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No. 4 (241) April 2014


Second working seminar “River Basin Commissions and Other Joint Bodies for Transboundary Water Cooperation: Technical Aspects” within the framework of the UNECE Water Convention was held in Geneva on 9-10 April 2014. The seminar was devoted to specific fields and technical aspects of the cooperation within the scope of joint bodies, such as cooperation for conservation and restoration of ecosystems, water infrastructure, and financing, and is aimed at achieving the following goals:

  • Introducing and discussing the experience of joint bodies in specific technical issues of transboundary water cooperation in the whole world with the view of identifying problems, exchange of best practices, and cross training.
  • Showing the value of the joint cooperation in resolution of common problems as well as advantage of transboundary cooperation.
  • Discussing how joint bodies’ work can go on within the framework of a new plan of Convention actions (2016-2018) and, for this purpose, determining appropriate deficiencies and requirements.
  • Enhance the awareness of how the global legal frameworks, in particular Convention on Transboundary Water and 1997 United Nations Convention on Watercourses, their compatibility and complementarity, as well as the International Law Commission draft articles on the right of transboundary water-bearing horizons of 2008 are associated with the activities of joint bodies and can facilitate their work.

In the introductory session, Ms. Haide Jekel, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Germany, Mr. Marko Kainer, Director, UNECE Environment Division, and Dr. Lea Kauppi, Finnish Institute for Environment (SYKE) took the floor. The report “Lessons learnt in the course of providing support in transboundary cooperation in various regions of the world financed by the Global Environment Fund” was delivered by Ms. Astrid Hillers, GEF Senior Environmental Specialist. Among the key lessons learnt in the course of the implementation of GEF projects she highlighted the necessity of more active promotion of coordinated surface and ground water management, involvement of the private sector and civil society, carrying out of works down through the chain from the producer to users, greater attention to innovations and creation of knowledge chains.

Session 1 was devoted to the problems of environmental protection within the transboundary water cooperation. Reports on the works on Ohrid Lake between Albania and Macedonia, environmental aspects in the agreement for cooperation in conservation and sustainable development of the Dniester river basin between Ukraine and Moldova, transboundary environmental problems and their solution in the Volta river basin, establishment of cooperation aimed at reducing the River Plate pollution level, and organization of space for nature in the developed river basin, viz. General Plan of Fish Migration and Biotope Atlas for the Rhine river, were presented. In the course of the discussions, they mentioned the importance of nature protection despite the difficulties with due regard for the ecological factors in joint bodies’ activities where generally sectors’ interests prevail. The participants agreed that in order to give due consideration to the ecosystem when managing transboundary water resources it is necessary to take nationwide measures, develop joint programs, and strengthen the legal framework.

Session 2 examined the cooperation among riparian countries in infrastructure development and use. The experience of the regional program for the Senegal river basin infrastructure development in benefiting from joint use. Mr. Tilek Isabekov, Head of the Kyrgyz part of the Chu-Talass Commission, informed the participants about the transboundary cooperation in the use and maintenance of water management infrastructure in the Chu and Talass river basins. At present, the parties are discussing the possibility to expand the Commission’s functions with the view of including as well water quality issues in the scope of joint consideration.

Jabbar Vatanfada told about the experience of cooperation between Iran and Turkmenistan in the field of joint development of the infrastructure in transboundary rivers. In particular, he threw light on the construction and operation stages of the Dustlik dam on the Kharirud river between Iran and Turkmenistan. The speaker also declared the intention to involve Afghanistan in the cooperation process if the latter shows such an interest.

The interesting report “Albufeira Convention: cooperation in infrastructure development and balancing of water demand in the transboundary context” was delivered by a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Environment of Spain. The main objective of the agreement was to ensure secured regime of runoff. The speaker noted that in spite of rising demand for electricity, cutback in hydropower production in future by 2027 with the aim of providing proper runoff regime was predicted.

Session 3 dealt with the financing of transboundary cooperation transboundary cooperation. The speakers, representatives of GIZ and Ministry for the Environment of Germany, made a synopsis of the existing financing mechanisms of joint bodies. There are three financing sources: (1) contributions by member states, which can be made in the form of money transfer to the budget of a joint body or allocations in kind (organization of meetings in its territory, allocation of buildings, assignment of workers, etc.; (2) external contributions (grants, technical assistance, etc.); (3) other sources (taxes, payment for services). The Mekong Commission’s budget comes to 20 million US dollars, 90% of which account for the aids of sponsors. Currently the Mekong Commission carried out restructuring works with the view of budget reduction by up to 5-6 million US dollars and transition to self-sufficiency by 2030. The Nile Commission’s budget is even bigger, 55.7 million US dollars, and is composed of the budget for every Commission body to function and the budget for the implementation of technical projects.

Further, the participants were proposed to exchange views within small groups on the sources of financing the activities of joint bodies in their transboundary basins and key drivers for stable financing. Among the major factors, political will, selection of innovative mechanisms of involvement of the private sector, strengthening of economic integration in the region, as well as inclusion of the “regional cooperation” component in all national water projects.

Session 4 considered the problem of coordination of different types of water use. A report on preliminary assessment of the relationship between water, food, energy, and ecosystems in the Alazani/Ganykh basins within the Water Convention was presented by a representative of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia. Also, the experience of the Costa Rica and Panama Bilateral Commission for Integrated Management of the Siksaola River Basin and experience of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River in the development of Guidelines for the coordination of different types of water use: navigation and environmental protection, sustainable hydropower industry development.

Session 5 was held in the form of a series of roundtables where specific transboundary water cooperation tools and approaches were considered. Among these are the capacity building tools applied within the Nile River Basin Initiative, demonstration of the experience of small basin councils in the cooperation in small transboundary rivers of the Central Asian region (CAREC), work of the Group for Sub-Basin Cooperation between five countries of the Tisa river, beginning of the GEF Project for Global Assessment of Transboundary River Basin Management (TWAP), development of the Chad Lake Water Charter as a means for ensuring sub-regional integration and security, example of integrated water resources management in the Kongo river basin, approaches to the strategy of adaptation to climate change in the Rhine and Mosel-Saar river basins, options for the identification of the sphere of bilateral agreements between Peru and Ecuador.

At Session 6, the issues of rising awareness and establishing contacts with various stakeholders of joint bodies’ activities.

At Session 7 dealing with transboundary groundwater management issues, the report “Sub-Tashkent Transboundary Water-Bearing Horizon” was presented by Mr. Timur Mavlyanov, Head of the Department of the State Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Given the drop of artesian water level in the Sub-Tashkent basin by 20-200 m and over, the speaker noted of the need for thorough study of groundwater.

At the final Session, the draft Principles of Efficient Work of Joint Bodies prepared by the Water Convention Secretariat taking into account the experience of joint commissions all over the world. This draft document will be sent to the participants for their comments and recommendations. A revised version will be submitted for consideration and approval by the Working Group for IWRM and then, possibly, to the Meeting of Parties for adoption in November 2015.

D.R. Ziganshina,
Deputy Director of SIC ICWC