The issues of ecology and sustainability are almost coterminous. Conservation of nature is crucial for tackling climate change, achieving sustainable development, guaranteeing secure livelihoods for the poor and building a green economy. The Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers play pivotal roles in sustaining life and environment and the GBM basin is the site of constant struggles and negotiations. Living and negotiating with nature is part of the everyday struggle for people living in this region. Not only floods which make headlines, but long drawn phenomenon of river bank erosion render the people of this region vulnerable. This research endeavour focuses on Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin with an aim to promote insights into trans-boundary issues across these three major river systems.
The governments’ tendencies to play to the gallery by enacting populist laws, neglects ‘the principle of basin as a unit of development’. To make things worse, population and development pressures combined with changing regional values have intensified competition for global freshwater stocks, raising concerns of expanded conflicts over scarce water resources. At the international scale, water supply and allocation are frequently cited as the primary sources of tension, yet significant vulnerabilities also exist in terms of water quality management. The vast majority of the world’s international basins are without any type of water quality institution, and, even where such institutions do exist, a general lack of substantive language and full basin participation likely minimize their ultimate effectiveness. To foster greater co-riparian cooperation, the international community has concentrated on the development of generalized, global principles of water quality management. More attention to the specific institution-building needs at the basin level, however, may be needed. There is therefore a great need to treat the river basin as a unit of development. Unfortunately however, focus on national interest, coupled with populist governance strategies, renders secondary the importance of a river as an integral part of nature. It, for the most part, ignores global principles of water quality management. Public opinion is not generated on the issue, for the spectacle-driven national media thrive on controversies, and objective and eco-sensitive accounts of river-water management and sharing becomes the inevitable victim of sensationalist reportage. Jingoism, rather than just norms of co-riparian cooperation, feeds and guides the mood of the bodies politic. This discrepancy has to be corrected.
Further, the multiple realities of this region cannot be fathomed without making an attempt to understand the issues of resource crisis, migration, resource sharing, people’s struggle and resistance. Water as a resource is essential to all daily human activities and hence, is an important commodity. Thus, the issues of survival of regions and that of rivers are the two sides of the same coin. Trans-border natural resources cutting across jurisdictional boundaries (trans-boundary rivers, lakes, wetlands, protected ecosystems national parks, game reserves , mountains, minerals, oil gas etc.), are vital for the survival of a highly populated region like South Asia.
Media in this region has a huge impact on society in shaping the public opinion of the masses. They can form or modify the public as well as policymakers’ opinion in different ways depending on what the objective is. For instance, issues of trans-boundary water sharing and management should be addressed objectively, yet sensitively. In the absence of transparency and accountability with regard to river-water planning, the media has to play an important role in disseminating the right information to the people at large. Media should not fall prey to jingoism or politics between the Centre and the States. Further, media, in order to rightly address issues of ecology, sustainable livelihood, trans-border resource sharing should go beyond socio-economic-national needs.Since there is a dearth of responsible, sensitive and accurate reporting, CRG aims at bridging this gap by making a media package for helping mediapersons report sensitively and objectively.
The project aims to cover five thematic areas:
water productivity and poverty;
impacts of climate change;
convergence of inland navigation and integrated water resources management goals;
environmental security and biodiversity conservation.
The project sets out the following objectives:
What CRG wants to achieve?
o Media and the public should be sensitised as to why tans-boundary resource sharing and management is important and beneficial for concerned states. This helps build eco-sensitive public opinion.
o Create space for dialogues and encourage ongoing dialogue and negotiations while dealing with sensitive issues through activities that promote mutual understanding; for instance, field tours and exchange visits of journalists from different countries.
o Sensitising issues that directly touch the lives of people; namely, food security, water quality and land degradation.
Keeping the public informed about the progress of projects right from their inception to implementation and conclusion.
Partner: IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, New Delhi (Project ref: 77190-010)
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