Graduation Date

Fall 2020

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Social Science, Environment and Community

Committee Chair Name

Mark Baker

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

John Meyer

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Anthony Silvaggio

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories

Environment and Community


This thesis explores the social movements and civil society activism to protect the rivers that flow through Bangladesh—the cradle and terminal delta floodplain of the transboundary Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna river systems—, as well as ways to build regional cooperation and watershed democracy in South Asia. The research drew on four overarching fields of study: environmental justice, southern environmentalism, ecological nationalism, and environmental governance. These four bodies of scholarship helped address the overarching question: how are civil society organizations analyzing and responding to the water diversions and degradation of Bangladesh’s transboundary rivers? Semi-structured interviews were conducted with civil society organizations and river activists who are mobilizing for river protection in Bangladesh. Constructivist grounded theory methodology was utilized to analyze interview data and relevant grey literature and visuals collected from the field. This research found that civil society is responding to the degradation of Bangladesh’s transboundary rivers through a near unanimous advocacy for a multilateral, basin-wide, integrated water resources management approach to river governance in South Asia. This includes an ecological approach to protect rivers from dams and diversionary infrastructure, restoring a river’s natural course through the abolishment of existing structures, and regarding rivers as the progenitor of various ecosystems and cultures. Bangladesh’s lowest riparian, deltaic setting, and relative political power in regional and global affairs is also prompting civil society groups in the country, across South Asia, globally, and in the diaspora to mobilize and build coalitions across and beyond established borders. This includes advancing water diplomacy and bioregional notions of river governance, with a goal of bringing South Asia’s common watersheds within a common water-sharing framework and actualizing true "watershed democracy."

Citation Style



Thesis/Project Location


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