The challenge of transboundary river basin management
Every transboundary river basin or aquifer presents specific management-related challenges. Flooding and sedimentation, water scarcity and pollution, unsustainable land use and agricultural practices, impacts from infrastructure, inefficient use of resources, and degradation of ecosystems and their services are just some of the issues that cross borders and sectors . At the same time, policymakers around the world are trying to improve coherence between sectoral policies, balance economic growth with environment and climate action, and find ways to use resources more efficiently. Responding to these various pressures is beyond the means of water management alone.
Coordination between the water, energy, food and environment sectors is fraught with difficulties at the national level and the complexity increases substantially in transboundary basins. To manage natural resources more responsibly and sustainably, governments need to gain a greater understanding of – and control of – the dynamics linking policy decisions at different levels (basin, local, regional, national). While water issues can be approached from any number of perspectives, the water-food-energy-ecosystem nexus approach is one that is increasingly being applied in many different and complex settings .
A number of case studies have been undertaken to assess nexus issues and identify solutions in transboundary basins, using a participatory methodology developed ad-hoc under the Water Convention . Its development involved a broad range of expertise, gradual refinement upon use, and an intergovernmental review process. These studies yielded important lessons on the interlinkages, trade-offs and benefits in managing water, energy and land/agriculture, as well as on protecting the environment derived from several transboundary river basins .
The learning curve in the Nexus assessments is still steep and new experiences are constantly made. Among these insights is that it is important to tailor the scope and focus of each assessment to the specific issues in the basin. Every assessment again proves that the different sectors that are in the focus of the nexus play out at different scales, with effects at multiple levels.
Each assessment is a unique exercise, experience highlighting that transboundary basins share common yet varying issues related to water allocation and environmental impact. Therefore, the analytical tools that are applicable and indeed most appropriate also vary. In this regard, the Assessments provide useful entry points to motivate examinations of international cooperation across sectors to better allocate water and consider environmental impacts.. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network (IW:LEARN) is accelerating the sharing of experience between GEF agencies and basins on how the nexus approach can best add value, a possible means being to provide GEF projects with broader and more comprehensive diagnoses of issues, including with use of multi-resource integrated modelling and other tools, dialogue and engagement of economic sectors into implementing strategic actions and mobilizing investment. The nexus assessments already have a history of fruitful interaction with GEF International Waters projects, including in the Kura and Drina Basins.
Go through the story map yourself to view the videos and infographics of case studies to fully appreciate the innovative and user-friendly experience!
© 2021 UNECE & GRID Arindal
This story map was produced by Tiina Kurvits, Miles Macmillian-Lawler, Debhasish Bhakta, Robert Barnes, Torben Dedring, Kimberly Aiken, GRID-Arendal, and Lucia De Strasser and Annukka Lipponen and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).