Originally Published 2011-05-13 00:00:00 Published on May 13, 2011
Water security is a growing concern in South Asia today. Growing population, expanding urban centres, widespread pollution and mismanagement are pushing several countries in the region towards a water crisis. Mr. B. G. Verghese, well known journalist, author and expert on water issues, calls for better understanding and cooperation among the countries in South Asia to address the challenge of ensuring adequate and equitable availability of water for the people of the region.
Water Issues in South Asia

Water is an important issue in South Asia today and it is becoming increasingly so because of seasonal or absolute scarcity. There have been water conflicts due to increasing water stress, including pollution, competing uses and transboundary issues. These have been accentuated and are now being trumped by climate change which is introducing a completely new paradigm with regard to hydrology and the hydrological cycle. Much old learning and conflicts must now be reviewed in the context of the emerging
challenges posed by climate change.
Historically, South Asia, barring Sri Lanka and Maldives but not excluding Nepal and Bhutan, were all part of the British Indian empire, a single natural resource region and geo-political entity. Development occurred wherever it seemed likely to be most productive and yield maximum revenue. As a result, the British developed the huge integrated Indus irrigation system, largely in what is now Pakistan because those were Crown lands whereas what lay on the Indian side (East Punjab and, now, Haryana), included princely States and other lands that were not as useful or important from the British point of view, and were therefore neglected. In
Bengal, the main concern was floods.
Partition saw new boundaries being drawn which created issues of water sharing for East Pakistan/Bangladesh that persist to this day. Bangladesh is in the unique and unhappy situation of having over 90 per cent of its waters flowing into it from India.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.