- There is a significant gap in academia in the field of transboundary water1 management of the non-sovereign entities2. The objective of this master’s thesis is to work towards filling this gap.
The first part of this master’s thesis research identifies potential hydro political tension risks of the transboundary basins in Abkhazia, Kosovo, Palestine, South Ossetia, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (NC), entities recognized at least one United Nations (UN) member, however, not recognized by the vast majority3. Hereinafter, these entities are referred to as ‘the partially recognized entities’ or ‘the breakaway territories’, while countries sharing transboundary water basins are referred to as ‘the sovereign countries’. In addition, the geographical areas where the partially recognized entities and the sovereign countries jointly cover is referred to as ‘the regions’.
1 In this study, the terms [transboundary] basin, water, catchment, and watershed are used interchangeably, and they describe both surface water and groundwater crossing political/regional borders.
2 The term ‘non-sovereign entities’ stands for both de facto states lacking international recognition (i.e. Kosovo and Palestine) and entities that are controlled by numerous armed groups (i.e. Iraq and Syria).
3 The term 'vast majority’ is used to exclude countries not recognized by only a few countries such as China, North Korea, Armenia, and Israel due to uniqueness of their circumstances.
Fourteen transboundary basin units (TBUs), transboundary basins or basin sections shared among the partially recognized entities and the sovereign countries, were identified. The analytical framework, which De Stefano et al. created in 2012 for their project ‘Climate Change and the Institutional Resilience of International River Basins’ was modified to examine potential hydro political tension risks of the fourteen TBUs. The table below indicates the modified framework:
Conflict Resolution Mechanisms
Water Allocation Practices
Water Variability Practices
Communication, Cooperation, and Coordination Practices
Past Water Conflicts
To assess potential hydro political tension risks of the TBUs, the seven components in the table were researched by reviewing the literature and conducting fifteen interviews with government officials, international organizations, and independent scholars. Then, the components having negative effects on the management of the TBUs were totaled for each TBU. Each of the fourteen TBUs were ranked on a scale of zero to seven. Seven is considered to indicate the highest hydro political tension risk while zero designates the lowest. Lessons regarding transboundary water management of the non-sovereign entities from the TBUs were revealed.
The anticipated results were that the TBUs would be managed unilaterally, and the issues regarding the TBUs would be ignored since severe ethnic and religious conflicts exist in most of the regions. This anticipation was partly correct since it was found that despite severe ethnic and religious conflicts, in some of the regions, there was significant cooperation regarding the management of the TBUs. This is due to various drivers such as the desire for joining the European Union (EU), the awareness raised by water scarcity, potential joint water projects promising revenue, goodwill, favorable spiritual approaches, etc.
It was revealed that the management of the TBUs are vastly influenced by political, economic, social, and cultural relations among the non-sovereign entities and the sovereign countries. Even though there were no management mechanisms in some of the TBUs, there was cooperation; however, in some of the TBUs, although there were many management mechanisms, there was a great amount of tension.
The second part of this master’s thesis research investigates the management of the Tigris and Euphrates. Turkey, Syria, and Iraq have long-standing conflicts regarding the management of the Tigris and Euphrates (ET) basin. In addition, the ongoing armed conflicts in Iraq and Syria changed their status to non-sovereign entities controlled by various armed groups. This resulted in the management of the basin becoming even more troublesome. The basin requires urgent attention.
This study aims to make management recommendations for the basin. This study aims to make management recommendations for the basin for both during the armed conflicts and post-conflict era. For this goal, the literature was first reviewed to discover the chronological management of the basin. Next, the potential hydro political tension risks in the ET were assessed via the modified analytical framework utilized in this research. Then, the findings from the literature and the modified analytical framework were synthesized with the lessons learned from the partially recognized entities and the previous management failures/successes of the ET to offer proper management mechanisms for the basin.
For the ET case, it was anticipated that the basin due to the armed conflicts, the riparians would not communicate and cooperate, and the issues regarding the basin would be ignored. This anticipation was correct. There was no dialogue among the parties. In this part of the research, it was discovered that warm relations, goodwill, and favorable spiritual approaches are very significant for the management of the ET basin.