Attitudes to water in South Asia

Discussion about water in South Asia – in particular the shared rivers of the region – is vociferous, antagonistic and increasingly associated with national security. Renewable water resources in the region have fallen dramatically on a per capita basis since the 1960s. India hit the ‘water stress’ mark around a decade ago, Pakistan slightly earlier. Groundwater is fast depleting in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and there are few feasible options for increasing supply. Management and governance of water have not adapted to the escalating pressures of demography. With the population of South Asia projected to rise by 32 per cent in three decades – from 1.68 billion in 2010 to 2.22 billion in 2040 – the outlook under current trends is for greater competition over water between agriculture, urban centres and industry, and between countries which share rivers.

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