Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Water and Communities in South Asia: A Case for Regional Cooperation


Increased use of water for hydropower and agriculture, due to population growth accounts for future water shortages that will affect a quarter of South Asia’s population by 2050. Water crises affect all member-nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. SAARC nations water needs exacerbate the water crisis on the one hand and lack of mechanisms for good governance and cooperation required for addressing issues related to food and water security within the region. This paper attempts to draw attention to the big picture regarding water resources management and the impacts of water scarcity on South Asian nations. The paper begins with a review of the water crises in each of the SAARC nations and follows on with consideration of perceptions towards transboundary river infrastructures and the political stances each nation takes about solutions for the continuing water crisis. Undoubtedly, the only mechanism that these nations can adapt to address the geopolitical challenges of a thirsty world, for which SAARC association provides the platform is a deliberate constructive solution centred dialogue. A range of recommendations for SAARC nations are reviewed with a view to assist the water thirst in these nations.


Transboundary Rivers, Indo-Pak Waters, Himalayan Water Disputes, Water and Human Services, SAARC Countries


Author Biography

Venkat Pulla

Adjunct Senior  Research Fellow, Institute for Land Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, Albury-Wodonga , NSW

Manohar Pawar

Professor of Social Work, Member, Institute of Land, water and Society, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Locked Bag 678, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, 2678, Australia.


Ahmed, Z. S. (2013). Regionalism and regional security in South Asia: The role of SAARC. New York: Routledge.
Alcock, P., & Ferguson, H. (2012). Social policy and social work. In S. Becker, A. Bryman & H. Ferguson (Eds.), Understanding research for social policy and social work: Themes, methods and approaches (pp. 4-11). Bristol: The Policy Press.
Alcamo, J., Henrichs, T., & Rosch, T. (2000). World Water in 2025- Global modelling and scenario analysis for the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century, Report A0002, Centre for Environmental Systems Research. Kassel: University of Kassel.
Amarasinghe, U. A., Mutuwatta, L.., & Sakthivadivel, R. (1999). Water Scarcity Variations within a Country: A Case Study of Sri Lanka, retrieved on 18 January 2017 from,
Asian Development Bank and Asian-Pacific Water Forum. (2013). Asian water development outlook 2013: Measuring water security in Asia and the Pacific. Manila: ADB.
Barnett, J. & Neil, A. (2005). Security and climate change: towards an improved understanding, Human Security and Climate Change, Oslo.
Basu, M., & Shaw, R. (2013). Water policy, climate change and adaptation in South Asia, International Journal of Environmental Studies, 70, 175-191.
Biswas, A. K. (2011). Cooperation or conflict in transboundary water management: case study of South Asia, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 56(4) 662-670
Brichieri-Colombi, S., & Bradnock, R. W. (2003). Geopolitics, water and development in South Asia: cooperative development in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, The Geographical Journal, 169 (1), 43-64.
Borcklehurst, C. (2002) ( editor), New designs for water and sanitation transactions: making private sector participation work for the poor, PPIIAF and Water and Sanitation Programme, Washington DC.
Dickens, J. (2009). Social work and social policy: An introduction. New York: Routledge.
Dyer, G. (2008). Climate Wars. Carlton North: Scribe Publication.
Earle, A., Jagerskog, A., & Ojendal, J. (2013). Introduction: Setting the scene for transboundary water management approaches. In A. Earle, A. Jagerskog, & J. Ojendal (Eds.), Transboundary water management (pp. 1-12). London: Earthscan.
Ebrahim, Z. T. (2016, May 12). Pakistan's population bomb: 240 million in 2030. Dawn. Retrieved from
Gupta, A,D., Babel, M. S., Albert, X., & Mark, O. (2005). Water Sector of Bangladesh in the Context of Integrated Water Resources Management: A Review. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 21 (2) pp. 385-398.
Guppy, L.., & Anderson, K. (2017). Water Crisis Report. Hamilton: United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
Grinnell, R. M., & Unrau, Y. A. (2010). Social work research and evaluation: Foundations of evidence-based practice. New York: Oxford University Press.
Human Development Centre. (2013). Human development in South Asia 2013. Lahore: HDC.
Ife, J. (2012). Human rights and social work: Towards rights-based practice (3rd ed.). Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
IRIN, (2006). Integrated Regional Information Networks. (Running dry: The humanitarian impact of the global water crisis. Nairobi: IRIN.
IPCC (2007). Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability: summary for policymakers. In Working Group II. Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
IPCC (2008). Climate Change and Water. In IPCC Technical Paper. Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Iqbal, A. R. (2010). Water Shortage in Pakistan - A Crisis around the Corner. ISSRA Papers, 2(2), 1-13.
Iyer, R. R. (2008, September 17). Water in India-Nepal relations. The Hindu. Retrieved from
Iyer, R. R. (2010, October 29). Approach to a New National Water Policy. The Hindu. Retrieved from
Joshi, M. N. (2013). National River Linking Project of India, Hydro Nepal, Issue No. 12 January, 2013 p.13 – 19. Retrieved from
Kamal, S. S. (2009). Use of Water for Agriculture in Pakistan: Experiences and Challenges. Retrieved from
Keohane, R. O. (1990). Multilateralism: An Agenda for Research, International Journal, 45(4), 731-764.
Kugelman, M. (n.d.). Safeguarding South Asia’s water security. Retrieved from
Lawson, H. A. (2010). Empowering people, facilitating community development, and contributing to sustainable development: The social work of sport, exercise, and physical education programs, Sport, Education and Society, 10, 135-160. doi: 10.1080/1357332052000308800
London Post, (2017, January 18). India’s Water Issues with Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. Retrieved from
Mastoor, M. (2009). Environmental degradation: Focus on water scarcity in South Asia. Islamabad: Institute of Regional Studies.
Memon, A. R. (2014, February 21). Impending water wars in South Asia. The Express Tribune. Retrieved from
Mirza, Monirul (2007). Climate change, adaptation and adaptive governance in water sector in South Asia, Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, retrieved on 30 July 2018 from,
Mohan, V. (2014). Interlinking of rivers to get new push under Modi government. New Delhi, India: The Times of India.
Nair, A. (2014). Narmada waters to fuel Coca Cola's new bottling plant at Sanand. New Delhi, India: Financial Express.
Najam, A. (2003). The human dimensions of environmental insecurity: some insights from South Asia. In Environmental Change and Security Project Report, edited by Geoffrey D. Dabelko (pp. 59-73). Washington DC: The Woodrow Wilson Center.
Nikku, B. R., & Pulla, V. (2014). Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development: Voices of the social work educators from Asia International Social Work, 57(4) 373–385
Pakistan Today (2012). Polluted water causes 40% of deaths in Pakistan annually, Pakistan Today, 17 April 2012. Retrieved from
Patkar, M., Kanvache, B., Tomar, D., Paateedar, V., & Yadav, R. (2014). NBA's response to drawing of Narmada water for Coca-Cola plant. Barwani: NBA
Pawar, M. (2010). Looking outwards: Teaching international social work in Asia. Social Work Education: The International Journal, 29, 896-909.
Pawar, M. (2013). Water insecurity: A case for social policy action by social workers. Australian Social Work, 66 (2), pp. 248-260.
Pawar, M. (2014). Water and Social Policy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Price, G., Alam, R., Hasan, S., Humayun, F., Kabir, M. H., Karki, C. S., & Mittra, S. (2014). Attitudes to water in South Asia. London: Chatham House.
Pulla, V. (2013). Critical Essay: Environmentalism and Social Work. Rural Society, 22(3), 263–268., doi:10.5172/rsj.2013.22.3.263
Quaddumi, H. (2008). Practical approaches to transboundary water benefit sharing. London: Overseas Development Institute.
Reid, K. (2018, May 17). Global water crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help. Retrieved from
Reich, D., & Pearson, C. (2012). Irrigation Outreach in Afghanistan: Exposure to Afghan Water Security Challenges. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education, 149(1), 33-40.
Roth, D., Zwarteveen, M., Joy, K. J., & Kulkarni, S. (2014). Water rights, conflicts, and justice in South Asia. Local Environment, 19(9), 947-953.
Rubin, A. and Babbie, E. (2009). Essential research methods for social work. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
SHRDC (2013). SAARC Human Resource Development Centre, SAARC development goals: Achievements, gaps and way forward. Islamabad: SAARC Human Resource Development Centre.
SAARC (2008). Declarations of SAARC Summits: 1985-2008. Kathmandu:South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Shoukat, A. & Pulla, V. (2017). Desert Dwellers' Meaning and Existence of Spirituality: A Gendered Case Study of Cholistan, Pakistan. Space and Culture, India,
Sinha, U. K. (2006). Environmental stresses and their security implications for South Asia, Strategic Analysis, 30(3), 599-618.
Singh, S. (2014). Women, Environment and Sustainable Development: A Case Study of Khul Gad Micro Watershed of Kumoun Himalaya, Space and Culture, India, 1(3) 53-64.
Singh, S. B. (2015). Women as Milieu Managers in Integrated Watershed Management: Perspectives from the Hilly Areas of Uttarakhand. Space and Culture, India, 2(4), 71-79.
Swain, A. (2018, April 7). It Is Water Not China That Has Ruined Nepal’s Relations With India. Outlook. Retrieved from
Tripathi, R. (2018, November 02). Centre to states: Track NGOs for 'anti-national' activities. Retrieved November 3, 2018, from
Unicef Media Centre ( n.d) Media Centre. Retrieved from
Uprety, K. and Salman, M. A. (2011). Legal aspects of sharing and management of transboundary waters in South Asia: Preventing conflicts and promoting cooperation. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 56, 641-661.


Download data is not yet available.