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Equitable Use Of Nile Basin Water Resources Amidst Uncertainties

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Abby Onencan (Delft, Netherlands), Bert Enserink, Leon Hermans
Delft University of Technology1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 9: Water allocation among competing uses and users,
AbstractThe Nile Basin is characterised by high levels of hydro-dependencies that transverse political boundaries. This dependency is increasing while fresh water availability is shrinking. Most of the Nile Basin riparian states have been ranked as "water scarce" by 2050. The current Nile basin water uses are not allocated equitably and reasonably thereby threatening the sustainability of the water resources. A nation can experience severe water insecurity, despite the existence of adequate water supplies. This is attributed to the lack of equitable access. Since the Nile River is shared by 11 riparian states, decisions on allocation to water uses are further compounded at the basin-wide level where the interests and uses are amplified. How can equitable access be prioritized? How do you facilitate riparian states to prioritize equitable access? It is difficult to convince riparian states to prioritise equitable access when there is no clear roadmap on how this can be realised at the trans-boundary level. The principle of Equitable Utilization currently does not have a workable definition of what makes a utilization 'reasonable and equitable'. The only available guidance is a list of relevant factors in the 1997 Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, that is to be determined while considering what is equitable and reasonable. The list of factors is not exhaustive which gives room for many more factors to be incorporated. This makes the shared determination of what is 'equitable and reasonable' by 11 riparian states, even more complex. In addition, there is no term of reference against which to measure the relevance of the already provided factors in a particular drainage basin. The purpose of this paper to assess whether scenarios in the form of stories are an effective tool in contributing to an understanding of the applicability of the equitable and reasonable utilisation principle for the Nile Basin. The assessment will rely on the Nile Basin scenarios by 2050. The scenarios will also help to address uncertainties that impact on decision making on the equitable and reasonable use of the Nile water resources. Scenario planning is deemed to be a unique technique; this is because it addresses uncertainty and not risk. It largely contrasts from other strategic foresight techniques such as forecasting or analogical reasoning. These other techniques only operate in an environment where there is a high knowledge reserve to support anticipation of important future events and decision making. Scenarios are increasingly being used as an approach to describe plausible futures. In the recent past diverse concepts and methodologies have been used to develop scenarios in the area of environmental governance and management. What is common in all these different approaches is the use of the story approach to develop plausible and consistent futures in relation to a particular system. Scenario construction was selected for the Nile basin context because the Nile basin water governance context is increasingly becoming complex. In addition, the factors being considered are numerous, the available knowledge to anticipate future events is low and the degree of uncertainty about the future of Nile water governance, is genuinely high. The scenarios were developed following the methodology as developed by RAND Corporation in the 1950s and later popularized as 'Shell-scenarios.' The scenario workshop was held in Jinja Uganda, 11-13 February 2014. It was organized by Nile Basin Discourse and sponsored by Both Ends. The Workshop participants represented the ten riparian states and formed a multi-disciplinary group of experts and stakeholders from regional and national organizations with a spread of expertise around the various sectors and issues, local actors, as well as international partners. Four scenarios were developed, namely: Kazuri, Miskeen, Umoja and EjoHeza. The scenarios are not the best or the worst case scenarios but all represent some emerging potential opportunities, strengths, weaknesses and even threats that the Nile Basin may face in the near future. What is important are the trade-offs being made across the scenarios so as to realise or not realise the equitable and reasonable use of the water resources. This is discussed in detail in the full paper. The paper analyses the conditions that are necessary for the Nile Basin co-riparian's to share water equitably. Part II discusses the international freshwater law and its ability to balance sovereignty claims with integrity claims. Part III discusses the scenario methodology used and applies the international framework provisions to the Nile Basin currently and under the four different scenarios. Part IV assesses the applicability of the equitable and reasonable utilisation principle for the joint management of the Nile Basin. This is in light of the region's history of tensions and also in light of the four scenarios of the Nile Basin by 2050. Part V concludes that the Nile Basin can cooperate on the equitable and reasonable utilisation of the shared water resources. It makes specific recommendations on how the co-riparians can build upon the work of regional and international institutions so as to share water resources equitably and reasonably. The paper also concludes that scenarios in the form of stories proved to be an effective tool in contributing to an understanding of the applicability of the Equitable and Reasonable principle within the context of the Nile Basin. 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