Resolving Transboundary Water Conflicts through a Nexus Approach

  • 2017/11/11     Dresden, Germany

    Image: UNU-FLORES/Thuy Nguyen

    Reporting by Lulu Zhang, Research Assistant, Soil and Land-Use Management Unit

    Water has become a subject of increased conflict due to rising demand for water from a growing population. Among all water-related conflicts, a transboundary water conflict is arguable the most complicated and difficult to deal with – it is an international affair that involves at least two countries sharing the same border. Often the country upstream is in a more powerful position, as it can control and decide how much water is made available for countries downstream.

    Prof. Petra Schneider, Chair for International Water Management, University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal, gave a talk on “Nexus Approach as Tool for Transboundary Water Conflict Resolution” on 23 October 2017 at Technische Universität Dresden. This lecture is part of the Nexus Seminar series jointly organised by UNU-FLORES and TU Dresden.

    Prof. Schneider opened the talk with an introduction on the availability of global water resources and the two concepts of water management, namely the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Transboundary Water Management (TRM).

    IWRM is a typical spatial planning tool that uses an interdisciplinary approach in urban planning of water and river management, while TRM is a policy implementation approach to obtain intergovernmental understanding in water and river management across borders and to create a win-win solution for all countries involved. Both IWRM and TRM or key for finding a Nexus Approach solution such conflicts require.

    Image: UNU-FLORES/Thuy Nguyen

    To solve transboundary water conflicts, some useful solutions exist, such as conventions. Prof. Schneider highlighted several instances such as international conventions, UN and regional conventions, and “Water Cooperation” using the benefit-sharing concept.

    To illustrate this, she gave the example of the Euphrates Catchment to explain how much disagreement three countries can have on water resources in one river. The Euphrates Catchment borders three countries, namely Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, from upstream to downstream. The discharge and water quality of the river have decreased significantly over time due to environmental degradation, socioeconomic impacts, and restrictions on transport. A large number of dams have been built upstream to divert water for development, leading to intensified conflicts between upstream and downstream countries.

    However, as a result of the joint efforts of the three countries in working towards an amicable solution, some progress has been made. For example, Turkey has proposed a 3-step plan: (1) establish a database for available water resources assessment; (2) create a database of land resources; and (3) create a database of water resources.

    Prof. Schneider emphasised that the Euphrates Catchment is only one of the many cases of transboundary water conflict worldwide. Many similar cases are still waiting for solutions, in which a Nexus Approach can make a major contribution towards formulating them.

    The next Nexus Seminar will take place on 20 November 2017. All are welcome to attend.