Oxfam launches transboundary water management programme

  • The project aims to strengthen capacity of river basin communities

Kathmandu, May 26

Oxfam has launched a five-year programme to promote improved policies and practices that protect the rights of communities along the Ganges, the Brahmaputra-Meghna and the Salween river basins.

To do this, the programme will work with governments, private sector and other actors as well as women’s networks to strengthen their voice in decisions on water management and infrastructure.

The ‘Transboundary Rivers of South Asia’ programme was launched in Kathmandu yesterday in the presence of Oxfam representatives and teams, regional partners, representatives from donor agencies and other dignitaries.

Funded by the Government of Sweden through its Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency office in Bangkok, the project will be implemented by Oxfam and regional and national partners in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“Cooperation around trans-boundary rivers is necessary to ensure sustainable development, poverty reduction and fair use of resources. The TROSA programme brings all of these perspectives together to reduce poverty and marginalisation of vulnerable river basin communities through increased control over the water resources on which their livelihood depend,” said Anne-Charlotte Malm, head of Regional Development Cooperation at Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok.

Asia’s river basins reach from the world’s tallest mountains, through extensive floodplains and lowland systems to fertile wetlands, deltas, estuaries and bays. The ecosystem provided by the waters of these basins boosts the economic well-being of people and their nations. The rivers are at the heart of culture and religion, and the waters and rich sediment loads support fisheries and agriculture of national and global significance.

The waters connect nations and provide the means for trade. Yet, hundreds of millions of people in Asia do not have secure access to water due to growing competition over natural resources caused by infrastructure development, agricultural, urban and industrial expansion and the effects of climate change.

Access to water is an issue in South and South East Asia, and the shared nature of rivers causes tension between neighbours over how waters are governed and managed within and across borders.

“The sharing of transboundary waters is complex as it involves people from diverse groups who depend on the same water for their lives and livelihoods. In South Asia, natural resources, especially water, is shared across social and political boundaries. There, we need to have policies using a trans-boundary lens for water governance and include the interests of local communities and marginalized groups,” said Oxfam’s Regional Director Lan Mercado. The TROSA project will engage relevant stakeholders to produce knowledge that supports decision makers in balancing economic growth, social justice and resilient ecosystems.

The TROSA project aims to strengthen capacity of river basin communities and civil society to have their voice heard in trans-boundary water resource management. With academic research with local knowledge, the project will build on evidence which will influence trans-boundary water resource governance.