Depoliticizing South Asia’s Water Crisis
The global demand for fresh water resources has escalated dramatically over the last few years, especially in light of rapid population growth and widespread urbanization across the globe. Moreover, as the impacts of climate change and stresses of resource scarcity gain further traction, societies are increasingly hard pressed to find effective and sustainable solutions to their water woes. Water scarcity has particularly emerged as a highly critical and contentious issue within South Asia, one of the world’s most dynamic regions and home to nearly 1.9 billion people.
Specifically, transboundary water resources have become a distinctly politicized element within intraregional relations of South Asia, with countries treating this limited shared resource as a zero-sum issue of sovereignty and pursuing water governance policies that only best serve supposed national interests. This has resulted in an unfortunate “tragedy of the commons” scenario, with competition supplanting regional cooperation. The stakes are high, and incompetent and inequitable water sharing agreements will exacerbate an already dire situation, and further fuel distress in terms of economic shocks, as well as environmental and humanitarian costs.
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