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Institutional Development for IRBM in the Ganges Region: Lessons from MDBC and MRC

Congress: 2008
The Author is currently at the final stage of her PhD candidature at the Dept. of Geographical and Environmental Studies of the University of Adelaide, Australia. The focus of her research is Integrated River Basin Management for the Ganges Basin by shari

Keyword(s): Integrated River Basin Management, The Ganges, Institution, Cooperation, Murray-Darling Model, The Mekong
AbstractAbstract for Paper to be presented in XIIIth World Water Congress, 1-4 September 2008, Montpellier, France Name: Mosharefa Shahjahan Contact Address: Department Geographical & Environmental Studies University of Adelaide, Napier Building, North Terrace, SA 5005, Australia Tel: +61 8 8303 6921 (work), +61 8 8371 4658 (home), + 61 0421803057 (mobile) Fax: + 61 8 8303 3772 (work) Email:, Mode of presentation: Oral Title: Institutional Development for IRBM in the Ganges Region: Lessons from the MDBC and MRC The Ganges Basin is one of the largest and complex transbounday river basins of the world with a population of 451 million depending on it. The current fragmented management of the Ganges basin based on geographical boundary has caused serious ecological and economic damage in the region and the sustainability of river resources is at stake due to over exploitation. With the rapid growth in population the demand on water will increase manyfold by putting extra pressure on the region’s water resources. The Ganges water sharing issue has long been an issue of dispute between its riparian, especially India and Bangladesh. Bilateral rather than multilateral approach of managing the river resources is a major constraint for cooperative management in the Ganges region. Lack of cooperation among the riparians and paucity of effective management institution has exacerbated the situation. An integrated management approach encompassing the whole Ganges basin irrespective of geographical boundary is imperative need of time. This paper analyses the scope in developing a river basin institution for the management of the whole Ganges basin as a unit of management by urging better cooperation between the Ganges riparians, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The paper examines the best practices of basin-wide integrated management approaches in other parts of the world. Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) model is a well known example of Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) and therefore, is studied to examine its applicability in the Ganges context. However, the contextual differences between the Murray -Darling and the Ganges Basins such as developed versus developing country, national versus international settings and political stability versus instability situation are significant and need to be addressed carefully. A similar institutional arrangement, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) is evolved in the Lower Mekong region where Australian experience of the Murray-Darling Basin model is applied. Mekong has a similar context with the Ganges in those respects and therefore, serves as example case in learning lessons for the Ganges from a similar context. The findings presented in this paper are based on the expert opinion collected by interviewing ‘elites’ or experts from the relevant field both in Australia and Bangladesh. The study results suggest that in order to achieve IRBM, river basin institution should not be transferred from one context to another rather lessons of what worked well or what did not worked in other contexts and the underlying causes to that could be learned. The study also suggests that in the Murray-Darling and the Mekong contexts the institutional arrangement stemmed from the recognition of environmental and political crisis management respectively. Similarly, in the Ganges context river basin institution should be developed on the basis of needs and practicality in that specific context. There should be clear vision and understanding of the potential outcome, clearly defined rules and regulations and serious political commitment to utilize that process. Furthermore, stakeholders’ engagement, an important component of IRBM, needs to be ensured at the decision making level and there should be available financial and logistic support for independent functioning of that organisation. The paper summarizes that cooperation among the Ganges riparian is urgently needed to achieve IRBM for future sustainability of the river resources and that requires strong political commitment from all the riparian countries.
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