Integrated water resource management to address the growing demand for food and water in South Asia

With the increasing population and accelerated urbanization, demands for water are rising for different sectors around the world, including in South Asia. Integrated water resource management (IWRM) offers a promising potential to address multifaceted water demands. This study therefore aimed to address this issue by (i) reviewing key issues related to water, land, and food in South Asian countries, (ii) exploring the prevalent irrigation management strategies in those countries, and (iii) examining the IWRM situation based on a Nepalese case study, and it proposes some options to support effective implementation of IWRM. South Asia, the home to 24% of the world's population with only 15% and 7% of the world's arable and permanent crop land and water resources, respectively, is the worst-affected region in the world from undernourishment. Surface irrigation is the dominant irrigation application method in the region, which incurs high water losses due to the lack of flexible water control structures in canal networks. The Nepalese case study revealed a lack of clear institutional arrangements to implement IWRM and disparate and conflicting views about IWRM. Creation and strengthening of basin-level water user organizations, technological improvements, and awareness-raising activities are some potential ways forward to implement IWRM.