Symposium on Inter-state Water Conflicts in Southern Asia
Date: 18 February 2011
Venue: ParkRoyal on Beach Road Hotel, Singapore
Organised by: RSIS South Asia Programme and the RSIS Centre for NTS Studies.
|Credit: Baldiri / Wikipedia
Water conflicts are a subject of intense debate and discussion in Southern Asia, which comprises India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and China. Factors such as the history of partition, a burgeoning population, increasing urbanisation and scarcity of water resources have only magnified transboundary river disputes in the region. It was against this backdrop that the Symposium on Inter-State Water Conflicts in Southern Asia was organised by the South Asia Programme of the RSIS Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS), and the RSIS Centre for NTS Studies, on 18 February 2011.
The Symposium brought together participants from diverse fields – politics, academia, media and civil society – to present points of view from both sides of India’s water conflicts with Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, and to discuss those perspectives. The aim was to understand and identify areas of agreement and disagreement, come up with ways to reduce differences, and explore new, practical steps to reduce friction among states.
During the Symposium, a number of noteworthy points were raised:
• The China Factor: China is one of the most significant factors when examining the issue of water resources in Southern Asia – many of the major rivers in the region emerge from China and the Tibetan plateau after which they flow into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. China itself is a tremendously thirsty country and there are fears that in the process of quenching its own thirst, China will cause other countries to suffer from thirst. It is therefore critical to ensure that China is effectively and positively engaged and transboundary river waters are shared amicably.
• Water Management: All countries in the region need to focus on effective water management. They must formulate robust national water policies, and also share best practices on water saving and management to curb the fast depletion of resources.
• Transparency: There should be greater transparency on water issues. To bridge the trust deficit among countries, dialogue and interaction should be increased – not just between governments but also among academics, policymakers and think tanks. Water issues should not be politicised, but dealt with as a collective good. Non-issues brought up repeatedly on the basis of misinformation will have to be avoided and constructive cooperation encouraged.
• Emerging Issues: New and critical issues such as climate change, the melting of glaciers, deforestation, pollution and other forms of ecological damage can have a devastating impact on water resources. As these issues are not country-specific, they would have to be jointly tackled by all countries.
• The Way Forward: To achieve the optimum utilisation of water resources in the region, multilateral and regional approaches would be needed. All countries should recognise and respect each other’s rights, and efforts should be made to firm up regional cooperation and international law to this end.
A report on the Symposium proceedings is now available online.
Click here for an overview of the symposium’s programme.
Posted on: 18/2/2011 8:00:00 AM |
Topic: Other NTS Issues