Image

INSSSL hosted High Level Water Dialogue in Colombo

High Level Water Dialogue on “Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia”, was organized by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Regional Project Energy Security and Climate Change Asia-Pacific (RECAP) in Hong Kong, East West Institute (EWI) and the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL). This was held 2-3 March 2020 in Hotel Hilton. This was graced by the Commander of Sri Lanka Navy and other high level military personnel, distinguished academics from all over the Asia and local experts.

Transboundary water resource politics, or “hydropolitics,” are set to become a defining issue of the 21st century across Eurasia. As growing economic powerhouses soak up every drop of water for agricultural, energy, and industrial purposes, countries are driven to tap into shared water resources—rivers, lakes, and watersheds—that flow across national borders, often between competitive or adversarial neighbors. Climate change intensifies existing water security challenges as the frequency, intensity and duration of hydro-meteorological disasters increases. Therefore, it was important to integrate water disaster management into climate mitigation and adaptation policies and the dialogue turned out to be a success.

Transboundary water resource politics, or “hydropolitics,” are set to become a defining issue of the 21st century across Eurasia. As growing economic powerhouses soak up every drop of water for agricultural, energy, and industrial purposes, countries are driven to tap into shared water resources—rivers, lakes, and watersheds—that flow across national borders, often between competitive or adversarial neighbors. Climate change intensifies existing water security challenges as the frequency, intensity and duration of hydro-meteorological disasters increases. Therefore, it was important to integrate water disaster management into climate mitigation and adaptation policies and the dialogue turned out to be a success.

It was recommended that existing legal arrangements and treaties should be reassessed, both local and regional levels. It was noted that understanding of Individual country circumstances in combating the challenges from Climate Change is mandatory. Securitization of water by non-water actors, including politicians, other organizations with no connection to the grassroot community, with a primary focus on ownership of rivers rather than water as a common resource is a grace issue. Many have forgotten that 80-90% of water is being used for irrigation in South Asia and thus the farming community has a voice that should be considered. A basin approach was proposed as a solution to the politicization of water, which would let the community take the lead instead of obligating the responsibility to the political actors. One proposition was the establishment of Himalayan Scientific Council to empower a more scientifically driven South Asia than a politicized South Asia.

It is alarming to see that total global losses from water related issues sum up to a total of 260 billion dollars a year and this is due to inadequate infrastructure development, poor management, inequitable allocation and lack of access to water resources. Furthermore, it is necessary to subsidize less water consuming crops as a means of effectively utilizing the existing resources. It is time to incorporate gender narratives and youth engagement in the process, when finding solutions as the future will belong to the youth and the women shouldn’t always be the burden bearers considering daily water needs.

The concept of H2OP4 was put forward, which includes pollution, power, profit, and politics along with water and the need to attach policy as H2OP5. There is a lack of openness in data among Asian states and it was mentioned that openness is a basic need and basic push for scientific perspective and it is time to give a thought to South Asia based water science. It was highlighted that there should be no replacement to the current Indus agreement, but actions such as understanding the lessons learnt in order to improve the situation in the future and deliberation of the existing issues within an institute. It is time that regional institutions like BIMSTEC take the leadership in environmental security and set an example to SAARC.