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Transboundary water cooperation key to prevent conflict

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  • Transboundary water cooperation key to prevent conflict

Analysts from the Economist Intelligence Unit highlight shortcomings in transboundary water management at a global level in a new analysis, reports the Thomson Reuters Foundation. A new index looks at water management in transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers, and has found that just one out of every three shared river and lake basins, and only 9 out of 350 aquifers have a cross-border management arrangement.

Given that by 2050, over half of the global population is expected to live in areas with water scarcity, and 40% of it would depend on transboundary water resources, the findings point to a serious risk of conflict over water resources, noted Matus Samel, a public policy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit: “Most transboundary basins are peaceful, but the trend is that we are seeing more and more tensions and conflict arising”.

By 2050, over half of the global population is expected to live in areas with water scarcity, and 40% of it would depend on transboundary water resources

The Economist Intelligence Unit, with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development, has develop a Blue Peace Index, a benchmarking tool to examine the complexity of sustainable management of shared water resources and promote transboundary cooperation. The findings will be presented on Sunday August 25th at the World Water Week.

The study features five transboundary basins, from the Mekong to the Amazon, and information about the water cooperation performance of countries. Researchers were surprised by the urgent nature of the situations some of the basins studied are facing. Economic development, population growth and climate change are increasing pressures on limited water supplies.

While some regions have been found to have relatively effective mechanisms to share water equitably, such as the Senegal River basin in West Africa, and the Sava River basin in southeast Europe, other face great challenges, namely the conflict–ridden basins of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq and Syria. Future updates and expansions of additional basins to track are planned, including the Nile River and Lake Chad in Africa and the Indus river system in India and Pakistan.

The report urges national leaders to establish water security as a priority, coordinate water policy with other policies such as those related to agriculture and trade, and create institutional arrangements that contemplate water sharing. While there are no universal solutions, the report provides lessons to learn from to ensure conflicts do not escalate: it highlights priority gaps and provides insight into key best practices policymakers and practitioners can learn from. Benefits from transboundary water cooperation include reduced flooding and drought and protected biodiversity, as well as enhanced energy security and optimisation of investments.

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