Dr Arun Kansal
Professor and Head of Department
Coca-Cola Department of Regional Water Studies
TERI School of Advanced Studies
Dr Wenling Wang
Rationale of a TWG on Water in the HKH region
Fresh water resources of Hindukush Himalayan (HKH) region support nearly twenty percent of the world population who, while being predominantly agrarian and lagging in Human Development Index, depend on seasonal flows of water and have a higher Water-GDP elasticity. In recent decades, the region is facing both water stress and water related disasters, thus negatively influencing food security and economic progress of the region and aggravating gender issues and social differentials.
The problem is compounded by increasing population and unpredictable weather and hydrological cycles. A sectorial approach to policy making, political economy considerations of water intensive crops, geographical and cultural diversity have all further amplified the impacts. While scientific planning of water resources is called for, it is difficult due to artificial fragmentation of natural watersheds by political boundaries. The complexity of the problem requires HKH-wide proactive cooperation and collective action to address water security solutions.
An effective way to evolve a response to these complex problems is to identify vulnerable zones and sustain and cultivate some informal groups across borders towns along issue specific areas. Universities associated with the Himalayan University Consortium, can conduct research and undertake field work interventions, and should be able to generate evidence based data on issues related to law and governance.
Insights can also be developed by organizing working group sessions, which can elicit inputs on ways through which formal regimes on transboundary water agreements can be made more reflective of community voices and lived experiences.The HKH region has a rich educational and research capital. Collaboration can thus fill the gap of having a 'common instutional platform' to discuss, debate and agree for joint actions or consensus building. HUC-ICIMOD is active in building synergies amongst knowledge communities of the region for Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD). It has representation of all countries in HKH region and provided a platform to seed various Thematic Working Groups (TWG) for various development goals.
The Water Group (WG) is among 10 HUC Thematic Working Groups established in 2017 and operates on resource sharing and joint leadership basis. The water group is thus a member-led voluntary group to work on water sustainability of the region and endeavour to work synergistically with other TWGs on cross-cutting issues.
The HUC Thematic Working Group on Water (Water Group), seeded at the HUC Annual Meeting in Chengdu in November 2017, consisted of full members and associate members. Representatives of HUC full members of the Water Group from the region along with invited experts (non-members) from India took part in the first meeting of the group at TERI School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi. The meeting set an agenda to draft a strategy paper by the group comprising key aspects, like
a) expansion and inclusiveness
b) governance and communication
c) promotion and resource generation
d) activities leading to a shared water vision of the region.
Activities planned for 2020-2021
In the third meeting of TWG on Water held in Kathmandu during Dec 5-7, 2019, the following activities were identified by members.
1. TWG-Water Web page within HUC web site
2. Defining USP for the TWG-Water
3. Compendium of water challenges in HKH region
4. Priority issue for collaborative work
5. Review of Water Policies and Governance in HKH (including HE inventory)
6. Webinar series