The Grand Dam: The Common Factor for Real Integration
By Fanowedy Samara
June 03 2011
Water has been the prime prerequisite for human civilization at large and the demand for it rises over time in line with the ever growing development needs of the world population. This ever increasing demand for water entails a number of legal, political, social, psychological and economic discourses across the globe and over time.
Nations that share common water courses experienced both cooperation and conflicts over the utilization question of their common water resources. And that difference over the utilization of trans-boundary water bodies demand the formulation of the international laws.
Intellectuals have been developed some theoretical perspectives over the exploitation of shared water courses. Some of the most common approaches for discourses over the utilization of shared waters include Absolute Territorial Sovereignty, Absolute Territorial Integrity, Limited Territorial Sovereignty, and Community of Interests. In order to have better understanding over the aforementioned theoretical issues, it would be better to elaborate each point of discourse.
Absolute Territorial Sovereignty– in the absence of rules, principles and precedents of international law to impose an obligation upon riparian states, every state enjoys absolute and exclusive sovereign rights to water within its own territory and is free to do as it pleases with those waters irrespective of any adverse affects on the use and supply of the waters within another riparian state’s territory. This perspective gives almost no room for mutual cooperation over the utilization and protection of shared water bodies, indeed.
Absolute Territorial Integrity-the lower riparian state has the right to a full flow of water of natural quality and the upstream state’s interference with the natural flow of a successive river is thus subject to the consent of the lower riparian. Like the Absolute Territorial Sovereignty approach, this perspective also gives almost no room for mutual cooperation over the utilization and protection of shared waters.
Limited Territorial Sovereignty (the doctrine of equitable utilization) - the riparian state’s sovereign right is limited by a correlative obligation not to cause substantial harm to the other riparian states on the basis of equality of rights, which calls for equitable utilization to be made of water to accommodate their respective needs and interest.
Community of Interests (the common management formula) - there is a community of interests in water, created by the natural unity of a watercourse, which forces the riparian states into a cooperative legal relationship of physical interdependence to manage the watercourse basin as an integrated whole in the most efficient way to attain optimum, equitable and reasonable utilization and sustainable development as if there are no borders between them. This perspective has been widely accepted over time, indeed.
The globe has been facing tremendous disparities over utilization issues of shared waters. And some nations with common water courses experienced sever political tensions which resulted in mutual mistrust. These tensions between upper and down stream countries and their peoples basically spring from the critical fear of down stream nations in case that the upper stream countries may reduce the quantity and/or quality of the common water for a number of reasons. These fears could be illusionary or some times actual.
In order to settle these anxieties between/among riparian nations, the United Nations adopted a number of conventions. The Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (1997) and the Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers (1966) are among the notable ones.
Moreover, countries also go into bi and/or multilateral agreements over their common water bodies. The Agreement of the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin, Convention on the Regime on the Navigation on the Danube River Basin, Framework of Agreement on the Sava River Basin, the Danube River Course Agreement, the Orange-Senqu River Basin Agreement and the Agreement on the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework are few multilateral agreements to mention.
All of these agreements have two basic components in common-the nature and manners of utilization and protection of common waters, and the settlement of would-be disparities between/among state parties to the agreement/s.
In order to have full image of these conventions, let’s see the common points from some of the agreements. In describing the Equitable and reasonable utilization and participation of common water bodies, paragraph one of article five of the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses states that Watercourse States shall in their respective territories utilize an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner. In particular, an international watercourse shall be used and developed by watercourse States with a view to attaining optimal and sustainable utilization thereof and benefits therefrom, taking into account the interests of the watercourse States concerned, consistent with adequate protection of the watercourse.
Furthermore, paragraph two of this article orders that Watercourse States shall participate in the use, development and protection of an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner. Such participation includes both the right to utilize the watercourse and the duty to cooperate in the protection and development thereof.
Article six of this convention identifies seven Factors relevant to equitable and reasonable utilization of common waters. These are (a) Geographic, hydrographic, hydrological, climatic, ecological and other factors of a natural character; (b) The social and economic needs of the watercourse States concerned; (c) The population dependent on the watercourse in each watercourse State; (d) The effects of the use or uses of the watercourses in one watercourse State on other watercourse States; (e) Existing and potential uses of the watercourse; (f) Conservation, protection, development and economy of use of the water resources of the watercourse and the costs of measures taken to that effect; and (g) The availability of alternatives, of comparable value, to a particular planned or existing use.
Article four of the Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers elucidates that each Basin State is entitled, within its territory, to a reasonable and equitable share in the beneficial uses of the waters of an international drainage basin.
In explaining the general obligation to cooperate, article eight of the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses obliges that watercourse States shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual benefit and good faith in order to attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of an international watercourse. Article three of the Framework of Agreement on the Sava River Basin adopts this statement as it is. The convention also emphasizes that watercourse States may consider the establishment of joint mechanisms or commissions, as deemed necessary by them, to facilitate cooperation on relevant measures and procedures in the light of experience gained through cooperation in existing joint mechanisms and commissions in various regions in determining the manner of such cooperation.
Article 23 of this convention deals with Protection and preservation of the marine environment. It stipulates that Watercourse States shall, individually and, where appropriate, in cooperation with other States, take all measures with respect to an international watercourse that are necessary to protect and preserve the marine environment, including estuaries, taking into account generally accepted international rules and standards.
The Agreement on the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework is formulated on the basis of these international laws and experiences. Like the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (1997), the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework sets equitable and reasonable utilization rules of the Nile River Basin. Article four of the Framework, which explains the equitable and reasonable utilization rules of the Basin, states that Nile Basin States shall in their respective territories utilize the water resources of the Nile River System in an equitable and reasonable manner. In particular, it explains, those water resources shall be used and developed by Nile Basin States with a view to attaining optimal and sustainable utilization thereof and benefits therefrom, taking into account the interests of the Basin States concerned, consistent with adequate protection of those water resources. Each Basin State is entitled to an equitable and reasonable share in the beneficial uses of the water resources of the Nile River System, according to the Framework.
Paragraph two of this article indicates that Nile Basin States shall take into account all relevant factors and circumstances in ensuring equitable and reasonable utilization of the Nile River System water resources. The Framework lists nine factors:
(a) Geographic, hydrographic, hydrological, climatic, ecological and other factors of a natural character;
(b) The social and economic needs of the Basin States concerned;
(c) The population dependent on the water resources in each Basin State;
(d) The effects of the use or uses of the water resources in one Basin State on other Basin States;
(e) Existing and potential uses of the water resources;
(f) Conservation, protection, development and economy of use of the water resources and the costs of measures taken to that effect;
(g) The availability of alternatives, of comparable value, to a particular planned or existing use;
(h) The contribution of each Basin State to the waters of the Nile River system; and
(i) The extent and proportion of the drainage area in the territory of each Basin State. Of course, these factors would definitely ensure the common development needs of all riparian states equitably.
Article six of the Nile Framework, which deals with the Protection and conservation of the Nile River Basin and its ecosystems, underlines that Nile Basin States shall take all appropriate measures, individually and, where appropriate, jointly, to protect, conserve and, where necessary, rehabilitate the Nile River Basin and its ecosystems. All state parties to this Framework are responsible to protect and conserve the Nile Basin ecosystem so as to ensure their sustainable development needs.
Nile, the natural gift of all riparian states, should be utilized for the betterment of the Nile population at large in equitable manner. And no riparian state should be negatively affected by the development efforts of any other riparian nation, of course. Conversely, no Nile nation should judge other riparian state to live under abject poverty by putting potential and/or actual development hurdles. Hence, every natural member of the Nile River Basin should wisely and properly use its water resources to meet the fundamental human rights of its citizens for water has become a human right.
Ethiopia firmly believes in equitable use of resources, including the Nile River Basin. It repeatedly justifies that proper utilization of the Nile River basin is not irreconcilable. Development efforts of some member states would never justify the destruction of other members. State parties to the Nile River Basin Cooperative Agreement have, rather, complementary development needs and they can maximize this need by expanding their joint efforts.
The author believes that the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Abay River Basin achieves two historical goals for Ethiopia in particular and for the Nile Riparian States in general. From the Ethiopian points of view, this Grand Dam consolidates national consensus efforts of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. All the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples adamantly declare that they can practically make their Renaissance Dam real. They have ensured that they need nothing from the so-called ‘foreign donors’ to realize their age long development dreams on their Abay River Basin. Every Ethiopian citizen is making his/her best efforts to construct the Dam.
Hence, the Renaissance Dam has become the common factor of real integration among all the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples as whole. The dam signifies that Ethiopians like their fore fathers can still make unbelievable histories. That is, they can triumph poverty and backwardness as what their fore fathers did during the colonial era against foreign invaders. The Grand Renaissance Dam further proves that Ethiopians are always ready to defeat their common enemies if they get right and proper leadership in a right and proper way. The incredible mass movement under a common development spirit from every corner of the nation reaffirms the age long greatness of Ethiopians, indeed.
Besides, Ethiopians get remarkably golden opportunity to withdraw the negative image that the international community associated with them for ages. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples, the Grand Renaissance Dam proves that there is still an open opportunity to change sprits of impossibilities in to actual possibilities. And Ethiopians can really eradicate poverty and backwardness through their joint endeavors and thereby realize their Renaissance soon. Moreover, the international community might be obliged to give fair witness for the ongoing success stories of the nation though its witness is not binding, of course.
From the Nile Riparian States points of view, the Grand Renaissance Dam signifies that member countries have the right to properly, wisely and efficiently use their water resources without negatively affect the interest of other member nations. Furthermore, it opens a new chapter of cooperation and partnership to ensure their common development needs. The call of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for Egypt and the Sudan to jointly finance the Dam when he laid down the corner stone of the Grand Renaissance Dam realizes the herald of this new chapter of cooperation.
At the end of the five years Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Grand Renaissance Dam alone would produce 5250MW hydroelectric power. This is more than half of the target generation at the end of the GTP-1000MW. Ethiopia pays special attention to hydroelectric power generation not only to meet its power needs but also to export for neighboring nations including Egypt and the Sudan.
Hydropower development in Ethiopia would inevitably support development needs of neighboring states. Ethiopia would export electric power to Egypt, the Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, and other neighbors, indeed. Of course, exporting electric power requires joint infrastructure development efforts. And the author thinks that most of the Nile River Basin States would eventually cooperate to realize and facilitate their common interests-development. That is what has been seen yet. This in turn would enhance the real economic integration of the Nile River Basin States.
Therefore, the Grand Renaissance Dam consolidates National Consensus among the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples as a whole. Furthermore, it has also become a detected weapon in the struggle against poverty and thereby put the nation’s Renaissance in a solid foundation. Moreover, the Dam indicates the herald of the real economic integration among the Nile River Basin States.
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