Managing South Asia's Waters

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SAPNA: South Asian Studies Volume: VI

Text of Managing South Asia's Waters

  • South Asian StudiesVolume: VI


    Waters Managing South Asia's

  • Volume VI, Managing South Asia's Waters" of the South Asian Studies series was prepared by members of one of the 14 research groups established under the South Asian Policy Analysis (SAPANA) Network, and assigned to examine the

    problems of managing the region's water resources, including policy approaches,

    resource sharing, and water quality issues. The volume also contains articles previously published in the South Asian

    Journal to supplement this analysis.

    2006 Free Media Foundation

    All rights reserved.

    First printing June 2006Editorial collective: Imtiaz Alam (series

    editor); Dr Akbar S Zaidi (series coordinator); Zebunnisa Burki, Waqar

    Mustafa, and Maheen Pracha (copy editors); and Muhammad Adeel

    (publication designer).Produced and designed at the Free Media Foundation and South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), Lahore, Pakistan

    The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this book are

    those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the South Asian

    Journal or the South Asian Policy Analysis (SAPANA) Network.

    The South Asian Journal and Free Media Foundation encourage use of the material presented herein, with appropriate credit.

    South Asian Policy Analysis Network(SAPANA)

    9 Lower Ground FloorEden Heights, Jail Road


    ISBN 969-9060-07-7


  • About SAPANA

    ogether with the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), the South Asian Journal conceived a research programme in 2005 to develop a virtual think-tank T

    comprising an interactive network of scholars from across South Asia. From this initiative emerged the South Asian Policy Analysis (SAPANA) Network - an autonomous, independent, and cross-disciplinary research and analysis platform for initiating informed policy debates, undertaking fresh research, critically evaluating existing research and public policy, and proposing alternative policy measures in South Asia.

    As a first step, 14 working groups were set up under SAPANA to carry out research and propose policy alternatives on issues crucial to the region. The groups presented more than 80 draft research papers at a conference organised by the South Asian Journal, titled Envisioning South Asia, which was held in Islamabad (Pakistan) on 29-30 April 2006, and attended by more than 150 eminent scholars from across the region. After incorporating the feedback generated by the conference, these papers have been collated for publication as a 14-volume series titled South Asian Studies. The series is intended for public perusal, media review, public debate, and the consideration of policymakers.

    When SAPANA was formed, the need for yet another think-tank was questioned, given that there are already numerous institutions involved in similar work. We, at SAFMA and SAPANA, have found that most current research in South Asia is either too departmentalised or too technical for it to be accessible by a non-academic audience; and that it is greatly influenced by official and dominant technocratic paradigms.

    SAPANA will endeavour to undertake critical, independent, objective, practical, and pro-people research to pursue an alternative policy agenda for sustainable development and the empowerment of people. It will also engage the public and policymakers along with other major stakeholders in order to sustain informed and constructive dialogue between the state and civil society. In collaboration with SAFMA, SAPANA will bring its research-based findings within the domain of public discourse, rather than leave it to the mercy of dust or termites.

    The next phase will begin with formally establishing a board of advisors comprising prominent and able academics and researchers from across South Asia. It is hoped that SAPANA will establish itself as a leading think-tank in South Asia within the first five years of its inception. The major tasks that lie ahead are: (i) building a comprehensive database of scholars and researchers who are either based in South Asia or based overseas but specialise in the region; (ii) planning research themes for subsequent years, arranging workshops on these themes, and publishing the findings that emerge; and (iii) organising a larger conference every two years to bring together new themes, new research, and emerging scholars.

    Apart from these tasks, SAPANA will design projects and commission research that is of public and policy interest, and will liaise with policymakers and governments through the media. As a virtual institution, it will engage scholars and researchers on specific undertakings, and thus set a new direction for the South Asia of our hopes.


  • Preface: Water Issues in South Asia ixImtiaz Alam

    Recommendations of SAPANA xiiiResearch Group

    Executive Summary xviiDr Zaigham Habib

    South Asian Water Concerns 22Ramaswamy R Iyer

    A Policy Management Approach to 37Pakistan's Water ResourcesDr Zaigham Habib

    Nepal's National Water Plan 62Dr Bishnu Hari Nepal

    Water Resources Management 85in BangladeshGiasuddin Ahmed Choudhury

    Bangladesh's Water Issues 107Emaduddin Ahmad

    Indus Treaty and Baglihar: An Overview 126Ramaswamy R Iyer

    Pakistan and the Baglihar Hydro 136Electric Project Shahid Husain


    Arsenic Poisoning and Domestic 151Water Supply in BangladeshDr M Abdul Ghani

    Decentralizing South Asia's 161Rural Water SectorDr Satyajit Singh

    Water Politics in Pakistan 173Dr Zaigham Habib

    India's River Linking Plans 186Syed Shahid Husain

    Nepal's Hydel Power for Export 197Dr Upendra Gautam and Ajoy Karki

    SAPANA Conference Declaration 209(Islamabad, April 2006)


  • ixviii


    The South Asian Policy Analysis (SAPANA) Network would like to thank all the contributors to this volume - their insight into and understanding of a tumultuous region and the challenges it faces provides a myriad of insights that could help define new options for and approaches to tackling South Asia's most pressing issues. Contributors to the volume include (in alphabetical order): Emaduddin Ahmad, Dr Giasuddin Ahmed Choudhury, and Dr M Abdul Ghani from Bangladesh; Ramaswamy R Iyer and Dr Satyajit Singh from India; Dr Upendra Gautam, Ajoy Karki, and Dr Bishnu Hari Nepal from Nepal; and Dr Zaigham Habib and Shahid Husain from Pakistan. SAPANA would also like to acknowledge the contribution of the series coordinator, Dr Akbar S Zaidi; the research group coordinator, Dr Zaigham Habib; and the editorial and design collective at the South Asian Journal, Lahore - Zebunnisa Burki, Waqar Mustafa, and Maheen Pracha for their hard work and editing, and Muhammad Adeel for designing the volume - without which this volume could not have been published. Finally, SAPANA is immensely grateful to the Royal Netherlands Embassy and Royal Norwegian Embassy for their generous support, without which the production of this series would not have been possible.

    Water Issues in South Asia

    f 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, I

    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 both water scarcity and demand increase and 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, 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


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    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 three western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab) to Pakistan. The IWT has remarkably survived the ups and downs of Indo-Pak relations, and despite wars the parties have upheld the Treaty. Although serious differences persist over various projects being undertaken by India over Jhelum (2 projects) and Chenab (9 projects) rivers, the IWT provides a legal mechanism to iron out differences and settle disputes as in the