Man­ag­ing the pol­i­tics of wa­ter

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

ex­tended to cover ev­ery shared river basin in the world by the SDGs’ tar­get year, 2030.

For poor peo­ple in the de­vel­op­ing world, such tran­sboundary co­op­er­a­tion gen­er­ates sig­nif­i­cant div­i­dends. When coun­tries agree on the con­struc­tion and man­age­ment of crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, there are no de­lays. Costs are saved. Ben­e­fits are shared in an op­ti­mum way. If all de­vel­op­ing coun­tries with shared river basins em­braced tran­sboundary co­op­er­a­tion, their GDP growth eas­ily could rise by a per­cent­age point.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should en­cour­age coun­tries to em­brace such co­op­er­a­tion by cre­at­ing fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments that make con­ces­sional and pref­er­en­tial funds avail­able. A global Mar­shall Plan for shared river basins might at first seem like an ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion; but the cost of in­ac­tion – con­sider the threat to Europe alone posed by mas­sive refugee in­flows – eas­ily could be sev­eral or­ders of mag­ni­tude higher.

Like­wise, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should act promptly to save crit­i­cal wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture from acts of vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ism. Many rivers, in­clud­ing the Ti­gris and the Euphrates, have been and con­tinue to be cra­dles of hu­man civil­i­sa­tion. The UN should con­sider cre­at­ing spe­cial peace­keep­ing forces to pro­tect them.

Fi­nally, in­ter­na­tional law should be de­signed to pre­vent, not just re­solve, con­flicts. In par­tic­u­lar, a ro­bust global treaty is needed to reg­u­late emis­sions into bod­ies of wa­ter. To­day, most dis­agree­ments over wa­ter con­cern the quan­tity par­ties are to re­ceive. In the fu­ture, con­flicts will in­creas­ingly be about wa­ter qual­ity, as ir­ri­ga­tion prac­tices, in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, and ur­ban­i­sa­tion con­trib­ute to ris­ing pol­lu­tion lev­els.

World Wa­ter Day is the ideal oc­ca­sion to launch a new agenda for wa­ter wis­dom. But ev­ery day must be a day when we work to­gether to man­age one of the planet’s most im­por­tant re­sources.

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