Tapping transboundary waters: Implications of the right to water for states sharing international watercourses
Download Full Text
INTRODUCTION With population growth, and economic and agricultural development, placing greater strain on the world’s limited supply of freshwater, reliable access to clean water is becoming increasingly difficult to secure. Watercourses on all continents are under threat of overuse, increased pollution and in certain cases, large-scale diversion. Not only has the sector faced historical neglect and poor governance, but climate change poses additional challenges for managing the sector and protecting the resource. The political geography of the planet is dominated by international drainage basins, yet the obligations of governments towards individuals in other countries relying on shared waters are unclear. Traditionally, the law of human rights has protected the individual against his or her government, not against actions of governments of other countries. Thus, for instance, the failure of an individual’s government to take steps to progressively ensure access to adequate water would generally constitute a human rights violation. And, in fact, for most people who lack access to water, the problem lies internally within that country, and does not relate to use of a transboundary watercourse. However, if an individual’s lack of access to water is due to a neighbouring State’s use of an international watercourse, has that State violated the individual’s right to water? This chapter examines the implications of recognition of a human right to water for States sharing international watercourses. Section 2 provides some contextual background to transboundary water disputes and examples of uses of international watercourses that could infringe the human rights of individuals living in co-riparian States. Section 3 examines arguments relating to potential extraterritorial obligations of States to respect, protect and fulfil the right to water in the context of transboundary watercourses. Section 4 reviews accountability mechanisms for holding States responsible for any extraterritorial violations of the right to water. Section 5 discusses the influence of the right to water on existing international watercourse law along with suggestions as to how the right to water may inform the workings of international institutions (e.g. joint commissions) responsible for the management of such transboundary waters. CONTEXTUAL SETTING: RISING TENSIONS OVER THE USE OF INTERNATIONAL WATERCOURSES International river basins ‘generate roughly 60 per cent of the global freshwater flow and are home to approximately 40 per cent of the world’s population’.
Malcolm Langford and Anna F.S. Russell
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Russell, Anna F. S. and McCaffrey, Stephen C., "Tapping transboundary waters: Implications of the right to water for states sharing international watercourses" (2017). McGeorge School of Law Scholarly Books. 47.