The Politics of Water in South Asia

Douglas Hill


Disputes over water are central to the political economy of development in South Asia. This paper looks at the way that the allocation of water is mediated by different kinds of state-society relations in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan by examining common property resource management issues from three different spatial scales: international, intra-national and intra-community. By doing so, we can begin to appreciate the complexity of problems in the management of water and the likely trends throughout the region. We do this by examining the contestations over rivers, canals, dams and groundwater. The role of agricultural change in contributing to the intensification of water usage in the rural areas is emphasised. Despite some diversification into non-agricultural activities in the rural areas and limited industrialisation in the urban areas, 70-80 percent of the region’s fresh water is utilised for agriculture at the present juncture.

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