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Expert Opinions



Are floods exportable?

 

Sibylle Vermont

Head negotiator of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment for international environmental policy on water, forests and wetlands.

Everyone knows what climate change is, but not everyone realizes that its main and increasing challenges are very much about water management for rivers, lakes and groundwaters. As most water bodies are shared by several countries, States will need to increasingly work together. For 21 years now, cooperation on shared rivers, lakes and groundwaters has been most successful under the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention). This Convention obliges countries that ratify it to have specific agreements with the countries with which they share rivers, lakes and groundwaters, and to establish joint institutions to manage these water bodies wisely with regard to both water quality and quantity.

So can this cooperation also extend to managing floods together? Yes, indeed. In an upstream country, although all possible measures were taken, the amplitude of floods due to climate change was such that human life and the infrastructure of the country were greatly threatened. Thanks to the joint river commission they established with their neighbouring country, however, they were allowed to inundate the meadows of that downstream country.

Under the UNECE Water Convention, all the Parties meet every 3 years to discuss and decide on common strategies and methods as well as on how to work together in the coming 3 years. Among others, they agree to develop and implement strategies on water and climate change in pilot projects in transboundary rivers, as well as to exchange their experience. And the Convention is now global due to the entry into force on 6 February 2013 of the amendments opening it for accession by all United Nations Member States. This will enable joining forces at the global level to wisely manage shared water resources, to exchange experiences and to jointly address impacts of climate change on water.

 


Read more about what UNECE does:

www.unece.org/env/water.html

 

 

 


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Opinions expressed in this section are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of UNECE, of the bodies established under its international legal agreements/conventions, or of the secretariat.