Kokrajhar (Assam), June 21st, 2019: As multiple countries in the South Asian region struggle individually to deal with the impacts of climate change induced disasters, unfortunately, there is yet to be promising development in collectively combating these vulnerabilities at the regional and transboundary level. Several rivers that flow down from Bhutan to India - with 56 such rivers flowing down from Bhutan to Assam itself. Though these rivers are the lifeline for riparian communities in both countries, they oftentimes wreak havoc, with flash floods, long term inundation, erosion, cyclones and siltation. Unscientific mining, unsustainable fishing, and improper water management and flood protection measures could be likely causes for cumulative risks and vulnerabilities in the region. If governed effectively, these rivers could help both countries thrive in trade and tourism, as well as enabling a prosperous livelihood for the respective riparian communities.
With Bhutan and India enjoying a friendly and cordial relationship, and in recent times, CSO to CSO ties strengthening, amicable ties between border communities and their collective approach in managing rivers is being cited as an early instance of transboundary cooperation. As understanding grows, transboundary communities are making continued endeavors to bring respective cultures together through various activities.
In this context, a two-day consultation was organized, involving representatives from Government, CSO, Media and Academic Institutions. Titled ‘Consultation on Trans-Boundary Cooperation for Effective Management of Water Risks’, it was held on June 20th and 21st, 2019, at Kokrajhar, BTC, Assam.
Tireless efforts by women leaders from India and Bhutan have resulted in early platforms to enhance women’s participation in trans-boundary risk governance. A cadre of community based women leaders are coming together to collectively manage risks in the last mile with support from upstream and downstream communities.
The Consultation on Trans-Boundary Cooperation for Effective Management of Water Risks was a collective effort of these women champions, represented by several agencies, including North East Research & Social Work Networking (NERSWN), Aranyak and Bhutan Transparency Initiative (BTI), Bhutan India Friendship Association, supported by Oxfam’s Project TROSA.
This two-day consultation aimed at strengthening transboundary collaboration and cooperation with Government, CSOs, Academia and others with the following long term objectives:
The Consultation was jointly inaugurated by Biren Chandran Phukan, IAS, Principal Secretary, BTC, and Dr. Kinzang Dorji.
Chairperson, BTI Board (Former Minister, Prime Minister & Speaker) and Mr. Pankaj Anand (Director, Oxfam India) in the august presence of eminent representatives from Bhutan and India.
In his inaugural address, Dr. Kinzang Dorji emphasized, “Bhutan and India have always been friendly nations and share a time tested relationship. This consultation is a step towards strengthening this relationship, specially through managing water risks.”
Pankaj Anand further highlighted through his keynote address, “Effective management of water risks will not only lead to joyous access to water, but will help transform the conflicts around water into a peaceful state. I am sure this is just the beginning; both countries together have to realize different goals which will benefit either side.”
Dr. Sunil Kaul (Managing Trustee, the ant) asserted, “Boundaries should become a failure gradually. We should be reminded constantly that boundaries divide. Water sees no boundary.”
Drawing focus to the roles of CSOs in transboundary cooperation and youth leadership in water cooperation, Mr. Jyotiraj Patra (Manager - TROSA, Oxfam Cambodia) said, “We must utilize this energy of the youth to take forward the agenda of water cooperation. How can we make these actions more sustainable? How can we bring stronger partnership mechanisms and deliver at the regional level?”
Ms. Pema Lhamo (Founder & Executive Director – BTI Secretariat) discussed at length that cooperation is imperative for peace, safe environment and prosperity of border communities.
Dr. Kinzang Dorji steered the technical session on Trans-Boundary Cooperation for Managing Water Risks, and explained, "Water can be an instrument in deepening a long-standing friendship between India and Bhutan."
Through the day, eminent participants discussed and deliberated on different topics, resolutions of these discussions will be declared at the end of the consultation.
The second day commenced with a session on Women Leadership for Effective Bhutan-India Cooperation, followed by an open brainstorming session on Re-Imagining Bhutan-India Friendship.
Establishing that partnership and collaboration of civil societies will advance the benefits of bilateral cooperation beyond diplomatic relations and will yield wider benefits to the grassroots communities, the two-day Consultation also dwelt on the further scope for multiple formal platforms for collective action, and concluded with a formal signing of the Kokrajhar Call for Action on Bhutan – India CSO’s Partnership for Inclusive Water Governance.
Oxfam India released this press statement on 21 June 2019.
For media queries please contact Himanshi Matta, 91-8860182310.
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