Water diplomacy crucial for Asia
Multilateral and bilateral donors have assisted and stimulated international treaties to facilitate cooperative behavior among states and to contain conflicts over shared waters. In Asia, the World Bank has supported and facilitated the Mekong River Commission and the Indus Waters Treaty to promote cooperation among riparian states.
Furthermore, development agencies emphasize the importance of management of trans-boundary water institutions to prevent conflict and promote regional cooperation. Such agencies frequently substantiate these investments by stressing trans-boundary conflict prevention and management of water issues by assisting deeper regional cooperation.
Thus hydro-diplomacy and its prospective benefits are on rise. There is need for countries to strengthen their capabilities to participate in preventive diplomacy focusing on water. Greater coordination among relevant government ministries is required to support water conservation and management.
In Asia, water is regarded as a strategic resource that is to be valued. Therefore, among the countries that share water resources, the potential for conflict is always present.
Transparency and sharing of data are quite essential in developing trans-boundary water resource management and preventing conflicts. However, this remains a challenge due to historical tensions and disputes in various part of Asia. Also in most trans-boundary basins, institutional arrangements for basin-level cooperation is lacking.
In many countries such as Bangladesh, India and others, water information is collected in a fragmented manner. Lack of data on water resources makes it difficult for donors and facilitators to develop treaties on the use of shared water resources, which further increases conflict risks and forced migration.
It is essential that Asian countries include water in their security-policy planning to avoid conflict and address trans-boundary water issues. In this way disaster warning systems could be strengthened.
All countries should encourage the collective investment in collaborative management technologies that would benefit all. This would help improve methods to mitigate low water levels, such as desalination. Furthermore, states need to generate better policies through dialogue at every level. Policymakers, civil society and private enterprises must gather to sustain water-management practices.
Through effective hydro diplomacy water agreements can be achieved, as was previously done through the joint Israel- Palestine call to protect their water supplies in 2001.
Water problems are not new, but water demands are rising, our ability to pollute is global, our societies are interlinked, and many more issues are involved.