Yale Himalaya Initiative

environment | livelihood | culture

MacMillan Center

Governance of the Himalayan Rivers: Ecosystem Processes and Human Aspirations Understanding of the Brahmaputra Sub-basin

Event time: 
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 5:45pm
Room 319, Kroon Hall See map
195 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

Jayanta Bandyopadhyay
Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, India
Former Professor, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Kolkata, India


The Himalaya is the creator of 10 major rivers of Asia, the waters of which serve ecosystems and people living in areas from Shanghai to Karachi, from Dhaka to Kabul. With rapid growth in the large Asian economies like of China and India, there have been drastic decline in the ecological status of these rivers. Today, a confrontation lies ahead between continued ecosystem processes and that of traditional processes of economic growth. Example can be given of the two rivers, the Yellow and the Ganges in China and India respectively. These two rivers, called mother-rivers of the Chinese and the Indian civilizations, are in a highly degraded ecological state, due to extraction and pollution. In addition, the state of scientific knowledge and related policy innovations has been stagnant for a long time. Global warming and climate change make the situation more drastic. The Brahmaputra sub-basin with very high rainfall in the south aspect of the Himalaya provides an emerging case of ecological deterioration and economic growth in need of policy intervention.

In this background, the case of the Himalayan river Brahmaputra is taken up for analysis. Unlike the Yellow or the Ganges, Brahmaputra sub-basin of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin has remained marginally transformed so far. However, in the last 3 decades urbanization and widespread construction of hydro-power projects have rapidly been changing the ecological status in the sub-basin. Conflicts have already arisen between provinces in India and between the construction lobby and the resident people in the higher parts of the Himalayan region. The talk will address the contradiction between ecosystem processes and aspirations of human groups pushing economic growth per se.

Jayanta Bandyopadhyay obtained his Ph. D. in engineering physics from IIT Kanpur, India. After completing his doctoral work, he turned his professionalattention to the interdisciplinary area at the complex interface between thenatural environment and human economic activities. The transformation was facilitatedby his close interaction with the forest rights movement in the Indian Himalaya calledChipkoHe has been a consistentresearcher on various critical policy issues related to environment in Asia,especially the rivers originating in the Himalaya. In course of time he became deeplyinterested in understanding the relationship between human knowledge on the naturalenvironment and their role in the various human interventions into nature.

In 1988 he joined ICIMOD Kathmandu and in 1991 was invited by the UNCED Secretariat to prepare a draftof the chapter on the world’s mountains for Agenda-21. After that he worked at theInternational Academy of Environment (Geneva) as Director of Research and in 1997he joined Indian Institute of Management Calcutta as a Professor to establish the Centre for Development andEnvironment Policy. He retired from that Institute in 2012.  

He has been thePresident of the Indian Society for Ecological Economics (2006-8) and a Fellowof the India-China Institute in The New School, New York. He is an adviser tothe Water Diplomacy Program at Tufts University, Medford, USA. He has publishedmore than 150 papers, books, articles, etc.  His recent book published by Springer in 2017 is Environmental Sustainability from the Himalayas to the Oceans: Struggles and Innovations in China and India.