How can mutual trust amongst riparians be nurtured? What actions erode that trust?

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Key Question Categor(ies):Transboundary Water Issues

From: Baglihar Hydroelectric Plant - Issue between Pakistan and India

Mutual trust can be nurtured through

  • seamless sharing of data and information through the most efficient means of communications,
  • promotion of mutual exchanges to stake holders to build fraternal bonds (e.g experts, academia, farmers, intelligentia, opinion makers, politicians, civil society organizations etc) through conferences, sharing of knowledge, interactive engagements.

Specific situations to be avoided are:

  • misleading emotive and irresponsible statements
  • unilateral start of projects without resolution of issues upfront.
  • violations of provisions of treaties
  • tendencies to gain political mileage or media exposures.
  • non water actions (such as political, military, commercial, terrorism etc) which can vitiate the general feeling of mutual trust.

From: Geopolitics of South China Sea: The Arbitral Tribunal

China'a indisputable Nine-Dash Line claim has caused contentions among the stakeholders. The initiation of an arbitration process, thought to have equalized the situations has, on the contrary, created a serious zero-sum game and strained relations between the parties.

From: Red River of the North - Fargo-Moorhead Diversion

Case shows the results of extended negotiation that does not recognize needs of the other party

From: The Helmand River Basin Dispute

Throughout the dispute, trust has eroded between the two countries. Disagreement over the interpretation of the treaty and the measurement of the volume of water allocated has contributed. Continued drought and potential future droughts will likely further erode trust without agreement over how to manage the river in drought. Political actions, such as the alleged border skirmish to divert irrigation water across the border, and alliances with other nations, such as historical British and US involvement in the border and water dispute, and giving aid in development infrastructure, can reduce trust. Lack of quality and available data prevents a building of trust.

From: The Republican River Compact

Many actions can erode trust amongst riparians. In the Republican River Compact three key actions can be identified: (1) a riparian repeatedly voices concerns that are disregarded or ignored by the other compact parties, (2) a riparian violates the terms of the compact in a manner that is perceived to be intentional, (3) riparians engage in arbitration or litigation to resolve their disputes.

Recent efforts in the basin demonstrate how trust can be nurtured or rebuilt. In the Republican River Compact three key actions can be identified: (1) the compact administration committed to meeting more frequently to better understand the concerns and interests of each state, (2) Nebraska thoroughly explained the steps and mechanisms it had put in place to avoid overuse in water short years to ease Kansas’ concerns about future noncompliance, and (3) the recently negotiated agreements are temporary, allowing for time to test new options without a binding commitment and continue negotiating a long-term agreement that works for everyone.

From: The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Programs

This case shows that time, transparency, and jointly developing science can developed trust among involved parties.

From: Yarlung Zangbo / Brahmaputra River: Competing Priorities of Hydropower and Agriculture

Data sharing and regular forums for communication and cooperation can foster mutual trust amongst riparians. Lack of transparency around infrastructure projects and data sharing can erode that trust.