South Asia

South Asian countries are positioned below the Himalayas, where rainfall and glacial melt feed into three great rivers—the Brahmaputra, the Indus and the Ganges.

Unique water governance challenges exacerbated by climate change

The South Asia region consists of nine countries—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. 

South Asian countries are positioned below the Himalayas, where rainfall and glacial melt feed into three great rivers—the Brahmaputra, the Indus and the Ganges. But population increase, urbanisation and industrialisation are depleting the quantity and quality of these freshwater sources, making many unsuitable for daily use and raising grave concerns for the future of the region. Moreover, both flood and drought incidences are escalating and becoming more destructive due to the impacts of climate change. In parts of South Asia, especially rural areas, many communities rely solely on groundwater for their livelihoods—which is also quickly becoming depleted.

Water management and governance issues in South Asia are complex by nature due to the transboundary rivers that make up the region. Each country has its own interests and challenges; its own priorities for using available water. There are consequences from water use upstream that can impact countries and communities downstream, with impacts for human health, agriculture, energy and more. Additionally, individual countries often lack the appropriate institutional arrangements and frameworks to effectively manage their water domestically.

Australia’s support to South Asia dates back to our inception in 2015, when we supported India’s National Hydrology Project. We have since worked with partners across the region on water security, drought mitigation, water accounting, river basin governance, dam rehabilitation and young water professionals.

In 2023, AWP supported a scoping exercise to explore improving energy security through pumped storage hydropower in the Himalayan region. A type of hydroelectric energy storage which acts similarly to a giant battery to store and release power, pumped storage hydropower is suitable for off-river development and, when well sited and developed, has minimal negative social or environmental impacts. We are supporting the development of recommendations for context-specific guidelines that will ensure that this technology can be developed in socially and environmentally sustainable ways for the benefit of the region.

An image of three people riding bicycles through Indonesia

Indonesia

Indonesia’s water challenges are as diverse as its geography and people.
Skip to content