This report presents findings from the project ‘Water Diplomacy: Making Water Cooperation Work‘. It analyzes key factors that affect transboundary water cooperation over the Brahmaputra river basin. Water cooperation over the Brahmaputra is heavily influenced by socio-economic and political factors, as well as biophysical and material contexts. This reports focuses on understanding the factors at play in order to improve future cooperation.

The Brahmaputra River (also called Yarlung-Tsangpo in China; Jamuna in Bangladesh; and Manas River in Bhutan) is one of the largest rivers in South Asia. The river originates in the Tibetan area of China and flows through four countries (China, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh) before reaching the sea at the Bay of Bengal. It provides an important source of livelihoods for the riparian populations, many of whom use the river for agriculture and fisheries.

The river also encompasses a huge potential for hydropower electricity generation with some dams planned or already operating within China, Bhutan and India. The use of its water resources has become a source of contention between some stakeholders in different jurisdictions and countries, and challenges regarding the sharing of water resources can potentially result in conflict.

Recognizing the importance for water cooperation over the Brahmaputra, this report analyzes key factors that affect transboundary water cooperation. It also analyzes potential areas of future cooperation, which the research terms as the Zone of Possible Effective Cooperation (ZOPEC).

Eight cases of current cooperation action situations over the Brahmaputra river were analyzed, based on field research within four riparian countries and on literature review. The Multi-Track Water Diplomacy Framework, key to the Water Diplomacy project, was used as analytical core. Workshops with local stakeholders were organized to present and discuss the research findings. These dialogues validated the results and allowed for further examination of the ZOPEC for the Brahmaputra River.