Commoditizing Cross Boundary River Waters
Water is the most valuable resource in the world. Without water there is no life ranging from the tiniest bio to the gigantic animals and plants. Fresh water that comprises river waters is the compliment for everything needed for human and other lives. For humans, it is a complement for food, clothing and shelter to take the basic physiological needs alone. Unfortunately, water is finite and scarce. Human beings cannot increase a drop of water than decreed by nature. Given the supply limited, the demand for fresh water is increasing than ever and will also increase following the increase in world population. Due to the environmental degradation, the global warming and increase in world population and shortage of food, the need for fresh water for agriculture and even drinking is rising. The UN convention clarifies the international law governing all non-navigational uses of cross boundary watercourses, mainly rivers shared between two or more countries, as it provides a basis for negotiation of regional and bilateral agreements. However, although this negotiation provision might have prevented conflicts between countries, it did not avoid the degradation of these cross boundary Rivers. Many of about 263 cross boundary rivers worldwide are being significantly degraded though poor and uncoordinated management (http://assets.wwf.org.uk). Solution for Sustainable Use of Fresh Waters The profound way of managing cross boundary river waters to address efficient and effective conservation and economic utilization is to commoditize the river waters and let the market and price mechanism regulate them. The international law governing cross boundary watercourses must, therefore, provide a market based regulatory framework in order to preserve the watercourses (rivers) and enhance the economic utilization of river waters by the rivers source and outside the river source countries. The advantage of commoditizing river waters is not only to conserve watercourses and utilize fresh river waters economically but also induces the creativity and innovation of appropriate technology for the use of ocean, sea and underground waters for agriculture and even drinking. Possible Disagreements Between Governments The possible dispute between governments over cross boundary river waters is the question of ownership. Who would be the supplier and the customer? In my opinion, the first thing is that governments need to give value to the next generation based on the concepts of caring than justice. In this case, the issue of ownership would not be a burning issue than the sustainable use of fresh waters. Secondly, cross boundary rivers are not uncontrollable like air. The rivers source countries have the natural right to control cross boundary river waters for their own use just as oils, minerals and ports source countries have. The existing international law governing the use of cross boundary river waters is unfair. Thus, legitimization of rivers source countries as owners or suppliers is a matter of justice and fairness. Therefore, for just the sake of the preservation and economic use of fresh waters, the encouragement of innovative technology for the use of sea, ocean and underground waters and for the adherence of responsiveness for the next generation, the existing international law governing the use of cross boundary river waters should accommodate a provision that these rivers need to be regulated by the market and price mechanism. Just as they voiced aloud for the control of global warming, NGOs and environmentalists should also push governments for the cross boundary river waters market-based management legislative act. Willing cooperation and collaboration between countries does not bring about effective management of this world’s most valuable stuff, fresh water. It is the market and price mechanism that would be an effective, unbiased and independent regulatory system.