The Zambezi River Basin (ZRB) is home to 40 million people and provides a key water resource for its eight riparian states. Furthermore, the river is a major source of hydropower for the region. Population growth, a changing climate, and economic activities exert pressure on the water resource and constitute competition for a limited resource. To ensure equitable, fair and sustainable use of ZRB water resources, and to reduce the potential for disputes, the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) was established. Recently it was tasked with undertaking the harmonisation of the policies, legislation and agreements between the eight riparian countries, alongside the development of a Basin-wide Strategic Plan.
ENSAfrica and OneWorld have been contracted by ZAMCOM to lead this harmonisation project, the first of its kind on the African continent, setting an important precedent for river basins in developing regions globally. Drawing on a wide body of literature, and years of experience in dealing with the political economy of the region, OneWorld has identified the most pressing dimensions of water security in the region (Equitable access to the Water Resource; Planned Development; Benefit Sharing; Regional Integration; Climate Change Planning, and Dispute Resolution). Thereafter, OneWorld developed a methodology for harmonisation that addresses these dimensions directly. The methodology includes the development of good practice indicators for each of the dimensions, taking into account relevant international and regional water laws, agreements and principles. Linked to these good practice indicators, OneWorld has developed a pioneering assessment framework that measures the degree of equivalence of key relevant national legislation and policy from each riparian state. This is assessed against a backdrop of a legal interpretation conducted by the project team, of the ZAMCOM Agreement in the context of regional and international water laws, policies and principles and the six aforementioned dimensions.
The outcomes of the project are a legislative and policy gap analysis and an accompanying options paper that identifies the aspects of water resource management in the basin that require the most urgent attention, in a coherent regulatory framework. ZAMCOM will use these tools in recommending measures to its members to achieve harmonisation in the basin.