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Governance of International Rivers: Threats, Gaps and Challenges

In light of the growing water shortages world-wide and concerns over freshwater disputes arising from essentially a growing world population, an increase in per-capita consumption and the limited supplies of freshwater resources, this thesis looks at issues of governance of international rivers in terms of threats to them, gaps in their governance regimes and challenges associated with closing those gaps. International river basins globally are currently threatened with over-extraction, pollution, damming and infrastructural development as well as the impact of climate change. If left unaddressed, the pressure on the international river basins, as riparian States compete for its limited supplies, is only going to exacerbate any chances of freshwater disputes between them. The United Nations Convention on the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses offers a guidance framework to enable riparian States of international rivers to achieve ‘equitable utilization’ of water resources as well as management of the basin in order to avoid freshwater disputes. This thesis analyses the adequacy of the Convention to address the four main threats. The analysis is supplemented by the Berlin Rules, international cases and arbitral awards. The thesis has also undertaken a study of the European regional framework as an example of best regional practice, given that it not only has a similar Convention to the UN Watercourses Convention being the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, but it also has other pieces of legislative and policy documents to guide the European Union States to achieve the paramount objective of the EU water policy, which is ‘good ecological status’ for all its water bodies by 2015. This is to ensure sustainable water supply for its current and future populations. In order to test the viability of the UN Watercourses Convention against individual basin’s legal regimes, the thesis has taken the Jordan, the Nile and the Indus River Basins as case studies as they are already considered to be ‘hot spots’ for freshwater disputes and the four main threats to them, which if not adequately addressed, will only aggravate the already existing tension. The analysis of the case studies’ legal regimes involve an examination of the extent of the specific threats in each river basin and the strengths and weaknesses of each governance regime in order to ascertain where it is lacking. In order to enable an international legal framework that is apt to guide riparian States to deal with any of the four main threats to any international river basin, this thesis proposes recommendations for changes to the UN Convention based on other sources of international law and policy, the EU framework as well as the strengths of the governance regimes of the case studies. In order to minimize any chances of freshwater disputes and increase water security in the case studies, the thesis also makes recommendations for improvement to each legal governance regime based on international law and policy, the EU framework as well as the strengths of the governance regime of the other case studies. In doing so, this thesis provides a comprehensive overview of the current international law, policy, case law and arbitral awards relating to each major threat that has been identified. It also highlights the progress being made in addressing these threats in the European region through the practical application of the relevant treaties, directives and policy documents. Finally, it puts together the legal responses that are required to effectively address the four main threats in the Jordan, the Nile and the Indus River Basins.
Type of thesis
Raman, D. D. (2015). Governance of International Rivers: Threats, Gaps and Challenges (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9246
University of Waikato
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