Federal states likely to witness water wars: Experts

Kathmandu, May 30:

Water experts here warned today that conflicts may occur between federal states if there is unequal sharing of water resources.

Addressing a programme, they said the national water policy should be revised to ensure water rights in the changed context.

“The new constitution may have to incorporate provisions of defined institutional roles of national, regional and local government institutions in relation to water resources management,” said senior engineer Nanda Kishor Agrawal.

He said the role of stakeholders of federal states within the river basin has been considered vital in decision-making process of water allocation, benefit sharing, planning, development and management.

Ajaya Dixit, chairperson of the Neal Water Conservation Foundation, said there should be coordination among local, provincial and central governments for maximum utility of water resources.

“An area of agreement must be developed, through a long and extended course of homework so as to enable state governments to utilise water. Through judicious sharing of water resources, they can also prevent confrontations,” he said. Former secretary at the Ministry of Water Resources Surya Nath Upadhyaya said, “We should be aware that unequal distribution of water resources can trigger conflicts among the states.”

Dr Madhav Sah of the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum warned that problems might crop up if federal states are not formed without ensuring judicious distribution of water.

He said most of treaties and agreements on sharing of water resources between Nepal and India have put the southern region of the country on the receiving end. “The people of Madhes might have to fight against the central government as well as the Indian authorities on issues related to sharing of water resources,” he said.

Bishnu Bhandari, chief technical adviser of the IUCN, said there should be equitable access to use of wetland resources and that the government should be careful to manage benefit-sharing.

Wetland policy should be revised and there must be strengthening of capacity at all levels, he said.

Meanwhile, Indian water expert Ramaswamy R Iyer said that conflict among states over water

becomes unavoidable when the states demand more water than they have.

He attended the programme to share experience of managing water resources in India.