Great rivers form the cultural and economic backbone of South Asia. The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river basin contributed to the rise of some of the earliest civilizations in history, and today it’s a source of livelihoods for millions, nourishing rich ecosystems and irrigating millions of hectares while supporting some of the highest population densities in the world.

The GBM is the third-largest freshwater outlet to the world’s oceans, after the Amazon and the Congo rivers. Approximately 630 million people live in the GBM river basin.

A man casts a large fishing net out into Teesta river.
Fishing on the Teesta River in Bangladesh.The Teesta River originates in the Himalayas and flows through the Indian States of Sikkim and West Bengal before entering Bangladesh, where it flows into the Brahmaputra. | Photo Credit International Rivers.

The basin comprises three rivers: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. Together, the drainage basin crosses India, China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan before the rivers join together just a few hundred kilometers before the river’s mouth in the Bay of Bengal.

Our Work In the Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna Basin

Unfortunately, water diversions, dams, pollution and climate change are taking their toll on the river basin’s health – with major implications for the millions who rely on it. We are working to amplify the voices of river communities, focusing particularly on the historically under-represented voices of women. We support the growing river protection movement and work with communities to find sustainable solutions to new challenges posed by climate change.

We are also forging connections across borders, taking first steps towards a transboundary treaty or common understanding between China, India and Bangladesh to ease diplomatic hostilities around the basin’s governance. We work with civil society groups and peoples’ movements throughout South Asia to improve environmental governance for these transboundary rivers, boost communities’ climate resilience, and promote a socially-just development path.

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