Basins at risk in the southern African hydropolitical complex?

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The literature on international river basin management has recently undergone an upsurge in high quality empirical research, with a number of distinct schools emerging. Examples of this include the outputs of the team working on the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database (TFDD) under Aaron Wolf at Oregon State University; the research into global water regimes by Ken Conca and his team at Maryland University; the group working at the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO) under the capable leadership of Nils Petter Gleditsch; and the efforts by Peter Ashton and his team working at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the African Water Issues Research Unit (AWIRU) in South Africa. This chapter will focus on specific outputs of these four efforts by using the Southern African Hydropolitical Complex (SAHPC) as a case study example. The first output is the finding by Wolf et al., (2003:29) that seventeen international river basins are at risk, eight of which are in Africa. The second is the conclusion by Conca and his team that there are some doubts on the emergence of an international regime for the management of transboundary river basins that is based on a converging set of core normative elements, via a global-framework or a basin-cumulative path (Conca & Wu., 2002; Conca et al., 2003; Conca, 2006:106). The third is the finding by Gleditsch et al., (2005) that where endemic water scarcity occurs in a shared river basin, there are substantial long-term incentives for the investment in water management measures to avoid conflictual outcomes. Finally, the work by Ashton et al., (2005) and Turton et al., (2004) will be used to show how these trends are manifesting themselves in Southern Africa, because of the existence of a Hydropolitical Complex in the region. In short, this chapter is a reality check for these three relatively independent empirical approaches, by testing their findings against the known situation as it is being manifest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

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Workshop on the management of international rivers and lakes hosted by the Third World Centre for Water Management and Helsinki University of Technology, 17-19 August 2005
Helsinki, Finland
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