Water Scarcity in Bangladesh and South Asia : Dynamics of Conflict and Cooperation

Led by Åshild Kolås
Aug 2011 - Dec 2012

Every country within the strategic neighborhood of South Asia is already facing increasing stress and resource depletion due to environmental factors, and a primary challenge is water scarcity. Experts have identified water scarcity in emerging economies as one of the most significant issues that may increase the potential for future conflict. The Himalayan River Basins that feed Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan are seriously threatened by water stress, and this carries implications for internal and cross-boundary development and security. Being an agrarian and riverine country, Bangladesh in particular is heavily dependant on water for human consumption, crop irrigation, transportation, and conservation of biodiversity. The problem is further exacerbated by pollution, sewage and inefficiency of river management. Less than sufficient water flows in rivers, drawing down of ground water, and rapid population growth have made the region highly vulnerable to water stress. The gap between demand and supply is likely to further worsen because of the impact of climate change on weather patterns. The impact on precipitation is likely to create erratic and uncertain rainfall patterns influencing the flow of rivers.

While these scenarios present challenges to regional and local conflict management, they may also be seen as opportunities for cooperation. This project is designed to seek out these opportunities while at the same time look for constructive solutions. In the project implementation, PRIO cooperates with regional actors such as Dhaka University, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Delhi, and the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal, in addition to the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA). The cooperation is designed to undertake studies with a view to raising awareness of common challenges and possible solutions, and the need to enhance cooperation and information sharing on water management among and between states in South Asia.

The project is funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka.

View the Water Scarcity in Bangladesh report online or download the report as a PDF.


PRIO Report

Hoelscher, Kristian; Katherine Edelen; Jason Miklian; Silje Holen; Joyeeta Bhattacharjee; Line Barkved; Farzana Jahan; Hari Bansh Jha; & Åshild Kolås (2013) Water Scarcity in Bangladesh. Transboundary Rivers, Conflict and Cooperation, PRIO Report, 1. Oslo: PRIO.