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Issue 1, January 1999

Newsletter Index

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The SADC Water Protocol

A Need for Equity and Harmonisation
Water Resources in Southern Africa are both scarce and inherently regional. Eleven of the SADC countries (excluding the Democratic Republic of Congo) share water from around 15 river basins and it is estimated that in 20 to 30 years, 3 to 4 countries will face a serious shortage of water if nothing is done. There are also a number of aggravating factors that compound this problem, such as a high population and urbanization rate, a serious imbalance in rainfall, and a region that is prone to both droughts and flooding.
As a result, there is a need for a coordinated approach to achieve both equitable and reasonable utilization, as well as preservation and conservation of this scarce resource. In response to this, SADC countries have formulated the Water Protocol to govern the process of distributing these shared water resources.
An important provision of the protocol concerns the equitable and reasonable use of regional waters. This provision relates to using and developing watercourses by the member states to attain optimal and sustainable utilization thereof and benefits therefrom, both by taking into account the interests of other states and in ensuring that it’s in line with the protection of the watercourse. Regional cooperation is also emphasised in the protocol, particularly in reference to the exchange of important information for decision making and protecting the water resources.
The maintenance of ecosystems in their natural conditions as well as preserving the water quality are two more points the protocol covers, and on an institutional level provision is made to create the necessary monitoring institutions. In anticipation of potential conflicts among watercourse states a mechanism for conflict resolution was also highlighted.
All considered, the SADC Protocol and its regulations can only be effective if they are translated into national laws and if national policies and legislation are harmonised at the regional level.
Projects and Institutions
The major ongoing activity related to shared watercourses management is the ZACPRO6 which is part of the Zambezi River Action Plan. This project, which will serve as a pilot for the SADC in implementing the Protocol, was initially set up with the purpose of developing the Zambezi River System sustainably. At first it concentrated on data and information collection but later found itself expanding into in depth sector studies, development projections, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and development of Integrated Water Resource Management.
Another organisation, the Global Water Partnership (GWP), is a recently formed network of international experts on water, who concentrate on translating emerging global consensus on principles of water management into responsive and coherent services to its member countries. A regional Technical Advisory Committee (SATAC) has been formed and has further stressed the need for increased regional collaboration on water resources management and information exchange to assist the implementation of the SADC Water Protocol. It is anticipated that SATAC will play a pivotal role in coordinating donor activity in the region.
At the moment there are around 17 donors and multilateral agencies funding water projects in individual SADC countries, and it is foreseen that they will feed into the Water Protocol implementation. For this to occur, however, there will need to be proper coordination of all their activities, as at present information on these projects is not well shared among donors or with stakeholders, making identification of gaps for further funding extremely difficult. Apart from identifying gaps, coordinating these activities will also expose successes that can be replicated elsewhere in the region.
The Legal Framework
The majority of SADC countries are currently in the process of reviewing their legislation with regard to water, making this a good opportunity to harmonise the various national water legislations.
In this vein the national acts could also redefine the criteria which ensures equitable use of water resources by all user groups. Use of water permits, rather than water rights, and standardisation of tariffs for shared river systems will result in equitable use and sustainable management of the water. The harmonisation of water acts could also have important environmental benefits as consistent standards for water quality and effluent discharge will allow a regional introduction of common permits and penalties for offenders.
The regional effort to harmonise national water laws should start with the cataloguing of these laws to identify where amendments need to be made in order to support protocol implementation. There are certain critical elements where uniformity will be required, such as all watercourse states adopting the same water pricing policy, which must include environmental costs. Environmental standards will also need to be uniform, giving for instance protection to downstream states with regard to effluent discharges. In addition a threshold downstream flow needs to be included as a legal requirement to preserve ecosystems downstream of development projects. Compatible EIA bills in the region are also imperative to assess the environmental impacts of development projects on water course or impacts from external activities. Legalising the sharing of important information will also be necessary as Member states for competitive reasons or negligence may not adhere to the data sharing called for by the Protocol.
The Economic Framework
The economic framework of the protocol should essentially strive to maximise the benefits accruing to the riparian states by utilising mechanisms like Joint Investment, Private Sector Investment and implementation of Water Demand Management. Joint investment on infrastructure could save the region some money, as well as assisting the poorer countries who otherwise would not be able to afford such outlays for infrastructure at that stage in their country’s development. On the private sector side, it is envisaged that business may be attracted to the tradability of water, particularly with regards to the returns on investment accruing from the costs to consumers of the transportation of water.
Finally, Water Demand Management (WDM) through water re-use and recycling, water use efficiency and new water supply options will also reduce demand for water from conventional supply systems. The costs of implementing such systems are obviously less than building new dams, thus making it an attractive option for countries wishing to reduce their water development costs. It should therefore be considered a duty for all relevant institutions to disseminate information on water demand management through various campaigns, as well as replicating the best practices from the region and elsewhere. To bring WDM into effect though, it is essential for the true value of water to be determined, taking into account its value to tourism and ecosystems.
A strategy that would also facilitate the efficient use of water on a regional basis is that of identifying each country’s competitive advantage in growing certain crops, which apart from promoting inter-regional trade will also ensure the most efficient use of water in achieving food security for the region.
The Political Framework
In many respects water problems in the region may be more political than technical, especially in the case of shared river systems. The SADC should therefore ensure that preparedness in dealing with these political issues is high on its agenda, and that strong economies are somehow prevented from dominating the negotiations in these instances of conflict resolution. It is further hoped that there will be more leadership from SADC tribunals on communications and resolution of issues, with the role of international legal bodies left as the last resort.
The formation of new basin commissions and the support of existing ones should also support the implementation of the Water Protocol, as long as these commissions have clear Terms of Reference to guide their operations.
The SADC region is recognised as having a deficiency of trained lawyers in water affairs. Therefore there is a need to train more up so as to increase negotiation skills in the region and ensuring that the weak economies are not prejudiced by the strong ones.
An even greater problem in the region though is one of political instability, in many instances making it extremely difficult to ensure any security of supply. This problem calls for a concerted effort to be made in the maintenance of peace in the region through both dialogue and direct intervention, making sure at all times that these actions do not perpetuate dictatorships.
On the basin level too a political framework is required, where there is a transparent process in which all riparian states can participate in all the planning and management activities. Following on from this, community empowerment will also help tremendously in instilling a spirit of ownership that will result in them monitoring and enforcing national legislation.
Ultimately though, all of these above points hinge on the various SADC Governments being genuinely committed to the Protocol and willing to cooperate in the implementation of all its provisions.
Dr. Peter Pinas Zhou
Director, EECG, Gaborone, Bostwana
CCD.gif (7637 bytes)  The Convention to Combat Desertification
The Second Conference of the Parties (COP2), was held in Dakar, Senegal, from 30 November to 11 December 1998. The aim of the Dakar Conference was to review the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) and the functioning of its institutional arrangements.
Delegates met in Plenary, the Committee of the Whole (COW) and its three informal negotiating groups and the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) to discuss the items of the COP’s agenda.
The Committee of the Whole
A huge amount of time of the COW was devoted to administrative decisions, which were not all resolved and many were held over to the agenda of the next Conference of the Parties, which will be convened in Recife, Brazil, from 15 to 26 November 1999. COP3 will consider the implementation reports from Africa, the modalities and activities of the Global Mechanism, the promotion and strengthening of relationships with other Conventions and the arbitration and conciliation procedures.
The Committee on Science and Technology
The CST, which was constituted to advise Parties to the Convention, established a panel of ten people from around the world to elaborate and discuss links between traditional and modern knowledge in addressing desertification. During the closing plenary, nominations for the ad hoc panel included Dr. Timm Hoffman from the National Botanical Institute of South Africa. Other matters which received attention by the CST, were:
- the evaluation of the Roster of Experts in terms of gender equity, better representation of relevant disciplines, and increasing representation of experts from NGOs;
- the continuation of a survey of existing networks, institutions, agencies and bodies involved in the desertification debate;
- the focusing on programmes that build on national/local capacities to develop and use benchmarks and indicators;
- the pursuance of potential areas of cooperation between the CCD and other Conventions and organisations; and,
- the priority issue for next year i.e. early warning systems in the broadest sense, including water management and protection.
Dialogue with NGOs
Two sessions of the Committee of the Whole were devoted to dialogues with NGOs. The first session focused on issues related to traditional knowledge. The second session concentrated on the process of developing National Action Programmes (NAPs). Case studies served to inform the official delegates, most of whom had little or no experience of the realities faced by rural communities and people.
The Biodiversity Forum
This Forum was held parallel to the sessions of the COP2. The participants recognised that the CCD has much to offer to the other UN Conventions, especially if it is able to develop ways of balancing international, national and local actions, as well as environmental and developmental objectives. The goal of such coordination should be to provide and overarching framework under which partnerships can be strengthened and pursued at all levels.
The Global Mechanism
The Global Mechanism (GM), which was designed to provide financial assistance for projects that address desertification, has failed to start operating on 1 January 1998 as called for at COP1. Many delegates expressed concern regarding this delay. The Managing Director of the GM said it would take time before this Mechanism has a real impact, given its limited resources. Moreover, delegates in Dakar were unable to adopt the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CCD and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the organisation which is supposed to administer the Global Mechanism. The decision on the MOU concerning the modalities and administrative operations of the GM were deferred to COP3.
For the first time, Parties to the CCD reported on their activities and programmes. Developed countries and multilateral institutions described their efforts to promote projects and activities for combating desertification in developing countries that are affected by dryland degradation.
The need to engage all interested actors at all levels is standard rhetoric for those engaged in the CCD process. Partnerships between a variety of actors propel CCD implementation and dominated the scene at COP2 in Dakar. Intergovernmental cooperation at the COP level is a prime area where partnerships must be operational if the Convention is to be effectively implemented. The above events, as well as a special segment, during which ministers, high-level government officials and representatives from intergovernmental organisations addressed the ways and means to implement the CCD, served as examples of effective partnerships at various levels.
While COP2 decisions were not earth shattering, its deliberations served to highlight areas and partnerships that need reinforcement and further open up opportunities for more representation in the process.
by Wilma Lutsch, Deputy-Director
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa
Inter-parliamentary Round Table on Desertification
An inter-parliamentary Round Table was convened on December 7 at the invitation of the CCD Secretariat, the National Assembly of Senegal and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Thirty-six parliamentarians from 21 countries came together to discuss the contribution that legislators can make to the implementation of the Convention and their role in heightening awareness of the desertification issue. Ms Gwen Mahlangu, MP, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism and member of GLOBE attended the Round Table.
Participants at the round table highlighted the link between desertification and the fight against poverty and other socio-economic concerns, as well as the link between land degradation and long-term sustainable development.
MPs present also stressed the need to incorporate traditional wisdom about desertification into modern knowledge. Calls were also made for greater cooperation between the North and the South, between the "rich minority" and the "poor majority", as well as for debt swapping strategies as a financial alternative for implementing environmental management and protection in developing countries, particularly for the least developed nations.
At the end of the meeting parliamentarians adopted the Dakar Declaration in which they affirm their commitment to contribute fully to the implementation of the CCD by:
- supporting legislation to fight desertification;
- promoting policies and institutional frameworks that will promote cooperation among affected countries;
- supporting the strengthening of social policies and education, health and public awareness;
- subscribing to the initiatives of agencies, donors and the civil society to increase financial assistance in order to promote sustainable development in fragile ecosystems.
Parliamentarians also issued an urgent appeal to the international business and financial community to support the mobilisation of financial resources for the fight against desertification. They equally urged the academic institutions, the scientific community and research centers to share their knowledge and expertise and to provide technical assistance to those countries affected by desertification and land degradation.
The Dakar Declaration was adopted by the Closing Plenary of the CCD on 11 December 1998.
For further information on the Convention to Combat Desertification, please contact the GLOBE Office in Cape Town. You can also access the CCD Website at: http://www.unccd.ch/