Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance Seminar

Deliberation across borders: rethinking science-policy interface in transboundary river governance in the Himalayas

Tue 23 October 2018Speaker: Dr Hemant R. Ojha, University of CanberraVenue: The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


A dozen rivers of large and medium size originate in the Himalayas and then traverse through South-East and South Asia, supporting (as well as posing flood risks to) the life of over 2 billion people. These rivers pass through 12 countries including two of the world’s biggest economies China and India, which too frequently compete for the water and have contradictory positions on how transboundary rivers should be managed. With growing impact of climate, the transboundary water governance question has become even more critical. Recognising these challenges, several attempts have been made to create science-based deliberations within and across the borders for sustainable, equitable and resilient management of contested waters. This presentation uses the lens of deliberative governance to examine the practices and possibilities of advancing science-policy-practice interface in cross-border situation, in relation to water governance, in the highly politicised waters, covering upstream and downstream of the Himalayas, which is also the global hotspot of poverty and social marginalization. Through a dialogue between the theory of deliberative governance and the review of ongoing efforts on the ground, I will investigate  the possibility of what science actors can do to catalyse deliberative governance. I explore frontiers of deliberative governance that can lead to positive impact even in the highly contested context, identifying how science actors themselves could become more reflexive, deliberative, and at the same time self-disruptive to deepen deliberative governance of transboundary waters in South Asia.


Dr Ojha is a public policy and governance scientist, Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Canberra, who takes an interdisciplinary approach to research and policy engagement in the area of forest, water, land, and agriculture. His current research focusses on science-policy interface and deliberative governance of natural resources, especially in South Asia / the Himalayan region. He worked as action researcher and policy analyst in Nepal's forest sector between 1996 and 2010. During this period, he founded ForestAction – well known internationally in the forest sector for its critical and policy-engaged research. He has made a significant contribution to the development of Nepal's community forestry, which is well known globally as a successful case of community based environmental management. In 2011, he also co-founded Southasia Institute of Advanced Studies (SIAS) – a policy think tank based in Kathmandu. He was a Senior Fellow at University of Melbourne (2011-2014) and a Fellow at University of New South Wales (2013-2017). He is currently the Director of Institute for Studies and Development Worldwide (IFSD) Sydney. He has published 40 research articles in peer reviewed Journals.

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