In the latest dispute between India and Pakistan, Islamabad has taken New Delhi to the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague over a longstanding water treaty. The move does not bode well for bilateral mediation between the two adversarial neighbors, and it underscores the greater difficulty of solving water disputes throughout the entire region. India, Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh rely on the same rivers for the wellbeing of their people, economies, and ecosystems. While every party agrees the stakes are incredibly high, there has been inadequate agreement on the multilateral frameworks and information sharing that could reduce rather than inflame regional tensions.
To make matters worse, each side has been cagey about releasing water data related to their respective hydroelectric projects. Such behavior increases mistrust and hampers efforts to provide stewardship over a shared resource. Sana Ali, a South Asia fellow at the Stimson Center told The Cipher Brief that withholding data “…reduces governments’ ability to effectively plan and manage existing resources, prepare for natural disasters, and mitigate some of the effects of climate change.” Additionally, Geoffrey Dabelko, a Senior Advisor at the Woodrow Wilson center, told the Cipher Brief that there is a strong precedent for effective information sharing: “…data sharing regimes have proven to be resilient mechanisms for continuing to cooperate on the ground while incendiary headlines dominate.” Data democratization and partnerships between governments and civil society organizations could reverse the trend of growing tensions over water supply.
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