Ten major rivers in Asia originate in the Himalaya region and flow through several countries before reaching the ocean. The benefits and risks associated with the river water in the region are distributed across various cultural, political, and administrative boundaries. The river basins are home to 1.3 billion people. They provide the population with water, irrigation, hydropower, inland navigation, recreation, and spiritual uses. Upstream-downstream linkages occur on different scales (catchments to river basins), across different administrative divisions (wards to countries), and across physiographic regions (mountain to plains). It is important to have a functional arrangement with which to share information on benefits and risks. However, progress in this area is rather limited in the region. The aim of this Action Area is to support and apply integrated water resource management (IWRM) approaches and water governance strategies and to foster co-operation and knowledge sharing related to both the benefits and risks associated with water at different levels and scales.
The concept of IWRM is a new one in the region and operationalization of IWRM concepts has been relatively modest because of both political and institutional reasons. The concept of IWRM can provide some solutions in terms of looking at upstream-downstream water resources from the perspective of how increasing limitations in water availability can be balanced through the wise use and management of water to sustain and improve livelihoods. While operationalization of IWRM approaches is a comprehensive process, the actions proposed under this Programme are targeted towards understanding the status and potential for operationalization of IWRM and building the capacity of stakeholders in this field. Success will be indicated by public statements (followed up by commitments and application) by policy and decision makers wherein the importance of IWRM principles and procedures are highlighted. The overriding principle is that decision makers comprehend the gravity of, and the necessity to address, water management related problems.
Climate change is one of the key drivers and may have a profound impact on regional hydrology. The magnitude and timing of changes in the hydrological regime of the transboundary river basin in the regions is highly uncertain. One of the objectives of the Action Area is to fill the knowledge gaps in this field.