Issues in the Policy and Planning of Water Sharing over Transboundary Waterways

Isaac N. Mazonde


Transboundary waterways, politics, regional integration, shared resources, regional development, regional agreements


The current global climate change pattern seems set to augur in progressively drier climates in most developing countries, especially in Africa. This, coupled with the population explosion in the developing countries, is bound to cause increasing water shortages in countries such as Botswana, a country that has always experienced water deficit for use by its people, agriculture, wildlife and the environment. The reliance of countries on shared transboundary waters increases as water becomes scarcer within the country. In a situation where water scarcity is a regional problem, such as what might be expected as an outcome of the current global climate change, sharing arrangements of transboundary water ways are likely to lead to tensions among the riparian states as the concerned states experience growing inadequacy of water. Problems of water shortage are only one aspect of a wider problem of decreased ecosystem services which comes with over exploitation of other natural resources such as grazing and other forms of land use that result from a drier climate. This will require sound planning of water use in a comprehensive manner at various levels, national and regional (botswana government, 2013). Yet Africa has had mixed results in its past efforts to plan and manage shared transboundary waters. At the centre of problems of lack of collaboration have been conflicts arising from inappropriate methods of allocating shared water ways i.e. a situation whereby some riparian states insisted upon dividing water resources instead of strategically sharing the resource. More often than not, riparian states have not shared their development plans, nor have they put in place well thought out agreements for managing transboundary water resources. A lot has been written about transboundary waters. What has not been featured is a comparison of successful and unsuccessful transboundary water resource agreements. accordingly, this paper presents the basin of the nile river as a case where problems have been experienced in the sharing of transboundary waters on the one hand, the water project based in lesotho highlands, as a case of a successful treaty governing the sharing of transboundary waters, and finally the okavango river basin as a case study with even more positive results in the sharing of a major regional water resource. The latter, given its strategic regional planning and management committee, is projected as a case where the use of a common resource unites rather than divide the riparian states. Hence, the case is put forward as one that has lessons that the continent can use as a model.

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