Thursday, November 24, 2011

An International Conference on Asian Rivers

A great International Conference on River Waters Perspectives and Challenges for India was held in Delhi between November 18 and 20 at the India International Center in New Delhi. 
It was organized by the Foundation for Non-violent Alternatives (FNVA).
Nobody can today doubt that 'Water' will be the next source of conflict within Nation-States or between neighouring States.
The Conference was convened to offer a common platform for countries in the region, upper riparians, middle riparians and lower riparians, to draw up a sustained plan of action to withstand the potentially disastrous effects of the impending water crisis on the basis of fair equitable utilisation of river waters originating from the Third Pole.
I said that the Conference was 'great' because for the first time, scientists/experts from Australia, Bangladesh, Central Asia, China, Finland, France, India, Mekong Region, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sweden and the UK sat together and tried to find solutions to this sensitive issue, with main objective to establish a transparent dialogue and cooperation amongst Asian States.
It was a good beginning.
At the end of the conference the following Declaration was made:

We recognise the right of the growing economies of the region to develop energy, resources and water for their development needs. However, in view of the unquantified risks – climate change, economic uncertainty and social and ecological damage, we call for a pause to reflect on further construction of large dams until all parties take full account of the balance of ecological, economic and human impacts along the entire length of the watercourse and prioritise the rights and interests of all riparian peoples in present and future projects.
The waters of the Third Pole, its glaciers and snow, its rivers and lakes, have importance and impacts, including far downstream, and thus constitute a common heritage of importance to all humanity. Their stewardship is a shared responsibility and the benefits they bring are a right held in common by all the inhabitants of the region, from the Qinghai-Tibet plateau to the estuaries, for present and future generations of the peoples of its watersheds.
Today the waters and cryosphere of the Himalayan and Trans-Himalayan Region are threatened by over-extraction, overambitious engineering, pollution and climate change. This in turn poses a threat to the stability of the region’s weather systems and the health and livelihoods of the more than one billion people who depend on its rivers, and to the survival of the many other forms of life they support. Historic tensions and regional rivalries have impeded the full cooperation and creative thinking that is required to prevent further deterioration in the Third Pole. We urge all countries, especially the largest riparians India and China, to lead the effort, in cooperation with all the governments of the region, to institute the wide ranging and urgent collaboration that responsible stewardship and the restoration of the health of the region’s transboundary rivers now demands.
We respectfully propose to all riparian governments, scholars, experts and non-governmental organisations the following urgent steps:
  • To pledge to respect and protect the region’s rich natural resources, ecological and cultural diversity   and to give priority to the equitable sharing of the environmental, social and economic benefits of the region’s transboundary rivers
  • To adopt a holistic, cooperative and multilevel approach to the management of transboundary rivers, taking the health and flow of the river as the prime value. 
  • To institute and support confidence building exchanges across national boundaries, between upper and lower riparians and across all relevant sectors of society in pursuit of mutually beneficial development and resource stewardship, to include official, scientific, technological and civil society exchanges. 
  • To institute immediate cooperation on flood forecasting, water and soil conservation and the sharing of relevant scientific and technical data including the establishment of a cross border integrated digital platform for the Yarlung-Tsangpo/Brahmaputra basin
  • To establish and develop a regional knowledge base, to include traditional, cultural, technical and scientific knowledge, open to all 
  • That all governments pledge to cooperate over development planning, promote transparency and to carry out full river assessments of all engineering projects
  • To establish a regional communities forum to give expression to community interests, value to local and indigenous knowledge, and to safeguard the rights of vulnerable peoples and disadvantaged communities


Inaugural Session
Welcome Remarks by the Chair — Justice J.S. Verma, Patron FNVA, Former Chief Justice of India
Isabel Hilton, Editor, China Dialogue
Dr. L.M.S. Palni, Director, G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development
Inaugural Address — Dr. Ashok Chauhan, Founder Amity Universities and Chairman AKC Group

Session I- Significance of The Third Pole
Chair — Ambassador Ranjit Gupta

Climate Change and Security at the Third Pole
Dr. Katherine Morton, Senior Fellow, Department of International Relations, School of International, Political and Strategic Studies College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University

Grassland Degradation and Summer Monsoon
Gabriel Lafitte, Independent Researcher, Asian Anthropology and History

Atmosphere and Water Quality over the Tibetan Plateau
Dr Shichang Kang, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Significance of the Tibetan Plateau
Tenzin Norbu, Environment Desk, DIIR, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala.

Knowledge Gaps for a Comprehensive Water Science and Policy for Monsoon-fed Himalayan Rivers
Prof. Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, Professor and Head Centre for Development and Environment Policy Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta

Water and Security
Claude Arpi, Writer and author on India, China, Tibet and Indo-French Relations

Water perspectives – India
Chair — Mr. Ramaswamy Iyer, Former Secretary, Water Resource Ministry, Government of India

New Technologies to Solve the Present Water Resources Problems – Sutluj Case
Prof. A.K. Gosain, Professor & Head, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi

Cusec Deadlock: The Indus and Hydro-politics in a Fault Zone
Dr. Rohan D’Souza, Assistant Professor Centre for Studies in Science Policy School of Social Sciences Jawaharlal Nehru University

Geo-environmental Context of the Brahmaputra River basin and its Implications for Water Resources Planning
Dr. Dulal C. Goswami, Professor (Retd.), Guwahati University, Assam

Wrong Climate for Big Dams
Samir Mehta, South Asia Programme Director, International Rivers

Session II Water Perspectives – India
Chair — Mr. Ramaswamy Iyer

Dams and Environmental Governance in Northeast India
Neeraj Vagholikar, Kalpavriksh — Environment Action Group

Climate Change Impact on the Indo-Tibetan Brahmaputra basin — Trends, Precursors and Response Needs

Professor Chandan Mahanta, Department of Civil Engineering Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati

Community based Management of Water Resources in the Himalayan Watersheds
Sejuti Basu, Pragya

Session III: Water Perspectives— China

Chair - Mr. Dipak Gyawali, Former Minister for Water Resources Nepal, Pragya (Academician), Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

Water Warriors Hydropower Politics in China
Dr. Andrew Mertha, (via Skype), Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dept. of Government, Cornell University

Water Resources Distribution Patterns in the Himalayan Regions
Prof Jia Shaofeng, Chair, Water and Land Resources Research Department, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Yarlung-Tsangpo/Brahmaputra: From Resource-Capture to Cooperation
Jesper Svensson, Masters Student, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg

China’s River Protection vs Hydro Interests
Yu Xiagion, Director, Green Watershed, Kunming, China

Sino-Indian Relations: Fragile but Sustainable
Prof Zhao Gancheng, Director, Institute of International Strategic Studies, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

Session IV: Technical Presentations
Chair — Prof Shaofeng Jia, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Gangotri Glacier – an overview
V.K.Raina, Ex. Deputy Director General Geological Survey of India

Water Quality of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra)
Prof. Dr. Mika Sillanpää, Professor, Head of the Laboratory at Lappeenranta University of Technology Finland

International Rivers of Western Himalayas – Hydrological Prospects and Areas of Concern
Dr. R.D. Singh, Director, National Institute of Hydrology

Climate Change Scenario in North-western Himalayas and its Influence on Hydrological Regime of River Basins
Dr. Mahendra Bhutiyani, Scientist, Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE)

SESSION V: Perspectives from Asia
Chair – Dr. Katherine Morton

State of Water Pollution and Bioassessment to Evaluate the Ecological Status of Rivers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region
M. Fazlul Bari, Ph.D., Professor, Dept of Water Resources Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering & Tech (BUET)

Save Burma’s Rivers
Ah Nan, Burma Rivers Network

Environmental Performance Assessment on Water Resource
Win Myo Thu, MD and Founder, ECODEV, Rangoon

Conflicts over Water in Central Asia, Complexity of Managing an International River
Eelke Kraak, PhD candidate School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

Mekong Region and the Major Challenges of the River that Feeds Millions
Premrudree Daoroung, Co-Director, TERRA

Contested Waterscapes: Regional Cooperation in the Mekong Region
Kate Lazarus, M-POWER
Challenge Program on Water and Food

Clumsy River Handling
Dr. Dipak Gywali, Former Minister for Water Resources Nepal, Pragya (Academician), Academy of Science and Technology

Trans-boundary Water Processes:  Interfacing Micro and the Macro
Dr. Ajaya Dixit, Institution for Social and Environmental Transition-Nepal

Climate Change & Sustainable Management of Indus Basin: Pakistan Perspective
Dr. Shaheen Akhtar, Senior Research Fellow Institute of Regional Studies Islamabad

SESSION VI: The Way Forward
Chair– Ambassador Ranjit Gupta

Common Natural Heritage for Common Advantage

Hari Jaisingh, Author and Journalist

The Role and Relevance of the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention
Dr Alistair Rieu-Clarke, Senior Lecturer in International Law and heads the International Water Law Research Cluster at the Dundee IHP-HELP Centre.

India-China Water Dialogue
Nimmi Kurien, Professor, Centre for Policy Research

River Basin Management: Building Knowledge for Change
Sanjay Gupta, Senior Communications Specialist, South Asia Water Initiative, (SAWI), the World Bank

Waters of Hope: Health Innovations and interventions in tge Brahmaputra – Assam
Sanjoy Hazarika, Director, Centre for North-East Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia

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