2009 World Water Day: Shared Water - Shared Opportunities

Mar 22, 2009


2009 World Water Day
Transboundary water: An agent of peace and cooperation

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Under the theme "Shared Waters - Shared Opportunities," this year's World Water Day highlights the need for cooperation between countries and regions to ensure adequate supply of freshwater. In 60 years, there have been nearly 300 international water agreements and only 37 cases of reported violence between states over water.

Rivers and lakes cover nearly half of the world’s land surface and almost half of the world’s population depends on them as their main source of freshwater. But they can also be a trigger for conflict. 

Altogether, there are 145 countries that share their water resources with neighboring states. Many countries are facing--or will face--a scarcity of freshwater.  By 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity. However, history has shown that cooperative management of these water bodies can lead to peaceful relations, accelerated international trade and job creation. 

UNDP has been involved in one of the most striking successes in shared waters management: the treaty governing the use of the Danube River. The Danube is the most shared river basin in the world, passing through 13 countries before emptying into the Black Sea via Romania.  The past 150 years have seen the steady degradation of the eco-systems of both the Danube and the Black Sea. After the fall of the Soviet Bloc, however, the countries along the Danube have cooperated on the monitoring and improvement of water quality and quantity.  In addition, they instituted a damage control system to minimise accidental chemical spills.  This regional collaboration yielded positive  results, including the establishment of 75 water quality monitoring stations in the Danube Basin and an agreement to reduce nutrient pollution. Through these reforms and major investments, industrial, municipal and agricultural pollution was reduced, virtually eliminating dangerous oxygen depletion in the western part of the Black Sea and leading to measurable signs of eco-system recovery.

The restoration of the Danube River and Black Sea is only one example that illustrates the significant environmental, socio-economic and political benefits that can be gained through multi-country cooperation on trans-boundary waters. UNDP has been providing support to over 100 countries in identifying, prioritizing, understanding and addressing the key issues of some of the world’s largest and most significant shared water bodies. We work with countries to modify agriculture, industry, mining, fishing and wastewater management to lessen ecological damage to the water systems. In this way, conflicts can be prevented, security and livelihoods improved, habitats protected and health risks minimized.

For more information, go to www.undp.org/water 

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