Himalayan solutions for cooperation and security in river basins : A report by Strategic Foresight Group

This report by the Strategic Foresight Group provides ideas for cooperative solutions to enhance water security in Asia.

coverThis report by the Strategic Foresight Group is a follow-up to its earlier report The Himalayan Challenge: Water Security in Emerging Asia, 2010 . The growing water stress, plans for dams on shared rivers, and uncertainties about the precise impact of climate change have brought water to the forefront of the political agenda of countries in the Himalayan River Basins.

The report recommends policy options for national governments as well as strategies which can be implemented by local authorities and community groups in a politically viable manner. Some of the ideas may on the surface appear to be addressing micro-level issues. However, such micro-level issues do have an important bearing on security at the macro-level in a large continent such as Asia. This is the experience of many other regions as well, as illustrated in several of the chapters in this report.

The objective of this report is to explore how river basins in the Himalayan region, and particularly shared water resources, can foster cooperation and security between Bangladesh, China, India and Nepal. The conventional view is that depleting water resources, growing problem of pollution, uncertain risks posed by climate change together may lead to competition for resources, migration, social instability, internal conflicts and diplomatic tensions between countries. This view is realistic and was discussed in detail in a previous report of Strategic Foresight Group. It has contributed to spreading the awareness of security risks associated with water crisis in the Himalayan region.

The next step is to move from awareness of causes of insecurity and conflicts to the exploration of confidence building and conflict prevention measures. It requires a paradigm shift in our mental frameworks from a mindset of conflict to a mindset of cooperation and security. Such a mental change is a challenging task, but the countries sharing Himalayan River Basins do not have too many other options to sustain their societies, economies and ecology.

Water scarcity, decline in food availability, reduction in livelihood opportunities in rural areas, desertification, soil erosion, sea-level rise and construction of dams will lead to displacement and migration of 50 to 70 million people in the four countries by 2050. Based on past trends, millions of people migrating internally or to neighbouring countries will result in social conflict on a communal or secular basis. Between countries, the intention to build dams and increasing cross border migration could result in heightened tensions.

How do we convert such a high risk scenario to a future of peace and secure society? Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) sought to examine the prospects of such radical change in mindset.

The report is structured as follows -

  • Modern Management
  • Enabling Technologies
  • Local Initiatives
  • Role of Educational Institutions
  • Inter-disciplinary Research
  • Hydro-electricity
  • Regional Convention
  • Himalayan Rivers Commission
  • Political Forum
  • Experience from South East Asia

Download the report here

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