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Cross-border water cooperation

GIZ employees at a planning meeting in Nicaragua

Water knows no borders. In many cases, rivers, lakes and groundwater reserves cross the territory of two or more countries. The scarcer water becomes the greater its capacity to trigger crises and conflicts. Climate change is exacerbating tensions in many regions as extreme weather events such as flooding and drought are increasing and the hydrological regime as a whole is changing.

Owing to climate change, investment in hydropower plants or irrigation projects is growing, for instance in Asia or Africa. Especially when it comes to larger projects concerning transboundary water bodies, such as the construction of a dam in the headwaters of a river, care needs to be taken not to harm water availability in riparian countries too much.

At the same time, transboundary water catchment areas also provide incentives for cooperation. The countries concerned can all draw benefit from collectively planning infrastructure projects. Thus, water is not only a potential cause of conflict, but also an important factor in creating regional stability.

Approaches under German development cooperation

The German government is supporting many countries that share catchment areas and that are engaged in cooperative water resources management. The aim of these efforts is to achieve sustainable management of transboundary rivers, lakes and groundwater aquifers, conserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change and develop sustainable strategies for adapting to climate change. This will help secure water supplies in the affected regions in the long term and reduce conflicts over water resources.

Germany's development cooperation projects are helping to build and strengthen institutional and legal structures. Governments receive advice on harmonising their water policies and mechanisms are created to balance the interests of the different stakeholders involved. In addition, efforts are undertaken to give the various user groups more of a say in planning, framing and managing water infrastructure.


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