The Legal Regime of International Watercourses : Progress and Paradigms Regarding Uses and Environmental Protection
Abstract: This study deals with the law of international watercourses that are shared by two or more States, the legal regimes of which have evolved significantly, especially in the past two centuries. The developments of and paradigm shifts in the legal regimes for the multiple uses and environmental protection are studied through an examination of different sources of international law since the early 19th century.This study demonstrates the legal regimes from the perspective that navigational use, non-navigational uses and environmental protection of international watercourses are interrelated, and yet simultaneously in conflict. To strike a balance between the regimes of uses and protection, a conjunctive management between the various uses of the watercourse must be adopted that embraces also an integrated approach to the water and its relations with other natural resources as well as the environment. The developments and paradigm shifts of the regimes are traced and shown by analyzing the transition of the various concepts and approaches (i.e., international river to international basin), substantive principles (i.e., absolute sovereignty to equitable utilization), implementation mechanisms (i.e., piecemeal to integrated management) and dispute settlement venues (i.e., adjudication to impartial fact-finding). Whether or not there has been a general shift of management paradigm from a piecemeal to the integrated management of international watercourses is also investigated. An integrated management paradigm emerged in recent years with the widely perceived need for sustainable development and environmental protection of international watercourses, which has led to the recognition of equitable utilization as a general principle of international law. This has occurred alongside the increasing recognition of the need for integrated regimes governing water uses and protection. The present study has sought to outline how this is not a coincidental occurrence within the law, and demonstrates that this has been part of an overall trend in global water issues. The present state of the law recognizes developmental needs and environmental considerations as equal, establishing parity between the regimes of uses and protection of international watercourses.
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