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An Assessment of the Institutional Mechanisms for Water Negotiations in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna System

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This article begins with the historical perspective of the Indo-Bangladesh negotiations over common water-related issues in the GBM system. It presents a complete account of the common waters-related issues that exist between India and Bangladesh. It critically examines the genesis and performance of the institutional mechanisms that have evolved over time, particularly the scope and limitations of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC). The role of JRC is examined in the context of the treaties and MOUs signed between India and Bangladesh for sharing the Ganges at various times. Lessons learned from these and other international negotiations are compiled to make the JRC more effective and efficient. The potential role of third party mediation in the GBM system is discussed along with the role of multi-track diplomacy. Some pertinent theoretical issues are raised regarding the narrow and ambiguous definitions of ``benefit'' and ``equity'' as mentioned in the statues of the JRC. The difficulty of setting a baseline for water sharing is discussed. Finally, it is recommended that the JRC should be expanded into the JWC (Joint Waters Commission) to allow for incorporation of other water-related issues such as watershed management, water quality and coastal ecosystem management. It is emphasized that political willingness has been the single most important factor in determining the success of bilateral negotiations in the GBM system.

Affiliations: 1: Water Resources Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh and Country Representative, IUCN, Bangladesh; 2: Environmental Studies, North South University, Banani, Dhaka 1213, Bangladesh


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