Transboundary water and climate change

The water crisis is an emerging global crisis that affects approximately 785 million people around the world. 1.1 billion people lack access to water and 2.7 billion experience water scarcity at least one month in a year. 2.4 billion people suffer from the contamination of water and poor sanitation. Anil Tyagi
Vol. XIV June 2021

June is the month in which everybody on globe feels the importance of water. Scorching  heat and scarcity of water, compels to think about the water scenario around the World . United Nations has taken the initiative under World Water Assessment Programme and published a study titled “ Transboundary water governance and climate change adaptation”  The study is conducted by Alistair Rieu-Clarke, Bjørn-Oliver Magsig,Ruby Moynihan. All three are veterans in their respective field. The study has highlighted the need to strengthening compliance with legal commitments is the need to enhance the determinacy of laws relating to water and adaptation measures and to foster shared understanding amongst stakeholders.

The study says, Context Water is central to climate change adaptation. An ecosystem-based approach to water management offers an effective strategy for adapting to the likely impacts of climate change on water. While the implementation of such a strategy raises a host of complex economic, social, cultural and environmental challenges, the contribution of governance is critical. Both in general and specific terms, the success or failure of any ecosystembased adaptation strategy is contingent on the existence of effective governance arrangements. Guiding principles Experience from the development of waterrelated governance arrangements across the world suggests that a number of key principles can support ecosystem-based climate change adaptation, but these principles must be flexible enough to accommodate the particularities of diverse local contexts. A central overarching principle is that ecosystems must be governed as a natural unit. In a water context, this requires the establishment of appropriate arrangements at the river basin level. Since river basins often cross political borders, such general governance arrangements require effective legal and institutional frameworks to be adopted by states sharing the same resource.

The writers have analysed, However, an ecosystem-based approach must also account for the need to make decisions at the lowest appropriate level. Therefore, strong synergies are needed between community-based governance arrangements and decision-making at a national or international (basin) level. Institutional structures at the basin level, such as joint river basin organizations, offer an important means by which international laws and policies are coordinated across the entire basin. Effective mechanisms for stakeholder participation at the local, national, and international level hold many benefits for public officials in their management of water resources, increasing resilience and the capacity to adapt to climate change.

The study  recognized that the experiences and needs of men and women can differ in this regard, underscoring the importance of incorporating a gendered approach at all levels of water management and development. While progress has been made at the local and national levels, there is a marked lack of consideration for gender issues at the international transboundary level; a situation which will require concerted effort to remedy. At the transboundary level, the inherent nature of climate change means that international law must grapple with the tension between the preservation of the status quo, and the needed flexibility to meet new demands and face new uncertainties. Various strategies can be employed to enhance the flexibility of water arrangements. For example, fixed quantity allocation mechanisms can be replaced by periodically reviewed percentage allocations. Provisions for data collection and information sharing are an essential basis needed to develop effective ecosystem-based climate change adaptation strategies. In a transboundary context, it is important for states to be able to compare and align climate change projections and estimated impacts on water resources. Joint or harmonized impact assessments, as well as joint monitoring and joint information systems such as databases or GIS systems, eliminate conflicting results and policies and strengthen cooperation. River basin organizations, such as the Mekong River Commission, play an important role in this respect by facilitating data and information generation, sharing and harmonization. Climate change is projected to have a significant impact on water quality, with many effects already apparent. Strategic actions and solutions to the impacts of climate change on water quality may include supplementing natural supplies, using more climate-resilient technologies and processes, upgrading water treatment systems, and creating further storage capacity. Climate impact assessments offer an innovative legal mechanism that states could use to identify and address the specific climate effects on water quality.

Climate change is causing more frequent and more severe floods and droughts. Our current state of preparation in the management of the worsening adverse impacts of floods and droughts is inadequate. Improved risk regulation will therefore be critical to any adaptation measure. When integrating measures of risk regulation into climate change law, putting too much blind trust in (sound) science-based risk regulation is the wrong approach, and could backfire. A key approach to effective risk regulation and prevention is to recognize the diversity of local knowledge, the different perspectives on risk, as well as political concerns. Legal rules providing for prior exchange of data and information on measures of prevention undertaken by authorities at various levels of governance, as well as continuous monitoring and exchange, are important adaptation tools to prepare against the effects of flood and drought events. It has become increasingly recognized that risk management, which underlies uncertainty management, requires that water demand management be tackled as a key component of any climate change adaption strategy. In particular, there should be greater emphasis on the promotion of efficient irrigation, given that irrigation represents 70 per cent of global water withdrawal and accounts for 90 per cent of global consumptive water uses. A wide range of different instruments to improve resource efficiency and promote sustainable consumption are available, including regulatory, economic, information, education, research and development instruments, as well as voluntary agreements and crosssectional measures. in strengthening compliance with legal commitments is the need to enhance the determinacy of laws relating to water and adaptation measures and to foster shared understanding amongst stakeholders. Tools such as education, awareness and training programmes, reporting, non-compliance procedures, and technical and financial assistance, among others, can be pivotal in strengthening compliance, if targeted effectively. As a result of a range of converging factors (including climate change), it is predicted that conflicts over water will increase in both frequency and intensity. The importance of understanding the contribution that law can make to resolving potential conflicts over water, through effective dispute avoidance and resolution mechanisms, is vital to strengthening water governance and climate change adaptation arrangements.


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