Prerequisites for a multilateral agreement on water cooperation in Jordan River Basin

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Prerequisites for a multilateral agreement on water cooperation in Jordan River Basin
  Kamilla Adgamova, Lovisa Sommerholt Prerequisites for a multilateral agreement on water cooperation in Jordan River Basin - BRIEF Key issue: The area of Jordan River Basin remains highly problematic in terms of access to water, its distribution  between riparian countries and consumption. Since the beginning of the XX century, all the attempts to establish cooperation in the valley were hindered by increasing political tensions and inability to establish a  baseline for further collaboration in the region. Currently, only a small number of bilateral agreements ensure some degree of cooperation over water. However, they focus on very specific scope of problems and do not set the precedent for a commonly accepted and fair formula for water allocation, thus, lack region-wide solutions and long-term legitimacy. This brief is prepared for European Union External Action Service and aims to delineate preconditions for a  potential commonly accepted multilateral agreement that would ensure sustainable and fair cooperation over water resources of Jordan Basin. Source: FAO  –   AQUASTAT 1. Jordan River Basin  –   overview With the basin area of 18, 285 sq. km, population of 18 million and 223 km in length from north to south, Jordan River srcinates in Anti-Lebanon and Mount Hermon mountain ranges and discharges into the Dead Sea. Its headwaters are fed mainly from groundwaters and seasonal surface runoffs. The Lower Jordan River receives influx from its main tributary Yarmouk River and Lake Tiberias. Wadis (channels that operate only in rainy season) and aquifers (groundwater) also contribute to the annual inflow. The upstream part of the River flowing into Lake Tiberias remains relatively intact; however the lower waters have been decreasing in the last decades due to deteriorating environment, increased consumption, constructions and diversion schemes. Water use in the Jordan River basin is unevenly developed. The riparian countries and their according shares of the basin area are Israel (10%), Jordan (40%), Lebanon (4%), Palestine (9%) and Syria (37%).  Kamilla Adgamova, Lovisa Sommerholt Syria 450 MCM Israel 580- 640 MCM Jordan 290 MCM Lebanon 400 MCM (Assi River), 9-10 MCM (Hasbani basin) Agriculture Only user of water from Lake Tiberias Irrigation of crops and domestic use in Amman Domestic water supply  2. Outline of existing agreements The idea of a water sharing policy for the whole basin emerged in 1913 with the Franjieh Plan devised for the irrigation of the Jordan Valley, to generate hydropower and to transfer Yarmouk River flow (100 MCB) to Lake Tiberias. The Johnston Plan followed in 1955. It ignored political boundaries to escape political complications, such as reluctance of Arab states to recognize the new State of Israel, and to avoid complications of adopting a common formula for water distribution. The Plan intended to determine the amount of water needed each year to cultivate arable lands in the basin, and to allocate water shares accordingly. It called for the allocation of 55% of available water in the basin to Jordan, 36% to Israel, and 9% to the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon. However, none of the above-mentioned proposals was adopted or implemented. Since the 1950-s international legal criteria for water consumption and allocation of water to riparian states has not been developed. Harmon Doctrine declares that “a state was free to assume over the watercourse that traverses its territory absolute sovereignty as though the watercourse inside its territory is its own property.” And this is still how it is perceived today in the river basin. Historically, in pre -50's there have been three separate agreements relating to Palestine, Syria and Lebanon shares in the Jordan River basin. The agreement of 1987 between Syria and Jordan  strictly concerns the construction of Wahdah dam in the Yarmouk River and how its waters will be used for irrigation and generating electric power. 75% of hydroelectric power is used by Syria and 25% by Jordan. The irrigation in Syria is limited to a specific area below the site of the dam. In this treaty Jordan resumes responsibility to establish, finance, plan and construct the dam as well as be responsible for operations and maintenance, whereas Syria is simply to furnish personnel and necessary facilities to undertake duties on Syrian side. Although both parties agree to be responsible for compensating landowners in respective states, Jordan is viable to economic compensation that the state of Syria decides on for their landowners. The exactness of this agreement, in terms of, for example, building of the dam to a height of 100 meters with a design that will allow for future increased storage capacity, is surprisingly technical for a bilateral agreement that is to concern shared water resources. Also, the building of the dam and floodgates so that Syria will be able to store the waters from the dam to which Syria will have complete control, will be by Jordan costs. Jordan does have a right to use the overflow from the reservoir and generated electricity from Syrian side. There is also the setting up of a joint commission with equal powers distributed between the states although all recommendations for upkeep will be paid for by Jordan. The boundary line will remain as it was prior to the building of the dam as well. The agreement of 1994 between Syria and Lebanon considers the Assi River water coming from Lebanon as a territory of mutual benefit. Lebanese resources reach more than 400 MCM per year and a quantity of 80 MCM will be aggregated. A scarce year is considered <400 MCM and then the Lebanese share will be reduced by a percentage equivalent to the drainage decrease. Also in the document, there is foundation of a  joint technical community who will supervise the measurement of the drainage of water so as to administer the distribution. Lebanon and Syria will here share the costs for repair and maintenance. According to this agreement there will have been no more digging of wells since 1994 and any contravening well found is to  be closed and filled up. This is the agreement most exact in its sharing of water, although the empirical data have not been updated since 1994. The 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan , contains a specific annex to outline the boundary of the Jordan river as well as the Yarmouk river. The boundary line is to follow the main course of the river and no artificial changes in the river basin are to be made. Concerning sudden future natural change article 3 sets up  Kamilla Adgamova, Lovisa Sommerholt that the then founded Joint Boundary Commission is to meet up so as to discuss the restoration of the prior location of the river. The boundary line is measured according to a map of 1994. The Declaration of principles from 1993 and the Oslo 1 or Interim agreement of 1995 between Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel mentions the river basin water sharing. In annex III article I it is stated that there should be cooperation in the field of water as well as a water development program, elaborated by experts from both parties. The experts will specify the mode of cooperation in the management of the water resources in West bank and Gaza strip. Proposals for plans on water rights of each party and utilization of  joint water resources for the implementation even beyond the interim period as well as draw up an environmental plan will be done by these experts.  Table: FAO  Kamilla Adgamova, Lovisa Sommerholt 2.1 Shortcomings 1.   The existing agreements are all firstly bilateral and do not recognize the Jordan River basin as one integrated system. Although this statement is not to be read as supporting the Johnson plan there are certain issues with bilateral agreements that disregard Jordan River basin as one integrated ecosystem. 2.   Being established within the framework of nation-states, the latter lack oversight mechanisms and long-term legitimacy. 3.   The agreements now still in form are all from the -90's or even predated that. This means that the empirical data can no longer be relied on. 4.   Most agreements also issues joint committee boards that seemingly share responsibility, but it is unclear where the resting responsibility lies in for example the Jordan -Syrian agreement and sometimes it is clearly not followed as in the case of Palestine -and Israel. 5.   The agreements are also bound by issues such as keeping to the Yarmouk River, or deciding on  boundaries of the rivers, or the vague conclusion of a shared water management. The only agreement discussing actual water sharing and in exact numbers is the Lebanon -Syrian agreement. More often than not the agreements are held up as examples of the great mutual understanding in the concerning countries. In reality the agreements upon closer look rarely mentions an actual outline for any water  being shared at all. 6.   Water distribution between two major riparians, Jordan and Israel, as well as between Israel and the West Bank is not fully resolved in any of these documents. 7.   Additionally, bilateral agreements have relatively low impact in the scale of the whole region, as they deal with only acute issues, without providing broader in scale, long-term solutions. 3. Prerequisites and incentives for a multilateral region-wide agreement The successful emergence and acceptance of multilateral region-wide agreement on water cooperation is conditional upon the following prerequisites and incentives. 1. Changing the approach to water within the international community acknowledging access to clean water as a fundamental human right. If so, extra political pressure can be exerted on states that deny/ trade access to water to certain groups of population (e.g. Israel’s denial of Palestinians’ access to water). This would create checks and balances in the international community to react if an agreement was ignored. 2. The inclusion of civil society  –   on both, global and local level establishes a link between public opinion, real demands and decision-makers. Civil organizations are capable of providing fast and up-to-date feedback and foster implementation, thus ensuring higher legitimacy of the document. 3. There is a need for universal, region-wide water education program. Elaborated and carried out  by a neutral third party, such basic guiding would fill the lack of understanding of regional  processes of water allocation and usage on individual level. In its turn, water education would contribute to conscious consumption and ease social tensions caused by related prejudice and stereotypes. 4. The initiation for region-wide agreement should come from multiple actors. The aftermath of Johnson’s P lan shows that if the agreement is pushed by only one international actor (i.e. US) some countries-participants may be reluctant as they obtain suspicions that such an agreement is aimed for advancement of interests of one of the latter, rather than for establishing fair cooperation. 5. Additionally, the fail of the first attempt for multilateral cooperation was due to the neglect of aquifers. In order to avoid such mistakes, thorough multi-sided estimates have to be carried out.  Kamilla Adgamova, Lovisa Sommerholt 6. Open data sharing is essential to establish common grounds for further (and potentially successful) negotiations: agreed status-quo based on available data to ensure fair deal and long-term legitimacy of the results of deliberations. 7. International community should provide incentives for increased economic interdependence in the region to downsize the risk of possible tensions and dissolution of the agreement. 8. Economic stimulus plays an important part in successful negotiations. Investments and development aid should be channeled to those riparian countries, which support and are ready to comply with a potential agreement. 9. Finally, the existing bilateral documents consist of rather rigid set of rules. In order for a multilateral agreement to work, it seems necessary to establish flexible provisions for water allocation. Migration, industrial infrastructure, climate change and annual fluctuations affect both Upper and Lower Water Jordan River in terms of annual/monthly inflow and usage. Therefore, in order for an agreement to remain fair in case of possible deviations from established status-quo, constant data evaluation from a third party is necessary and water allocation provisions should be open for adjustments. The only agreement discussing actual water sharing and in exact numbers is the Lebanon - Syrian agreement. More often than not the agreements are held up as examples of the great mutual understanding in the concerning countries. In reality, the agreements upon closer look rarely mention an actual outline for any water being shared at all. To summarize, the above mentioned proposals list the minimal requirements for development of effective and mutually asserted cooperation on water resources in the region.
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