South Asia's Troubled Waters

The majority of India's water sources are polluted. A lack of access to safe water contributes to a fifth of its communicable diseases. Each day in the booming, nuclear-armed nation, diarrhea alone kills more than 1,600 people.

The regional scenario is even more grim given the projected impact of population pressures and global warming—which aggravates the flood and drought cycle of the monsoon, and the melting of Himalayan glaciers that serve as a natural water reservoir used by a billion people. Northern India may run out of groundwater within a decade, leading to a collapse of agriculture in regions like Punjab, the country's "breadbasket." Pakistan is already on the brink of water scarcity. Meanwhile, a rash of environmentally questionable dam building along the nuclear rivals' shared rivers is further stoking geopolitical tension.

From India to Bangladesh and Nepal, this project will explore the role of local innovators and international actors in aggravating or alleviating the region's water crisis. The reporting will take them from the slums of Delhi to parched rural deserts, and from monsoon-ravaged Bangladesh to the Himalayas.

While the Tap is On (Video from Delhi)

A couple of days ago we got a powerful glimpse of the psychology of water. Jyoti Sharma, President of the water related ngo FORCE invited me to witness the situation in and around the C sector in Vasant Kunj, South Delhi. Here, everyone stocks up on water. But whereas the slum dwellers only manage to fill their buckets and small containers from a public water tanker with little more than the 20 liters a human needs per day, the rich acquire thousands of liters during the one hour of running water the Government provides for them -just in case there will be no water tomorrow.

In Nepal, Environment is Hostage to Political Crisis

A few days after my colleague and I arrived in Nepal, the Prime Minister resigned. Since his departure, street protests have brought the potential for violent clashes and the derailment of a nascent peace process that ended a 10-year Maoist insurgency in 2006. When I showed up at the World Bank office in Kathmandu last week asking about climate change, my interview subject seemed pleasantly surprised.

"Wow," said Claudia Sadoff," it's nice to see people are still interested in the environment."