Last August, the UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses came into effect and immediately put into question the practices and issues that exist in border disputed areas of South Asia, namely with those countries that share borders with China. Transboundary water conflicts have existed in this area for quite some time creating deep seated feelings of mistrust and animosity between nations.
Of course, only those nations that ratify the convention are held to it’s standards and it seems that many are not yet ready to adopt the neighborly and sustainable water management practices the convention supports. As Yu Xiaogang, environmentalist and director of Green Watershed, a NGO in Yunnan, southwest China states:
The Convention is based on the principles of cooperation and mutual benefit, friendship between neighbors, development that is not significantly harmful to other watercourse states, and sustainability. It will form a sound basis for good management of international watercourses.
Even if these countries choose not to ratify the convention in the near future, there is hope that it will have “a clear impact” in that it might “elevate the international customary law of transboundary water conflicts, creating a new reference point… It offers legitimate and effective practices for data sharing, negotiation and dispute resolution that could be followed in bilateral or multilateral water-sharing arrangements.
… At government level, the influence of this Convention cannot be avoided when countries in South Asia come to the negotiating table. Downstream countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan will refer to it to support their arguments. And of course there will always be pressure from the international community to sign it.”
While no one is expecting these countries to sign anytime soon, it is expected that South Asian nations and China will be forced to re-examine their positions when it comes to transboundary water rights.
Read more on this issue here.