The Himalayan Rivers of South Asia are corridors of connectivity across diverse landscapes and cultures. The region is home to around a quarter of the global population, but has less than five percent of the world’s renewable water resources. Low per capita water availability and a high relative level of water use makes South Asia one of the most water scarce regions of the world. Additionally, water storage is low by global standards, making it difficult to manage the floods and droughts that characterize the region and that are expected to increase with climate change.
Like the Himalayan Rivers, many parts of the world are grappling with growing water security challenges. How can we address some of the world’s most pressing river basin management issues?
This was underlying theme of the 19th International RiverSymposium (IRS) in New Delhi, India, which explores the challenges many countries are facing in their quest to effectively balance competing demands for freshwater resources—including urban expansion, industrialization, power generation, irrigation and domestic use. It was the first time that IRS has been held outside of Australia, highlighting the urgent and unique challenges the Himalayas are facing.
IRS is an annual event, hosted by the International River Foundation. The event provides an opportunity for river managers, policy makers, scientists, consultants, students, NGOs, community organizations, business and industry representatives from around the world, to gather together, share knowledge, learn, and collaborate on sustainable management of rivers.
The World Bank was a principal sponsor of the 19th International RiverSymposium (IRS). In addition, the World Bank was represented on the Symposium Steering Committee that oversaw the design and implementation of the event. Helping countries achieve “water security for all” is at the core of the World Bank’s twin goals to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity for the poorest 40 percent. The World Bank’s Water Global Practice contributes to the twin goals by investing in effective and sustainable water solutions that enable universal access, promote water security, and build resilient societies.
The 19th IRS was attended by 452 delegates, including 249 delegates from India, of which 80 were officials from Indian state and central government water agencies. The large Indian government participation was recognition of the capacity building value of the Symposium to the large technical team engaged in the World Bank-funded National Hydrology Project, which is under preparation.
Genevieve Connors, Program Leader, India Country Management Unit of the World Bank, gave a keynote address on “Cleaning India’s Rivers: Bringing the Global Experience to Bear”. This examined global experience on river cleanup, drawing on examples from Europe (the Rhine), USA (Chesapeake Bay), Argentina, and China.