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close this bookCentral Eurasian Water Crisis: Caspian, Aral, and Dead Seas (UNU, 1998, 203 pages)
close this folderPart V: International organizations and inland seas
close this folder12. The role of international organizations in the integrated management of international water bodies: The activities of the UNU, UNEP, and the World Bank in the Middle East
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentInternational water bodies require integrated management
View the documentThe need for international efforts and a role for international organizations
View the documentThe UNU: Accomplishments to promote sound management of international waters
View the documentAssistance given by UNEP and the World Bank to the Aral Sea programme
View the documentProgramme for the Caspian Sea basin as an international effort
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences

International water bodies require integrated management

National interests among countries are likely to diverge when it comes to international water bodies. Given the international context, however, inefficiency caused by interdependent water uses cannot be resolved through a single government's policies. Upstream countries tend to see little benefit from increasing or maintaining the flow and quality of water for downstream countries. Without enforceable international water-use rights established by treaty, countries make decisions without considering the consequences for other basin countries. However, securing such international agreements and putting them into practice is often difficult. The end result may be environmental, social, and economic losses in the downstream countries that are greater than the benefits to the upstream countries.

More than 200 river basins are shared by two or more countries. These basins account for about 60 per cent of the earth's land area. Fragmented planning and development of the associated transboundary river, lake, and coastal basins are the rule rather than the exception. Although more than 300 treaties have been signed by countries to deal with specific concerns about international water resources and more than 2,000 treaties have provisions related to water, coordinated management of international river basins is still rare, resulting in economic losses, environmental degradation, and international conflict (World Bank, 1993).

International conferences such as the 1992 Dublin Conference on Water and the Environment and the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have stressed the need for the comprehensive management of water resources, using the river basin as the focus of analysis. Cooperation and good will among states sharing a drainage basin are essential for the efficient development and utilization of international rivers and groundwater aquifers. In order to fulfil their own economic goals, it is important that such states formally collaborate to exchange data, share water, preserve the environment, and generate development programmes that are of mutual interest and joint benefit (World Bank, 1994a).