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Transboundary River Management


Transboundary River Management: Highlight

  • Nearly a third of Pakistan is experiencing devastation, with a spread of diseases and severe shortage of potable water after intense flooding.
  • In June, 2022, Assam experienced one of its worst floods in living memory which affected over 30 districts.


River Management In India :Need for Flood Management

  • Flooding is a natural phenomenon, but it is compounded by the lack of transparency in the sharing of hydrological information and related to activities (such as by one riparian state) that are transboundary in their effect (affecting other riparian states).
  • This lack of transparency acts as an obstacle in understanding the magnitude of flooding.
  • Over 750 million South Asians depend on the transboundary Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) basins for food, water, and energy needs.
  • As Transboundary River Management systems support a wide variety of ecosystems, conflict and lack of cooperation amongst the rivers’ stakeholders leave the poor, marginalized riverine communities vulnerable and at a disadvantage.
Transboundary River Management
Transboundary River Management

Norms Related to Transboundary River Management

  • Customary international law: No state has to use its territory in a manner that causes harm to another state while using a shared natural resource.
    • There is a binding obligation on all states not to release water to cause floods in another co-sharer of the river water.
    • Norms for management of floods: Notification of planned measures, the exchange of data and information, and public participation.
  • International Court of Justice (ICJ), in the Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina vs Uruguay) case (2010), upheld that conducting a transboundary environmental impact assessment (TEIA) of a planned measure or projects on the shared water course is part of customary international law.
    • The ICJ also emphasized that the acting state must notify the affected party of the results of TEIA to enable the notified party to participate in the process of ensuring that the assessment is complete, so that it can then consider the plan and its effects with a full knowledge of the facts.


River Management: India and China Inter-Country River Sharing

  • China is an upper riparian in the Brahmaputra.
  • During the monsoon, flooding has been the recurrent feature in the last several decades in Assam.
  • Violation Of Customary International Law: Construction of dams by China, excessive water release, as a “dam controller” has the potential to exacerbate flooding in Assam in future.
  • There is no comprehensive sub-basin or all basin-level mechanism to deal with water management of Brahmaputra.
  • India and China are not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UNWC) 1997 or the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes 1992 (Water Convention).
  • Memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and China in 2013: Sharing hydrological information during the flood season (June to September).
  • However, it does not allow India access to urbanisation and deforestation activities on the Chinese side of the river basin.


  • It originates in the Chemayungdung glacier in the Kailash range in the south of the Tibet Autonomous Region (at a 5300 m elevation), traverses China (for a distance of 1625 km), India (for 918 km), and Bangladesh (for 337 km, where it is called Jamuna).
  • It merges with the Ganges (Padma) and then with the Meghna in Bangladesh, and eventually flows into the Bay of Bengal.
  • The Brahmaputra river basin (BRB) is based within China (50.5%), India (33.6%), Bangladesh (8.1%), and Bhutan (7.8%).


River Management: India and Nepal Inter-Country River Sharing

  • Floods are a recurrent problem in the Koshi and Gandak river basins that are shared by India and Nepal.
  • Intensity and magnitude of flooding is rising due to heavy seasonal precipitation as well as glacial retreat due to global warming and human-induced stressors such as land use and land cover changes in the river basin area of Nepal (Terai) and Bihar.


River Management: Water Convention

  • The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) was adopted in Helsinki in 1992 and entered into force in 1996.
  • The Convention is a unique legally binding instrument promoting the sustainable management of shared water resources, the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the prevention of conflicts, and the promotion of peace and regional integration.
  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UN Watercourses Convention) May 1997.
  • It establishes a framework for the utilization, development, conservation, management, and protection of international watercourses, whilst promoting optimal and sustainable utilization thereof for present and future generations, and accounting for the special situation and needs of developing countries.


Way Forward

  • Nature-based solutions to enhance mutual benefits to all the parties through mechanisms of joint planning and conflict sharing needs to be prioritized.
  • Evolvement of countries for their future strategies to manage and respond to these climatic changes and disasters.
  • Intergovernmental regional platforms like SAARC and ASEAN needed to develop greater convergence on transboundary issues of livelihoods, trade, use of natural resources, disaster response and recovery.
  • Strengthening the risk information for efficient governance; and, rethinking the approach to disasters risk reduction in the policy frameworks in order to go beyond just the usage of water to DRR in a transboundary water course.
  • Need for policies in South Asia to deepen their agenda towards just and equitable sharing of water resources across riparian regions by orienting administrative approaches towards water security of local communities.
  • Collective, coordinated, and collaborative approach in transboundary water governance needs to be forged in order to ensure that the affected communities are included in the governmental schemes, programmes, dialogues and decision making systems.
  • Strengthening the people-centred approach to transboundary water governance, stating, “Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra & Meghna basin have more than 850 million people dependent on it.
  • View the river basins as single entities, which will help in facilitating an integrated approach for improved basin and flood risk management.
  • Treaty-based joint bodies to refine the early warning systems for flood forecasting.
  • Transboundary cooperation between Brahmaputra basin countries is needed to ensure the sustainability of the river basin and improve the lives and livelihoods of its communities
  • All riparian states must comply with all the procedural duties pursuant to the no harm rule. They must also think of becoming a party to either the UNWC or the UNECE Water Convention.


Stats IQ

India’s Foreign Exchange Reserves

  • According to a Reuters polls, India’s foreign exchange reserves are likely to drop further, falling to their lowest level in over two years by end-2022.
  • Reason: Reserve Bank of India continues to defend the rupee from dollar’s rise.
  • Recent data showed that the reserves fell to their lowest level since October 2, 2020. RBI has decreased its foreign exchange reserves by close to $100 billion, to $545 billion from a peak of $642 billion a year ago.
  • Rupee has depreciated close to 10% against the dollar this year.


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