Water, climate, and finance know no borders. This brings both challenges and opportunities. When it comes to freshwater, a majority of the world’s surface water flows in transboundary basins, spanning multiple federal states and countries. At the same time, most impacts from climate change are felt through the global water cycle and sub-cycles. Thus, transboundary cooperation is crucial for strengthening climate resilience. And, when done appropriately, riparian countries and river basin organizations (RBOs) can harness their unique attributes to secure adaptation financing from a range of sources.
Transboundary waters—which support the socioeconomic wellbeing of more than 40 percent of the global population, as well as the ecosystems on which they depend—were a regular discussion topic in special sessions and high-level panel events at the Forum. This is not surprising given the complex blend of human, environmental and agricultural water stresses that is putting a number of the world’s 286 transboundary river basins on a trajectory toward high risk of water scarcity, and several toward closure—where water demand exceeds supply seasonally or throughout the year—by 2030. The below map, depicting the relative risk of environmental water stress projected for 2030, illustrates the potentially dire future of the world’s transboundary freshwater basins.
The Brahmaputra River Basin originates in the Himalayas of China and flows through India and Bangladesh, with flow contribution from Bhutan. The basin is one of the largest and most complex in the world for a variety of reasons, including its challenging topography and hydrological environment.
Development in the basin has historically been piecemeal, undertaken on a project-by-project basis at the country level. Complex geopolitics between downstream and upstream countries has been amplified by an incomplete basin knowledge base, the varying professional water resources management and technical capacities of the basin riparians, and power asymmetry among those countries. The absence of a basin-wide cooperative framework has translated into missed opportunities for regional economic growth, especially in agriculture and hydropower and through disaster risk reduction.