Water and Energy in BIMSTEC


AFNA Interaction Paper

Hiranya Lal Shrestha: Nepal and the countries in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) are inseparably interlinked with the mountains, the rivers and the Bay of Bengal. They have had a natural and close relationship. Since BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Submit at Goa in October 16, 2016, BIMSTEC has been activized with new vigor and zeal.

Geography and Geo-Climatic Factor

Three major tributaries of the Ganges, the Karnali, the Gandaki and the Koshi with their origin flow through Nepal and then join the Ganges in India, Bangladesh and before merging into the Bay of Bengal (BoB). The three Himalayan tributaries the Karnali, the Sapta Gandaki and the Sapta Koshi contribute about 71% of the natural dry season flow and 41% of the total annual flow on the Ganges. The catchment area of the Ganges is about 1,087,300sq.km lying in India (860,000 sq.km), Nepal (147,480sq.km), China (33,520sq.km) and Bangladesh (46,300sq.km).[1]

In summer, the warm, moist air of the monsoon from Indian Ocean swaps up the Bay of Bengal rendering the highest rainfall in the world over Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan. Thus, Geography of the river system and Geo-climatic factors in BoB binds BIMSTEC countries together. They are the gift of life.

“Look South” Policy

The General Secretary of Bharatiya Janta Party, Mr. Ram Madhav addressing a Nepal-India Think Tank Summit at Kathmandu on July 30, 2018 suggested Nepal, to pursue a “Look South” policy in foreign Policy orientation keeping in view the immense benefit Nepal can reap from India, Indian Ocean and beyond.[2]

The Geo-Political situation of Nepal does not allows us to follow one-sided policy, so we should continue the policy of equal-proximity between north and south and should “Look Around” Policy broadly in this globalized world.

It is interesting to note that China also “Looking South” and playing active role in CEPEC, SCO, BCIM and SAARC. China has already floated “Look South” Policy building Trans-Himalayan Railways, turning Rasuwa as International Gateway to South. India has also responded positively by purposing to construct a railway from Raxual to Kathmandu. Probably this is one of the positive outcomes of President Xi and Prime Minister Modi’s meeting in Wuhan. The recent event of launching Bus Services between Nepal and Bangladesh has further strengthened connectivity drive. Nepalese pragmatic approach is “Look South” to seek access to ocean through BoB to facilitate the ‘Look Around’ Policy in the globalized relationship.


Landlocked countries like Nepal and Bhutan hope to get more access to the oceanic resources and better trade and transit through BOB. Flood and drought in upper riparian countries and lower riparian countries can be mitigated through flood forecasting and warning system and proper catchment management including reservoir and storage. Riverways connectivity, Power Grid connectivity and equitable sharing of marine resources even to landlocked countries are important aspects of cooperation in water and energy sectors. I would like to pursue a few recommendations to forthcoming BIMSTEC Summit as follows.

Declare the status of the Ganges, the Meghna and Brahmaputra Rivers as International Rivers.

Open Unrestricted Inland Waterways both bilaterally and regionally.

Expand bilateral, trilateral and multilateral Transmission lines and Power grids.

Promote regional energy trade and recognize surplus electricity from domestic consumption, as exportable trading commodity.

Early operationalize the BIMSTEC Energy Centre.

Integrate Mountain Economy and Blue Economy.

Develop more scientific and modernized flood forecasting and warning system.

Sharing of relevant data and information of water sector.

To mitigate drought in dry season, Upper riparian countries can build reservoirs, storage to release the value added and regulated water, if the downstream benefits return is guaranteed.

Give-up Self-Centered approach and promote comprehensive plan for Riverways and energy cooperation with co-riparians.

Let water diplomacy in BIMSTEC Region take new course of co-operation and coordination between co-riparians as dynamic partners in developing water and energy sector.

August 24, 2018





[1] Report on Flood Mitigation Measures and Multipurpose use of water Resources, Bangladesh-nepal Joint study Team, November 23, 1989, Page-7

[2] The Republic, August 1, 2018