With the increasing importance of transboundary river water in South and Southeast Asia, hydro-diplomacy can be seen as a new framework for regional cooperation, with opportunities for dialogue, consultation and data-sharing both between and within states. The objective of this conference is to assess the potential for dialogue and future mechansims for multilateral cooperation between three countries sharing important sources of river water: China, India and Bangladesh. Through the centuries, many great river systems originating from the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan Mountains have sustained the lives and livelihood of people in South Asia, Southeast Asia and China. Mighty rivers like the Yangtze, Huang He, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawady, Salween, Mekong, Amu Darya and Syr Darya originate from this high-altitude plateau, flowing through numerous Asian countries. Scientific evidence points towards an increasing impact of global warming, causing glacial melting and other water-related challenges in many parts of the world, including Asia. The combined effects of natural and human-induced fluctuations in weather patterns are expected to lead to increased flooding, droughts, destruction of crops and habitations, and displacement. South Asia will be particularly vulnerable to these effects due to the “exponential function” of rapidly increasing population, growing food demand and dependency on water for irrigation and energy. The Food-Energy-Water (FEW) connect is thus critical, and river water is an important part of the equation.

Questions to be explored during this conference are:

How can a comprehensive transboundary river water dialogue be structured?

What lessons can we learn from mechanisms for cooperation on other transboundary rivers, such as the Mekong River Commission?

How useful are international treaties, e.g. the UN Convention on Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (1997)?

Can civil society stakeholders play a constructive role in multilateral cooperation on transboundary river water management?