South Asia has been defined by historic and inextricable connections between water and development. However, rapid population growth, several transboundary river basins and competing pressures from industrial, agricultural and domestic sectors in all the countries of the region have created a daunting set of challenges related to the sustainability, accessibility, quality and equity in sharing of water resources.
Although, historically, the South Asian region has been perceived as having plentiful water resources, due to rapid population growth, the water availability per capita in the region has decreased by almost 70 percent since 1950. It is projected that by 2025, most of the region will be facing either physical or economic scarcity of water. Apart from water scarcity, deteriorating water quality is also putting pressure on the water resources of the region. Water scarcity and poor water quality will impact human health and safety, food production and economic development, while also threatening peace and security in the region.
Disputes, both within and between countries, over shared and increasingly limited water resources are set to intensify. The effects of climate change will further aggravate such tensions. Natural disasters, whether in the form of severe drought or floods, will have a profound impact on agricultural economies, people’s livelihoods and on the fragile ecosystems found all over South Asia.
As such issues related to water – availability, security, quality, conflict and natural disasters – become more pressing, the focus will be on research, training capacity building and knowledge mobilisation. Multi-disciplinary engagement, collaborative training, strong leadership and local capacity building endeavours will be key to shaping new, more effective paradigms and approaches to water management.
SaciWATERs, South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies, was formed as a project on the theme "water for food and rural development" after the 2000 World Water Forum at the Hague, was established with the aim of bringing a paradigm perspective. Based in Hyderabad, India, the consortium comprises accomplished scholars and activists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SaciWATERs produces new knowledge to address the pressing problems in the water sector in south Asia through education, research and advocacy. It has created a new group of professionals and experts through its Crossing Boundaries Project which aims to contribute to the paradigm shift in water resources management in South Asia by means of various partnership-based programmes for capacity building of water professionals through higher education, innovative and social learning focused research ("research with an impact"), knowledge based development and networking.