Inviting Ideas on strengthening Youth Engagement in Water Governance in South Asia

Author : Oxfam India

Date : 19/08/2020 - 06/09/2020

Seeking contributions from youth on water governance in South Asia.

We at Oxfam believe in the power of youth to bring about positive change. Young people, through their energy and skills, are capable of strengthening the governance of water resources. We invite young minds to share their ideas on improving youth engagement in water governance in South Asia. 


Total Comments : 7

Date : 06/09/2020 | 10:54AM



Water is a fundamental resource and the engine of economic growth. Managing water resources efficiently is therefore vital. However the current model of water resource management is largely centralized, top down and urbanized. Water resources management decision is mainly made at the centre, and is passed down to the local level. Water resources management in the rural area is largely missed out most of the times as the water requirement in the urban settings is given the priority. 

The issue now in urban areas is that they suffer from unemployment, unequal access to resources and overcrowding while in rural setting -rural urban migration, depopulation, and under development are major issues. So my argument here would be from the context of rural urban linkage, current approach of management and requirements for development in the rural areas. 
While the youth are considered as the agent of change and engaging youth in managing water resources is gaining popularity. It is also recognized by UN summit a couple of years ago and stresses to engage youth while discussing developmental agendas in different forums however the current model of development do not really facilitate youth to enable them to participate in such forums and this needs to be reviewed critically.

Firstly the youth as agent of change is acknowledged but the centralized and top down approach of managing waters not really helpful as the decisions are made elsewhere and youths are asked to follow what is decided. Todays, youth do not believe in doing what they do not understand why certain things needs to be done in certain way. Youth need to understand, they need to feel and also realize that it is their future and so they must take lead in making decisions.  There are experiences that top down approach of resources management has not been effective but do become effective when the stakeholders are taken on board and especially youths are given the responsibilities. In terms of managing water resources, my own experience influenced opinion is that the concept of integrated water resource management (IWM) which appears to be effective which takes account of people, culture, practices, land water, forests and wildlife as resources and how the community and community based institutions should be functioning based on the local needs.
Secondly most of the agencies talk about engaging youth however when there is rural urban migration and lack of available jobs in the rural areas (where managing water in the rural areas would make managing water in the urban areas) constrained by centralized and top down approach makes it difficult to engage youth. As employment is first and foremost issue and secondly education pertaining to the resources is the other. Youths may be qualified but may not have required knowledge and skills and even not aware of how to manage what specific resources so the question of how to engage youth is largely unanswered. My own opinion is that the focus should be relatively on rural areas pertaining to resources management, creation of jobs so people can be employed and retained there. Let the community take the ownership of the resources available there and let them participate in important decision making forums. When there is job opportunity and access to resources, I assume that the trend of rural to urban migration of youth can be reduced significantly. Thirdly scholarships, education and training: In most of the cases it appears that lack of education affect the management of resources. So having certificates or diploma on water resources management if not regular degree courses, I believe, would help the youth to be aware of water resources. The University or local educational institutes should be able to mobilize youths and make them realize that role of water as engine of economic growth. While doing so the focus should be on the capacity development of youth meaning that the more investments need to me made for engaging youth in terms of scholarship, training and internships. When rural areas are developed, it is relatively easier to develop urban areas as the ecosystem services flow from rural areas would be effective. 

My belief is that when communities have access to water, road and electricity, it is relatively easier to initiate faster rate of development. The first and foremost should be water management. When youth are not in the village, only the elderly are left behind who would not be able to participate actively and invest their time and energy in managing water. When water can be managed efficiently and when people have access to water, agriculture can be developed relatively easily. When there is abundant crops, food security can be achieved which would definitely bring roads and hence the road and electricity can transform the resources management through use of more and more efficient technologies, This argument may be out of context here but I just would like to highlight it here. Thank you.  


Date : 06/09/2020 | 9:19AM

The South Asian States shares many important rivers among its neighbours. Management of waters/water governance seems to be only an inter-state/Inter-governmental affairs in almost all South Asian countries with negligible involvement of youths, civilians and CSOs. It seems to be a neglected field of study even in the academic arena. Among South Asian States namely - India-Pakistan, India-Bhutan, India-Bangladesh and India-Nepal shares water since time immemorial within its international borders. Many times disputes and misunderstandings can be seen among those states related to water managements. Therefore, more and more inter-state/Inter-governmental projects with the involvement of youths, INGOs, Local NGOs and Academics can be very much fruitful in resolving any kinds of water related issues in South Asia. Water governance should be popularized and activate participation of youths should be encouraged which in turn, I believe will bring peace in the region. Jhanin Mushahary Bodoland University

Date : 05/09/2020 | 4:02PM

Youth is believed to be the next generation of decision-makers and implementers, being a potential asset to make a difference through innovation and raising awareness. Hence, youth engagement in water governance plays a significant role when it comes to saving our rivers with their enthusiastic passion and insights.  

Let me draw a picture for the readers.

Being an individual belonging to the young generation, I have always observed the older generation speak about rivers in awe. It seemed like they hold a spiritual connection to their rivers in the hometown that we will never be able to understand the depth. In urban areas, the young souls might not hold values for rivers as much as their previous generation since we were not much exposed to nature. Even so, we understand the urgency in our parent’s eyes and that’s the drive which pushes us to work towards it. In today’s world, young people in the urban area are well aware of river degradation and its gravity to protect it by contributing their knowledge and skills in improving water governance.

However, a few kilometers away from the urban areas where people are closer to rivers are suffering every year with the endless fluctuation in the river system due to climate change. Either the rivers wash away their homes, destroy their crops, erode their lands, or dry up for a significant amount of time which eventually affects their crops, availability of fish, and livelihood. In that sense, the once valued river turned into a nightmare for the riverine people in rural areas. As people are becoming more negligent towards the health of the rivers, the older generation of the riverine community is struggling to sustain their livelihood practices. Hence, they do not want their following generations to suffer from the crisis they are enduring now. All they want is to be free from living under poverty by letting their next generation to follow another path to secure their future by sending them to urban cities hoping them to pursue jobs that would not let them depend on rivers.

Here’s where the questions arise for the youth of the riverine community: Will these youth ever know, how much value this river holds in their life? Will they ever work in a way that will keep their river and livelihood in harmony? Or will they just move on to the concrete city world leaving their rivers, to have a secure future?

The participation and involvement of these youth of the riverine community who are pursuing education can act as an asset for improving water governance. Through my field study on the riverine villages, it was evident that most of the youth are actively studying Physics, Chemistry and holds high knowledge of how the river ecosystem works and its importance. They understand the dynamics of the river and the causes of its degradation backed up with a scientific explanation. Their knowledge could work as an advantage for the locals. Therefore, there should be a proper institutional structure within the villages near rivers where a separate committee called “River Committee” should be maintained by the youth. This way it will be easier for the villagers to communicate regarding the issues of their rivers to the government bodies NGOs and contribute better to the water governance overall.  

This is my idea of improving youth engagement in water governance in South Asia that we need to improve the communication and networks within the roots in order to strengthen water governance decisions regarding the rivers in South Asia.  

Date : 05/09/2020 | 3:45PM

We believe that youths are the future of comming generation and all the youth should come together and work for the future generation. As water is the basic needs which is required in day to day life. I hope The following steps will help the peoples in this area to get water...

1. Storage of rain water during rainy season

Our north east region specially the northern part of Brahmaputra gets heavy rain fall during rainy season. Therefore, we can preserve this water in a water tank or preserver. So that we can use this water in need 

2. Proper channel system

The neighbouring country like Bhutan which is in the northern part of India many rivers, streams, flow from neighbouring countries flow to saralpara or southern part of Bhutan. By making proper drain system or channels we can supply this water to various areas within their jurisdiction. 

3. Boring (Deep well) the area neighbouring to the Bhutan are mostly hilly terrain and Rocky area making of well and tube well is not possible therefore, making deep well like boring with the help of Govt. Will be quit possible. Hence, through this process water can be pump up and store in huge quantity and preserve in water tank and supply tho the public of that area. We can get example from many hill areas within our north east state where they pump up the water by this process. Therefore by the same process we can also get the water.

4. PHE

The public health dpt. Can make a pipeline and supply the drinking water in the society or community. Or by water tanker vehicle can store the water in some water reserver or can distribute the water on every day basis by collecting minimum revenue. 

Rekha Rani Ramchiary 

NERSWN, Kokrajhar 

Date : 04/09/2020 | 3:39PM

Water resource in today's world and certainly in South Asia is directly affected by the governance and wise utilisation of the precious and shared resource. It represents a challenge for the region and has far reaching consequences for its people, especially the young ones-the youths. For it is the youths that will carry forward the agenda of development and sustainability - of which water is a prime catalsyt.

Youth engagement in water governance projects and agenda is essential for achieving water security and sustainability in the region. Giving credibility to knowledge and projects induced by youths has the probability to dramatically accelerate improvements for a sustainable water governance network and programmes. Youths have a huge potential for innovation and creative thought and their voice has to be taken into account in the designing, planning and implementation of water governance projects and programmes.

I am very eager and excited in anticipation for the youths to take up the mantle of water governance and come up with community-centric innovations and ideas for sustainable development. 

Change is possible and the change shall be the youths!

Jafar Ahmed.



Date : 02/09/2020 | 7:23PM

It is said that youth of a country determine the future of a nation. Youth have the power and energy to develop and take forward new ideas in strengthening the water governance. Youth can play a vital role for managing the water resources in South Asia by taking up roles and responsibilties in water governance. Engaging youth from the river basin communities would empower and encourage them to play a major role in managing water resources. If we look at India, the GOI is in the process of drafting a new water policy for the nation. We may use this platform to recommend a special chapter in the New Water Policy for the youth of the country. Water crisis is intensifying despite several measures taken by the government and creating a Youth Section in the National Water Policy can improve the youth engagement in managing the water resources. 

I sincerely look forward to active contribution from all the youth members and volunteers registered on WGCAN portal. 

The initiative is supported by Oxfam India under Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA 2017 -2021) program. TROSA is a regional water governance program supporting poverty reduction initiatives in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) and Salween basins.The program is implemented in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanamar and is supported by the Government of Sweden.
Views expressed in this website are those of the individual contributors and network members and do not represent that of Oxfam, its implementing partners or Government of Sweden.