The Regime of International Watercourses and Transboundary Management of the Ganges River Basin


Nahid Islam

Date of Award


Document Type



This thesis does the following: First, it examines the nature of sovereignty claims over shared natural resources, and argues that absolute sovereignty can no longer be claimed over such resources. Rather, the concept of "shared natural resources" is now the accepted basis in international law for state observance of existing and emerging principles and rules applicable to the use and management of such resources; Second, it shows that transboundary watercourses are a unique example of the juridical category of "shared natural resources", referred to as an "international watercourse regime", and that extensive state practice covering decades has developed customary and treaty-based principles and institutional practices for regulating their use and management; Third, the thesis discusses in detail the juridical content of accepted and emerging principles that govern the regime of international watercourses. Prominent among them are the principles of equitable utilization, sustainable development, and the duty to co-operate; Fourth, the thesis demonstrates that the states in the Ganges River basin, namely Nepal, India and Bangladesh, have not used arid managed, and do not currently have in place the appropriate legal and institutional structures that would enable them to use and manage the waters of the Ganges as a "shared watercourse". The main reason for this state of affairs is the selfish pursuit of narrowly-defined national economic goals which compels each state, especially India, to seek control over how much of the water is avail able to others; Finally, the thesis emphasises that the best way for the Ganges basin states to ensure sustainable development centred on the Ganges River is to co-operate to the fullest extent possible in using and managing it.


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