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Water and climate data in the ganges Basin: Assessing access to information regimes and implications for cooperation on transboundary rivers

Sagar Prasai
The Asia Foundation, New Delhi, India; sagar.prasai@asiafoundation.org

Mandakini Devasher Surie
The Asia Foundation, New Delhi, India; mandakini.surie@asiafoundation.org

ABSTRACT: Public access to government-maintained water and climate data in the three major co-riparian countries of the Ganges Basin – Nepal, India and Bangladesh – has been either inadequately granted or formally restricted. This paper examines the effects of newly enacted Right to Information (RTI) laws in these three countries to assess changes in the information access regimes as they relate to hydrological data. We find that neither the RTI laws nor the internal and external demand for increased transparency in governments have affected access to information regimes on water at a fundamental level. In India, the RTI laws have not eased public access to data on its transboundary rivers including in the Ganges Basin and in Nepal and Bangladesh, while data can be legally accessed using RTI laws, the administrative procedures for such an access are not developed enough to make a tangible difference on the ground. We then discuss the implications of our findings on the continuing impasse on regional collaboration on water in South Asia and point to rapid advancements in technology as an emerging pathway to greater data democracy.

KEYWORDS: Transboundary water governance, Ganges Basin, right to information, regional cooperation, policy contestation, data-sharing, data democracy