In nature’s warning signs, a nudge to riparian states

Source– The post is based on the article “In nature’s warning signs, a nudge to riparian states” published in The Hindu on 29th September 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- International Relations

Relevance– Hydro Diplomacy

News-The article explains the challenges faced by India due to frequent floods in trans-boundary rivers. It also explains the international mechanism to mitigate trans-boundary river floods.

Nearly a third part of Pakistan was impacted by floods. In June this year, Assam also faced floods.

There is a lack of transparency in sharing hydrological information between states which aggravates the flooding.

What is customary international law

In accordance with customary international law, no state can use its territory in a manner that causes harm to another state while using a shared natural resource. It means that there is a binding obligation on all states not to release water to cause floods in other  countries.

What are challenges for India in case of Brahmaputra River?

Assam faces frequent floods in Brahmaputra River.

China dam construction activities on Brahmaputra is cause of concern for India.

There is no comprehensive basin-level mechanism to deal with water management of Brahmaputra.

Neither India or China are 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) water convention. Both have provisions for flood mitigation.

There was an MoU with China in 2013 with a view to sharing hydrological information during the flood season. But the MoU does not allow India access to urbanization and deforestation activities on the Chinese side of the river basin.

What is the case with flooding in Gandak and Kosi rivers?

Floods in Gandak and Kosi rivers that are shared by India and Nepal are frequent phenomena.

The intensity has increased because of glacial retreat and heavy seasonal precipitation.

Both rivers are covered under India-Nepal Kosi agreement, 1954 to check floods in the river basin.

What is the way forward?

India can become a party either to UNWC or water convention. It could lay the groundwork for a bilateral treaty on Brahmaputra with China. India should not insist on insertion of dispute settlement mechanism provisions.

With Nepal, it is important that the two neighbors view the river basins as single entities. It will help in facilitating an integrated approach for improved basin and flood risk management.

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