May 23, 2013 | 12:14 AM (BD Time)
23 May, 2013 Thursday
Water sharing disputes and regional peace, stability
A.S.M. Ali Ashraf, Ph.D.:
Water sharing disputes have adverse effects on regional peace and stability. Such disputes often create tensions in bilateral relations between countries sharing a common international river. The sources of such tensions are water scarcity in a country, caused by unilateral diversion projects by other countries. Scarcity of water may cause desertification and change the agricultural pattern, fishing resources, maritime navigation, and vegetation in a country. In addition, diversion of water may redraw the natural boundary between countries.
There is a growing body of literature on the effect of water disputes on regional peace and stability. Gleick's scholarly works have shown that climate-induced water scarcity can put enormous pressures on the international community, and that such scarcity can often lead to regional and international conflicts. A study by Jansky and Murakami (2005) shows that river diversions often have adverse effects on the environment, and such effect can be mitigated by joint scientific study by common river basin countries. Others have looked into the policy options in resolving water disputes. For instance, McGregor's study on Indo-Bangladesh water dispute explores the unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral options in resolving such disputes. Media reports often indicate that river disputes present enormous challenges in bilateral relations. Such disputes can be dominated by either an upstream country like China or a downstream country like Egypt.
South Asia, home to roughly one fourth of world's 6 billion people, is plagued by a number longstanding water disputes. The existing works on water dispute are focused on a single case study or a regional case study. Quite often they ignore how lessons from other regional disputes can be learnt and applied to a particular water dispute. This paper addresses this research gap by presenting the Nile and Danube disputes first, and showing their relevance in the South Asian context later.
It shows that bilateral negotiations between Egypt and Sudan have amicably resolved the Nile dispute. Similarly, Hungary and Slovakias have successfully negotiated a settlement of the Danube dispute. In both cases, concerns over environmental disasters, water navigation, and hydropower generation have dictated the courses of the conflicts and their resolutions. The Nile Dispute. The Nile water is shared by at least 10 African countries - Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The average annual flow of the Nile is 84BCM. The problem with Nile originated after the riparian countries gained independence from colonial powers. The core issue is whether the river will be controlled upstream or down. Two major conflicting parties are Egypt and Sudan. Egypt being a powerful lower riparian country, has historically rejected any proposals for the construction of any storage facility in the upstream country. In 1954, negotiations between Egypt and Sudan began for the first time and ended inconclusively. In 1959, they signed the first agreement on the full utilization of Nile Waters. Between 1967 and 1972, a regional project was taken with UNDP support for the collection and sharing of hydrometeorological data. Since 1993, water diplomacy among the Nile riparian countries intensified, with the formation of a technical cooperation committee that year, the creation of Nile council of ministers in 1997, and the first meeting of the technical advisory committee in 1998. In 1999 the Nile Basin Initiative was established, which launched its first trans-boundary environmental project in Sudan 2004.
On sharing the Nile water, Egypt and Sudan had agreed on the following provisions in the 1959 Agreement:
The average flow of the river is 84CBM, of which the evaporation and seepage is estimated to be 10CBC
Of the available 74CBC, Egypt will get 48CBC, and Sudan 4CBC; the remaining 22 CBC will be distributed as 7.5CBC for Egypt and 14.5 CBC for Sudan.
In essence, Egypt gets 55.5 CBC, and Sudan gets 18.5CBC
Any increase or decrease in the flow of water will be apportioned based on population estimate.
The Nile dispute shows that geopolitically powerful country, such as Egypt's, can offset the disadvantage of a lower riparian country in shaping the outcomes of hydropolitics. It also indicates that having a favorable political regime in upper riparian country, such as pro-Egypt General Ibrahim Abboud, can facilitate greater collaboration in resolving a dispute. Burden-sharing is also very important in resolving water disputes. This is evident in the fact that Egypt has agreed to fund water enhancement projects in upstream Sudan, with important cost-sharing responsibilities for Sudan, as well (Wolf and Newton, nd). Although the 1959 Agreement has been in effect for more than 50 years, it has often come under attack from upstream countries. For instance, in March 2011 several upstream countries - Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda signed an agreement to alter the existing water sharing pattern. They reason that the distribution pattern allows Egypt to enjoy the lion share shares of the Nile water, and Egypt can veto any water projects conceived by other riparian countries. The Danube Dispute. The Danube is an international river shared by 17 European countries. The controversial Danube dispute between Hungary and Slovakia centers on the construction of a dam in the Danube to divert the water onto Slovak territory. The conflict dates back to a May 6, 1976 Agreement between Czechoslovakia and Hungary, which called for the creation of the Gabcikovo-Nagymoros Barrage System to divert Danube water into two new canals. The proposed Barrage System would also have a water reservoir and two hydroelectric power projects. Despite warnings from the environmentalists, the project was perceived to meet the energy needs of the two countries.
After the democratic upheaval in East Europe, which also swept into Czechoslovakia and Hungary, an environmental study predicted that the Gabcikovo-Nagymoros Barrage System would have adverse effect on fresh water supply, and damage plant and organic resources. The study findings were interpreted differently. Czechoslovakia thought technical corrections to the proposed dam would be sufficient to address ecological concerns. It also insisted on the unilateral construction of the dam, if Hungary quits the 1976 Agreement. Hungary opposed the Czecholsovak stance. It postponed the project for environmental reasons, and for funding crisis. Czecholovakia's unilateral construction of the dam would mean the redrawing of the natural boundary between Hungary and Czecholovakia - the middle of Danube. This would have serious economic implications due to the fact that Hungarian trade passing through the Danube may be subject to Slovak tariffs and duties.
In 1992, the European Commission intervened. It formed a trilateral committee of experts to settle the dispute. The trilateral committee reached a diplomatic solution - known as the London Protocol. Under the London Protocol, Slovakia would postpone construction of the barrage. In return it was guaranteed that at least 95% of the water flow in the old Danube be maintained. Eventually the dispute resulted into a case filed to the International Court of Justice, whose decision was pending in1997. While the case was pending at ICJ, Hungary and Slovakia signed a temporary deal, allowing the former to continue diversion of water by Slovakia to the Szigetkoz region. Under the deal, Hungary would construct, at its own cost, a weir at Dunakiliti to divert water to the tributaries of old Danube.
In resolving the dispute, the ICJ asked the parties - Hungary and Slovakia - to reach an amicable solution based on their treaty obli
Art and Culture
Focus on Chittagong
Fashion & Beauty
Food and Drink
Law and Justice
New Nation Supplement
Editor: Mostafa Kamal Majumder, Adviser Editor: A.M. Mufazzal, Printed and Published by Mainul Hosein from the New Nation Printing Press, 1.R.K Mission Road, Dhaka-1203 Phones: New Nation PABX: 7122654, 7114514, 7122655, Fax: 880-2-7122650, 9512775 email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org for advertisement, email@example.com