New publication: Transborder cooperation of shared river basins under the Albufeira Convention

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The Albufeira Convention between Spain and Portugal is geared towards cooperation on water quantity in addition to water quality aspects but less so on the ecological aspects of river basin management. Wetlands International has evaluated the cooperation under this Convention for managing transboundary rivers in the Iberian Peninsula. Environmental groups joined up in the Douro Vivo Network are concerned about the ongoing deterioration of the ecological and environmental qualities of the rivers and dissatisfied with the actions taken to halt this trend. They feel that the Albufeira Convention in its current form is not helping to address the problems and are wondering whether to revise the Convention to negotiate new provisions or whether other arrangements can be put in place to address the ecological and environmental problems of the shared rivers.

In order to promote better integrated water resources management, Wetlands International has developed a scoping study as the basis for a process to work towards improved bilateral cooperation between the countries on all four major cross border rivers. The assessment looks at what works and what not and whether the Albufeira Convention is the right tool to improve transborder cooperation. We conducted several interviews and organised a workshop with key stakeholders in the management of the shared river basins. The findings from the interviews show that overall the Albufeira Convention is seen as a useful and successful tool in supporting cross border cooperation on the shared river basins. But it is also recognized that there is room for improvement especially when it comes to harmonized River Basin Management Plans. Issues where the cooperation should be improved include:

  • securing sufficient and consistent water flows including the definition of what ecological flows means and establishing ecological flows,
  • the use of climate models and climate impact predictions,
  • monitoring and data exchange,
  • assessment of the status of water bodies and the design of the Programme of Measures,
  • lack of involvement of civil society in the decision taking procedures in the Albufeira Convention.

We illustrate cross border cooperation in two other international river basins; the River Rhine and the River Sava. Finally, we present recommendations for taking steps to arrive at genuine integrated river basin management taking the basin as one unseparated body as starting point. Our key recommendation is not to abolish the Albufeira Convention but to negotiate additional protocols through which for each of the cross-border river basins basin committees can be set up. These committees should be responsible for designing basin wide visions for the future development of the rivers including how to organise ecological restoration.

Download the full report below.

Transborder cooperation of shared river basins under the Albufeira Convention

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