Monday, September 26, 2016

MPP Chowdhury completes Stimson Center Internship on managing riverflow in Asia

Ashfaqul Chowdhury, a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has spent most of his summer as an intern with the Stimson Center in Washington D.C. He has been focusing on hydropower issues in southeast Asia for Stimson's Southeast Asia program.

While hydropower is being developed as a climate-friendly alternative to fossil fuels, it also has serious environmental and human costs that aren't often considered. The Southeast Asia program is working to better inform policy makers and the public about its negative effects.

Chowdhury wrote the article below for South Asian Voices, an online platform for strategic analysis and debate hosted by the Stimson Center.

Managing the Brahmaputra: Water Politics in South Asia

The Brahmaputra River is an enormous transnational river spanning more than 2,900 kilometers across China, India, and Bangladesh. While not as famous as the Ganges or the Mekong, management of the Brahmaputra has important implications for water, food, and energy security in the region. However, this is complex because China, India, and Bangladesh all have different priorities with respect to the river.

China primarily wants to extract hydro-energy, whereas India deeply values its water supply and storage capacity. Bangladesh, the most downstream of the three countries, could use the Brahmaputra’s waters to manage the increasing salinity in its rivers because of climate change. Unsurprisingly, these goals sometimes conflict with each other. Mutual distrust among all three governments further complicates cooperation.
Water Dilemmas

China’s location, upstream from both India and Bangladesh, gives it an advantage in terms of controlling the management of the Brahmaputra’s flows. Importantly, China intends to exploit the hydroelectric potential of the Brahmaputra to supply electricity to Tibet, a region economically and politically marginalized from the rest of China. Although Chinese policy documents reveal a plan of building four hydroelectric dams on the river, it has only built the Zangmu Dam so far.

Indian objections highlight some important concerns about potential Chinese ambitions to build additional dams. Some Indian policy analysts believe that China could use future hydroelectric dams to threaten part of India’s water supply during dry seasons or during a future Sino-Indian conflict. There is also concern that China could, in the long run, divert water from the Brahmaputra to the Yellow River through Sichuan Province. Although Chinese officials have repeatedly assured India that it does not have any intention of diverting water from the Brahmaputra, continuing border tensions and China’s aggression in other parts of the Asia-Pacific have given India cause for concern.

Interestingly, China has its own share of concerns. China fears that India will use its activity on the Brahmaputra to solidify its hold over Arunachal Pradesh, an area that India administers but China stakes claim to. Recently, India increased its development activities in Arunachal Pradesh, and plans to build a series of dams in the region for energy production. Seeking control of Arunachal Pradesh, China is concerned that Indian development there will strengthen New Delhi’s presence in the area.

While China cannot force India to stop building dams in its sovereign territory, this could create potential for Chinese retaliation upstream, in the form of diverting water flow or withholding water level data. Either of these moves could have disastrous consequences. For example, it is alleged that if China would have shared hydrological data with India ahead of major flooding in June 2000, India could have taken more action to limit damages from the floods that ultimately killed more than 30 and left about 50,000 homeless.
The Teesta Dispute

As far as India and Bangladesh are concerned, the more prominent dispute centers on managing the Teesta River, which is a tributary of the Brahmaputra. The Teesta flood plain covers 14 percent of the total cropped area in Bangladesh, and an estimated 7.3 percent of its population is dependent upon the river. Reductions in water available from the Teesta River have challenged farmers and others in Bangladesh who rely upon the river’s flows for their livelihood.

India’s management of the river has contributed to this reduction in the water supply, as it regularly diverts water from the Teesta for agricultural reasons during the dry season (particularly since building the Gazaldoba dam in the 1980s). In part because of India’s interference in the Teesta’s flow, in 2015, Bangladesh received only around 300 cusecs of water in the dry season. In contrast, the flow was at least 4,000 cusecs before the building of the dam.

India’s central government has tried to resolve the management of the Teesta with Bangladesh in an “equitable and reasonable manner,” in accordance with the United Nations Watercourses Convention. In fact, in 2011, former Indian Premier Manmohan Singh and Bangladeshi Premier Sheikh Hasina were on the verge of an agreement to share the water flow of the Teesta equally. However, this agreement never came to be because Mamta Banerjee, the state-level chief minister of West Bengal, refused to agree to the deal. She feared that such a deal would negatively impact the northern part of West Bengal, especially during the dry season. Her rejection of the deal was enough to derail the process because states, rather than the central government, dominate the water regulation process in India.

Bangladesh, in return, denied ratifying a transit agreement with India, which would have given India land route access to its northeastern states through Bangladesh. This was a significant loss for India, because transit access would have facilitated the Indian government’s pledge to end decades of underdevelopment for these states that are secluded from India. In 2015, Bangladesh ultimately granted transit access for food grains and power equipment in a quid pro quo for India’s ratification of a land boundary agreement originally negotiated in 1974, suggesting that resolving the Teesta dispute may require similar diplomatic give and take.
The Way Forward

Clearly, river management issues between China and India and, in turn, India and Bangladesh, remain contentious. National security implications inhibit compromise between China and India, while state level politics in India undermine cooperation between India and Bangladesh. However, there are some small encouraging signs as well.

China now provides water level and rainfall data to both India and Bangladesh, which helps those countries to anticipate floods earlier. However, the dominance of China’s negotiating position because of its upper riparian position continues to have disturbing implications. Importantly, China mostly deals with issues bilaterally, rather than multilaterally, which gives it more flexibility to shape the negotiations in its interests and to divide India and Bangladesh. As the two lower riparian countries, India and Bangladesh have an interest in resolving their river disputes in order to approach China with a common negotiating position.

Bangladesh and India ought to jointly invite China to the negotiating table and seek long-term agreements regarding data sharing and permissible levels of water flow diversion. Bangladesh and India should not delay to aim toward these goals, because China currently views diverting the Brahmaputra as cost inefficient; this could easily change in the future. Thus, India and Bangladesh have an interest to reach an agreement with China that might regulate its behavior before a potential water crisis or future energy demand convinces China that diverting the Brahmaputra further is in its best interests.

(A version of this piece originally appeared on the South Asian Voices website)
About Ashfaqul Chowdhury

Chowdhury earned a bachelor's degree in business from Dhaka University in Bangladesh. At the Humphrey School, his focus is on data analysis. His interests are food security and energy, particularly how expansion of renewable energy and distribution grids may impact the livelihood of small farmers in South Asia.

Chowdhury described his internship at the Stimson Center as "a tremendous opportunity." He met policy makers from the United States, Europe, Asia and other regions. Even better, he said, was the chance to contribute toward "building policies which are going to shape a region’s future."

Chowdhury is one of several students to gain real-world experience by working with the
Stimson Center since the Humphrey School announced a partnership with the Washington, DC-based think tank in November 2015. The partnership provides opportunities for internships, and other research and capstone projects involving students and faculty.

This information was cross-posted from Humphrey School News

Sept 27 12:45pm Gender, Race, Class & Women’s Substantive Rep in Bolivia

Freeman Center for International Economic Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, presents a Workshop on Global Policy
Professor Christina Ewig, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Legislating Intersectionally: Gender, Race, Class and Women’s Substantive Representation in Bolivia

12:45 - 2:00 pm Tuesday, September 27
The Stassen Room (Room 170), Humphrey School, West Bank Campus

How much are “women’s interests” represented in a specific policy realm? Answering this question first requires identifying what women’s interests might be, a task complicated by enormous differences among women. In this presentation, Professor Ewig will share current work in progress that uses research from Bolivia to develop an approach to identifying women’s interests with an intersectional lens as well as an analysis of intersectional relations in the political process.

All are welcome! Refreshments will be served
The Freeman Center for International Economic Policy sponsors the Global Policy Seminar/Workshop series every other Tuesday. The sessions are held from 12:45 to 2:00 pm in the Stassen Room (Room 170) of the Humphrey School. The next two presentations are:

September 27 – Christina Ewig on Women’s Interests in the Political Process
October 11 – Mario Solis on the Shadow Economy

11th Twin Cities Arab Film Festival starts Sept 29

Through the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, Mizna brings the best current, independent Arab cinema to Minnesota. The festival engages the Arab community, presenting a curated program that projects on screen reflections of the Arab experience that are authentic, nuanced, and beautiful. For the larger audience, the festival provides the chance to encounter Arab / Arab American communities on their own terms, revealing the heterogeneity of Arab peoples, and providing a rich, complex, and true source of cultural understanding. Films in the festival are, for the most part, not in wide distribution, and are therefore otherwise unavailable to Twin Cities audiences.

The festival seeks to provide Arab American and Arab film artists support and exposure, build the local Arab American community, and present to the general public the diverse ways in which Arabs view themselves and the world they live in through the powerful and accessible medium of film.
Mizna is a forum for Arab American literature, film, and art. Besides producing the Arab Film Fest, Mizna also publishes the only journal of Arab American literature in the U.S. (Mizna: Prose, Poetry, and Art Exploring Arab America) and presents other cultural activities such as language and drumming classes, literary readings, community dialogues, and collaborative projects that delve into the Arab American experience. We’re changing the conversation.

Learn about global health in India this winter

The Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility announces its second offering of the Global Health, Globalization and Leadership Course in Mysore, India. During this immersive three week experience, participants will learn about health in the Indian context, including methods of healthcare delivery, public health infrastructure, and the influence of social determinants. Applications are due Oct 3. Learn more and RSVP

IPID board & volunteer applications due Sept 27

It was very nice to meet all of you at the different orientation events and our kick-off meeting. Over 120 students from different disciplines across campus are interested in engaging with IPID. Don’t miss the chance to take a look at some of the orientation pictures on our FB page! #ipidatumn

We hope to keep engaging students in our community and bring to school an Interdisciplinary Perspective on International Development through the different activities that we will be hosting this year.


If you want to know more about how to get involved, what type of events we are hosting and/or want to apply to be a board member or a volunteer, take a look to the slides that were presented in our kick-off event.

Applications are due Tuesday, September 27.
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Development (IPID)
Linking graduate students, scholars, and practitioners with interests in development.
Visit the IPID website

Oct. 10, World Day Against the Death Penalty

With Fredrikson & Byron's partnership, The Advocates for Human Rights' Fall Speaker Series launches October 10, on World Day Against the Death Penalty, and features Jennifer Prestholdt and Amy Bergquist. This year, World Day is raising awareness around the application of the death penalty for terrorism related offenses in order to reduce its use.

"The Death Penalty and Terrorism"
Noon-1 p.m.
Mon., Oct 10
Fredrikson & Byron
200 S. Sixth St.
Mpls, MN

1 CLE credit applied for.

Running against the abolitionist worldwide movement, some governments have in recent years resorted to use of the death penalty following terrorist attacks on their countries, in the name of protecting their countries and peoples. In the last 10 years, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Tunisia, and others have adopted laws that expanded the scope of the death penalty, adding certain terrorist acts to the list of crimes punishable by death. More recently, Pakistan and Chad resumed executions in the name of the fight against terrorism, putting an end to moratoriums that had lasted for years.

Other speaker series events, running into December, will be announced. Each session will be worth one CLE credit (to be applied for) and will be held noon-1 p.m. at Fredrikson & Byron.

The Death Penalty in Practice

countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes
countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes

countries are abolitionist in practice

countries and territories retain the death penalty
countries carried out executions in 2015
countries that were top executioners in 2015 include
China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, & the USA

countries and territories retain the death penalty for terrorism.
Of these 16 countries are abolitionist in practice,
and 1 country is abolitionist in law for ordinary crimes.

Data supplied by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Sept 29 Confronting Islamophobia

Now more than ever, we are witnessing the prejudice against Muslims in various forms throughout the United States. Join us to discuss how we can work to address and overcome prejudice and shape our public policy to ensure human rights for all people.

Confronting Islamophobia: Promoting Human Rights in Public Policy
Thurs., Sept. 29 5-8 p.m.@ Cowles Auditorium
University of Minnesota
301 - 19th Ave. S.  Mpls., MN

Register here.
Featured as the symposium's keynote speaker will be John Bowen, Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. The "Tracks In the Snow" art exhibit will also be a part of the event, providing a glimpse into the lives of the Muslim community, one of the least known and rapidly expanding populations in the United States and Minnesota.

The event is free and open to the public. In addition to The Advocates, sponsors include the Islamic Resource Group and the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
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