National Assembly approves accession to water convention

• Treaty to guard shared waters
With interior water sources virtually fully exploited, Namibia's future economic development will depend on shared watercourses, Schlettwein said.
Ellanie Smit
The National Assembly has agreed to Namibia’s accession to an international water treaty, promoting the sustainable management of shared water resources, the prevention of conflicts, and peace and regional integration.

In a motion, agriculture and water minister Calle Schlettwein said the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes is a unique and legally-binding instrument. “The convention requires parties to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impact, use transboundary waters in a reasonable and equitable way and ensure their sustainable management.”

Namibia shares all its perennial rivers with neighbouring countries and has entered into bilateral and multilateral agreements to establish river basin commissions, which are aimed at promoting joint management and sustainable development of international waters. “Namibia has a long history of transboundary water cooperation for the sustainable management of its shared freshwater resources. As water sources in areas with economic-development potential in Namibia’s interior are becoming virtually fully exploited, the country’s future economic development will increasingly be dependent on long-distance water transfers from shared watercourses, Schlettwein said.

Enabling environment

In addition to enhancing transboundary water management, the water convention offers an enabling environment for integrated water resource management and investment, and allows Namibia to reap the numerous shared benefits transboundary cooperation has to offer. “Namibia would gain new views for enhanced transboundary cooperation and conflict prevention in sub-Saharan Africa, and contribute to regional peace and stability currently enjoyed by European and other African countries.”

In his contribution, Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Diederik Vries said in many instances, Namibia agrees to international conventions, but the benefits observed are not communicated to the people. “Ministries that lobby for international conventions to be signed need to constantly communicate the observed benefits of the people.”

He added that communication efforts are key to integrate the assessment results in the transboundary water cooperation policy process. “Government should communicate the benefits of the transboundary water cooperation to the public and the information must be tailored to the audiences.”


Vries added that transboundary water cooperation is necessary to manage international water resources in an integrated and sustainable way. “Integrated water resource management promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner - without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.”

He said it represents an alternative to the sector-by-sector, top-down management style that dominated in the past. According to him, implementation of integrated water resource management requires looking at basins as a management unit as well as looking at water demands and impacts across sectors, while encouraging the participation of all stakeholders.