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Mithilesh asked: What are the various concerns of a nation engaged in a water treaty with another nation? Kindly respond with a special reference to India and its neighbours?

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  • Uttam Kumar Sinha replies: A riparian treaty is entered into to allay the following fears/concerns:

    1. Water sharing: For a lower riparian country, the share of water that it gets from the upper riparian is of great concern. Water is largely linked to agriculture and hence water security is also food security. Fears and apprehensions always remain. If the lower riparian is economically and militarily weaker than its upper riparian, it will seek a treaty or water sharing arrangement and the involvement of a third party to ensure the treaty's effectiveness, for example the Indus Water Treaty. But, if the lower riparian is relatively powerful in the basin then it can dictate terms, like Egypt in the Nile basin. Some powerful upper riparian countries like China do not have any water treaty with its lower riparian and deliberately chose not to have any sharing arrangement except for some MoUs.

    2. Sharing of hydrological data: This is a big concern given the impact of climate change. Lower riparian would like to be informed on the changing profile of the rivers in the upper reaches. Such information helps them to be prepared for eventual flood disaster, etc. Withholding information is a tool of coercion and upper riparian can exploit its hydrological position to harm the lower riparian.

    3. The general principles of water sharing as captured by the above two concerns are: principle of limited sovereignty over water resources and the principle of 'no significant harm'.