Scarcity and the deteriorating quality of the water are
increasingly becoming a global concern and South Asia is no exception. The
growing global water stress not only makes human existence tough but also poses
a threat to the survival and prosperity of future generations. Water is crucial to life and survival as is evident in
the fact that all the ancient civilizations such as the Indus Valley
Civilization, the Nile Civilization or the Mesopotamian Civilization have
prospered along the rivers.
is a reality that usage of water resources has reached or far exceeded the
limits of sustainability in most of the countries in South Asia. Rapid growth
of population, urbanisation and mega cities, industries, mining, intensive
irrigation and agriculture has combined with inefficient use of water to ensure
that water is fast becoming a scarce resource—both in terms of quantity and
quality. This has fuelled the potential for conflicts between different uses
and users of water, between states within countries, and across countries. With
the possibility of devastating impact of climate change, and the severe
shortage of freshwater as projected by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC), the situation is likely to take a catastrophic turn.
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The water problem in South Asia is a complex issue with
both internal and external linkages and cannot be studied in isolation from the
existing political and diplomatic relations of the countries. Logically,
confronted with common water problems and dependent on common resources, States
should find it easy to forge cooperative mechanisms on water security to mutual
advantages. The current situation however suggests otherwise and there exist
numerous problem areas which can trigger conflicts in future.
Water tensions can be seen
embedded in South Asia’s turbulent history. The region has witnessed wars, and
is an area where protracted violent conflicts and border disputes abound. It is
argued that many of these conflicts between South Asian countries are also taking
environmental forms. Simultaneously, various environmental issues are getting
regionalised and politicised. There is thus an ‘environmentalisation’ of
certain conflicts and politicisation of the environment in this region. All
these issues suggest a possibility of a ‘water crisis’ looming over the region.
of sharing and managing this finite element in South Asia has been generating a
lot of debate in recent times. However, with the global concern over
water scarcity and the growing realization of the need for open-ness of
democratic participation, there is the potential for reduced conflict through
doing as much as possible to meet the needs of the overall region, rather than
first meeting the national needs.
The consequences for this emerging problem could be frightening and not
very difficult to envisage at the present stage. Water has rarely been the
main impetus in international conflicts; rather it has been just one of a
number of factors. However, in a world running increasingly dry and with large
portions of the world’s population subject to uneven water distribution, water
is likely to be at the forefront of international disputes in the future.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Water disputes may, in the
future, result in transnational conflicts and therefore suitable mechanisms
need to be evolved to confront these challenges before they convert themselves
into full-fledged conflicts. The need for robust cooperative structures and
appropriate sharing mechanisms based on future needs are therefore essential
for the progress of entire region. The research seeks to analyse the existing
water situation and river control measures in the South Asian region. It will
also examine the potential for water conflicts in South Asia, including China
and Afghanistan, with special reference to its impact on India and recommend
effective collaborative measures to meet this future challenge.
The ‘Water Issue’
(Hydro-politics) is one of the significant geopolitical factors in the
relationship between South Asian nations and disagreements over water sharing, shall be an intricate
part, or, even the source of future conflicts within South Asia.
The following terms of
reference were laid down for the research:-
The research will be
restricted to the Indian Sub Continent to include Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)
of China and Afghanistan.
The internal politics
between various national parties has not been discussed.
The focus of the research
was on a comprehensive view of the trans-boundary water disputes based on the fact
that the South Asian region shares a common history and an inter-linked water
profile. These were then explored as the basis to develop the study through a
body of literature. The empirical data gathered by the team was then combined
with existing conflict forecast and scenario building tools to predict
precipitation of conflicts.
As a starting point of
research, information was collected and analysed using primary and secondary
sources. Secondary data was collected from electronic database using reference
lists in the library and sifting through key journals. Relevant organisations
and individuals who were working on water and conflict issues were also
approached for their perspective. This was further supplemented with primary
material like Government water policy documents, newspaper reports, published
and unpublished documents and reports of NGOs. Existing conflict forecast tools
such as conflict forecast model, the qualitative and quantitative method of
forecast, conflict game theory etc were applied to predict conflict scenarios
.The research work therefore relies extensively on secondary sources, media
reports and the internet.