Session 4

Trans Boundary Headwater Governance in Hindu Kush Himalaya: A Regional Cooperation Framework for Climate Change Adaptation, Water and Food Security and Peace in South Asia
Prakash C. Tiwari, Bhagwati Joshi
Kumaon University, India

Hindu Kush Himalaya constitutes headwaters of some of the largest trans-boundary basins of planet that sustain one-fourth global population dependent primarily on subsistence agriculture in South Asia. Climate change has stressed hydrological regimes of Himalayan headwaters causing substantial decrease in water availability and increasing frequency of hydrological hazards. This may not only increase proportion of water and food insecure population in South Asia, but also have enormous regional implications for fundamental human endeavours ranging from poverty alleviation to climate change adaptation, and even to human security and peace in the region. A regional geo-political cooperation framework among riparian countries is therefore highly imperative not only for adaptation to climate change, but also for peace and security in South Asia.
Study aims to: (i) investigate reasons and rationale for missing river-basin cooperation; (ii) explore geo-political obstructions in initiating effective regional cooperation dialogue; (iii) appraise mutual environmental and economic benefits of trans-boundary headwater governance; and (iv) evolve geo-political and institutional framework for effective trans-boundary headwater governance. Comprehensive study of available literature and media reports, interpretation of people responses obtained through interviews, interaction with political leadership and government officials across Hindu Kush Himalayan countries formed the basis of this study. Study revealed South Asia is one of the most fragmented regions of the world, characterized by political tensions, armed conflict, and extreme political instability and economic imbalances. It was observed political transition, threats of internal and external security, and long standing conflictual inter-state dynamics are some of the important reasons for missing regional cooperation in trans-boundary water management and for freezing hydro-diplomacy. However, there is growing realization, demand and recommendations by scientific community, intellectuals, regional and local institutions, NGOs and civil society organizations for trans-boundary water governance which would help in initiating regional cooperation for adaptive headwater governance in the region.