in Afghanistan, even where respondents had some knowledge of the body responsible for setting government-wide policy on climate change, they were equally certain that the amount of practical action on ground was virtually zero. In Bangladesh, where most respondents were acutely aware of climate change and its possible effects, many said their government was doing better. There was a general consensus that ministers had made climate change a priority by setting aside funds for adaptation and mitigation. However, Afghani and Bangladeshi respondents noted the lack of availability of important policy documents, currently available only in English, in local languages. And Indian respondents felt that climate change was not a major priority for the government, although it was widely recognised that it could wreak havoc on the country.
Climate change could also have a big impact on the trans-boundary water relations, the report warns. Some respondents from India and Bangladesh feared that a variation in the timing and intensity of monsoons could affect agricultural production and weaken food security, ‘driving tension between the two countries over access to water in a dry period’, according to AFP.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>