Policy Briefs & Reports

Abiding by nature, not national borders: Institution building in the Himalayas

Aditya Valiathan Pillai

World Bank Case Studies

March 10, 2021

Mountains are hard to govern. National boundaries rarely reflect mountain geography and carve mountains into ecologically and socially incomplete sections. Mountain ecosystems, glaciers, rivers and communities are deeply intertwined, bearing all the complexity of systems that have evolved over millennia. Understanding this complexity and then governing it is an especially challenging task. In the Himalayas, the borders that divide the mountains are hard and sometimes militarized, and states have traditionally been only been mildly interested in cooperating on cross-border issues, such as melting glaciers because of global warming, river basin governance, and disasters.