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Modern and more optimistic water experts have claimed that cooperation over water is much more common than conflict. Empirical studies have supported both claims to some extent. The position still has to be made clearer in the context of Southern Africa and this study aims to contribute to this knowledge.

Despite the ongoing debates and efforts in studies to operationalize equitable use in transboundary water agreements, no empirical work has yet taken place to determine whether indeed there is movement from potential conflict to cooperation potential. In the light of the foregoing, the research concentrates on questions from the general to the particular, such as a consideration of what exactly constitutes an equitable transboundary water agreement and what constitutes an equitable allocation of shared waters.

In addition to the above, the research also looks at the extent to which traditional water institutions are recognised by the equitable water agreements existing between or among countries in the Okavango River Basin and what are the implications of that extent of recognition on equitability of water allocation in the light of the law of internationally shared watercourses. If, and if so, how, regime theory can help us understand interstate water co-operation in the context of the Okavango River Basin and whether based on this understanding a typology or model for Okavango River Basin can be constructed.

News and events. The purpose of this paper is to review the key analytical developments in international trans-boundary water politics and to shed light on the important, but overlooked, issue of ecosystems. The understanding of power and power relations has given greater nuance to why and how conflict and cooperation occur in international trans-boundary river basins. A new conceptual approach, the Transboundary Waters Interaction Nexus TWINS , is discussed briefly to show how the analysis of coexisting conflict and cooperation provides an insight into the cross-sector linkages of water and the resulting interests and motives governing water use and allocation.

Transboundary Water Management - Principles and Practice | InforMEA

However, it is argued that much of the literature is anthropocentric and frames the natural environment through a human lens. This paper calls for more attention to the ways in which the analytical framework on trans-boundary water interaction can include ecosystems as legitimate users. The paper concludes with some suggestions for future research and policy discussions.

Manyof the potential benefits that can derive from increased cooperation have been documented and frameworks designed to improve decision-making on how to turn cooperation into positive development outcomes. However, major barriers still exist to exploiting these development opportunities Granit and Claassen, These barriers could be political e. Other barriers are linked to the increasing institutional complexity between shared basins and regional economic integration.

Overlapping institutions at the regional level and the multiplicity and changing nature of 'memberships' by nation states ensures that river basins are part of an increasingly complex landscape of institutions, policies, trading relations and sectoral demands. The relevance of the existing institutional complexity presents challenges but also opportunities for sectors that are directly or indirectly involved with water issues to increasingly integrate in terms of decision-making in agriculture, energy, industry and urban development in particular.

Response strategies for vulnerable areas and communities that take such analyses into account prove to paint more holistic and integrated pictures of the socio-political landscape in which development takes place. Despite these and many other inherent interlinkages, transboundary water management has not featured as an integral part of the economic integration discourse until now.

These interlinkages and synergies are often overlooked when policy-makers devise partial responses to individual problems.

Successful policies and plans depend on having decision-makers who understand the complexities of the problem to which the policy tries to respond. The intuitive way of designing policy which tendsto be issue-specificandsomewhat reductionist , is often unable to achieve desired outcomes given the inter-related dependencies and complexities of any issue. Thus, any successful policy development and implementation process demands a detailed understanding of complex and interrelated problems GWP, Young's examination of the linkages between environmental regime effectiveness and 'fit' and 'scale', is also applicable in this regard Young, Addressing water challenges at the 'wrong' level and conceptualised as 'simple' cause-and-effect relations undermines the effectiveness and legitimacy of water policies Young, In addition, complex regional challenges cannot be solved by individual countries acting in isolation GWP, On the contrary, sometimes they can be exacerbated when countries act in this manner.

For example, a country like Malawi obtains most of its electricity from hydropower plants on the Shire River,an outlet ofLakeMalawiwhich flows intothe Zambezi River.

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However, Malawi'shydropower supply is greatly influenced by theflood season in theZambezi River, into which the Shire River flows. Whenthe Zambezi is in flood,the large volume of water pushes water back up into the smaller Shire River. This effectively slows down power generation along the Shire. Further pressure on streamflow as a result of excessive floodingmay actually bringthe power-generation process to a standstill. Theproblemis at its worstwhen floodgates atthe Kariba Dam, far upstreamonthe Zambezi,areopened.

That said, however, controlled release of that water is necessary for both floodcontrol and to avoid damage tothe dam. Inter-state coordination and the joint management of water supply and power generation are therefore critically important.

Transboundary waters

This example illustrates the need for states to collaborate in order to maximise the benefits of development options, and also demonstrates that silo approaches to resource management not only produce sub-optimal deployment of resources, but could negatively affect other resources that are closely related. Indeed, the importance of scale spatial and temporal is critical to our understanding of transboundary water governance and the solutions we propose.

see Depending on the most appropriate level of scale, different capacities are therefore required. At the regional economic community REC level, for instance, there is a need for a system level analysis and outlook. Specifically, there is need to understand the role of transboundary waters in promoting regional integration by providing valuable services such as energy production; primary products; industry and domestic water use; and ecosystem services.

An important discussion to have in this regard relates to the type of institutions that are most appropriate to deal with this reality. Are water-centric institutions such as river-basin organisations in fact the most appropriate vehicles through which to channel development strategies? Water-centric institutions do not and should not operate in a vacuum.

They are an important piece one of many of the puzzle in dealing with natural resource governance and development but will have to work with other sectors and multi-level institutions to address root causes of problems and issues. Beyond disciplinary borders: the need for transdisciplinary responses toregional development and transboundary water governance.

A summary of transdisciplinarity in the water sector over 3 decades. Despite these inherent linkages and the common logic of managing shared resources in an integrated way, traditionally and historically the water sector's approach to problem-solving, socio-economic development and overall water management has been segmented. In South Africa, this has led to a high degreeoftechnical and scientific innovation andexpertise in the sector.

Since the s, however, this model and related mindset started to change King et al. Over time, it became widely recognised by South African academics and researchers that the existing natural resource management approaches were not adequately addressing the complex nature of challenges and rapidly changing systems Gunderson et al. These methodologies purported that:. Additionally, they relied on 2 assumptions. Firstly, holistic approaches required the collective technical inputs from biophysical scientists in disciplines ranging from hydrology, hydraulics, fluvial geomorphology, sedimentology, chemistry, botany to zoology.

As such, they were highly technical in nature and outcome. Secondly, these holistic approaches necessitated a high degree of expertise or 'deep' knowledge. Experienced specialists employed discipline-specific methods to further an understanding of flow-ecosystem relationships, and then collaborated with other team members, within the overarching process of the holistic approach, to reach consensus on environmental flows King et al. However, apart from being highly prescriptive in nature, these approaches did not sufficiently address the impacts of river changes on subsistence users King et al.

While DRIFT did attempt to integrate the latter through the production of biophysical and socio-economic scenarios, the incorporation of social science specialists into investigations was limited to investigations of subsistence users. Moreover, with the exception of a few studies see King et al. Their effectiveness at understanding the role that water plays in regional integration efforts, or how holistic approaches can be applied to high-level policy frameworks, is therefore less obvious.


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The disconnect between levels of scale is noteworthy. Given the nature of complex water problems - regional in origin but predominantly local in their effects - these approaches have been highly effective in addressing the local effects of a complex problem but less so in addressing the origin of the problem itself. In large part, this outcome is the result of the prescriptive and targeted nature of holistic approaches. As illustrated in Fig. The relationship between cause, effect and intervention is closely linked to the issue of scale andindeed can influence severallevelssimultaneously.

Interventions that fail to capture the multi-levelled nature of the problem and how it intersects with different levels of scale produce sub-optimal strategies that are unable to be scaled up or down for broader applicability. Woodhill articulates 3 main reasons why enhanced local and regional action is important.

Firstly, it is the scale at which much directed action needs to be taken and coordinated. Secondly, it is through activities at the local or regional level that individuals can engage in a meaningful debate about complex water problems. And finally,itis at the regional and local levels that counter balancing and political opposition to the power of purely economic interests, global corporations, or the state, have to be mobilised Woodhill, Traditionally then, the water sector has been dominated by 'technical experts'.

The development of integrated approaches and methodologies therefore gave impetus to a new thinking in the management of water based on integrative and collective expertise. However, boththe pre scientific thinking and the subsequent integrated approaches were founded on sound empirical, technically-driven expertise embedded within a positivist tradition.

In this regard, they have relied heavily on notions ofobjectivity, quantification, accuracy,linearity, and rationality. In many ways this positivist science, sometimes referred to as 'hard science', has been seen as the preferred and most reliable type of knowledge to base decisions on regarding water management, thus reinforcing the natural and technical science preponderance.

Problematising the mainstream responsethrough complexity lenses. Positivist science is particularly useful when trying to answer questions that can be understood through reductionism. Issues that can be understood in this manner behave in a deterministic andpredictableway andare not influenced bynormative issues. However, it should be noted that most issues and problems in the water sector are complex and inseparable from normative, ethical and subjective realities Audouin et al.

These norms are rooted in locally specific contexts, practices, institutions and beliefs. Positivist science is unable to deal with and respond to these latter issues that invariably creep into any research or problem-solving process.

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Also, Cilliers ; points out that complex systems are open and made up of elements that are inter-connected. If we wish to gain a comprehensive understanding of such a system, we need to understand, not only the system itself, but also the environment to which it is connected.