Research Report


Kurt Mørck Jensen
Rane Baadsgaard Lange
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2013
Pages: 134
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 7-9)
    Kurt Mørck Jensen and Rane Baadsgaard Lange
  2. (pp. 15-18)

    Natural resource-rich economies in the two international river basins considered in this report, the Mekong and the Zambezi, are at the center of a shifting development context. Governments in both regions are embracing economic growth strategies fuelled by the capitalization of natural resources. While generally not new, it is only recently that these strategies have begun translating into accelerated economic growth. Political instabilities and weak investor confidence have previously constrained their realization. The surge in public and private funds from the BRICS and transnational corporations (TNCs) provide least developed countries like Laos and Mozambique with unprecedented opportunities for economic growth....

  3. (pp. 19-25)

    Transboundary water governance is political by nature. Citizens, companies and governments compete for access to water resources in international river basins to serve their basic needs, productive purposes or national growth strategies. This makes the allocation, development and management of transboundary water resources a question of governance at both the national and international levels.

    The analytical framework in this report draws on political economy approaches to the analysis of national and transboundary water governance (see Mollingaet al. 2007; Molle 2008; Mollinga 2008; Swatuk 2008; Zeitoun and Allan 2008; DFID 2009; Cascão and Zeitoun 2010; Harris et al. 2011; Jensen et...

  4. (pp. 26-28)

    The analytical approach includes a useful comparative dimension through its focus on two river basins. The Mekong and Zambezi basins have been selected as cooperation efforts in that these have been supported by Danish aid, through ZAMCOM and the MRC, since the 1990s. Moreover, both basins are large in that they support numerous countries (eight in the Zambezi and six in the Mekong) making for complex basin governance and decision-making. Both basins are seeing intense upstream hydropower developments to feed growing energy demand, and in both cases these developments are creating downstream challenges. This commonality is interesting given that water...

  5. (pp. 29-41)

    On the top floors of a brand new high-rise building in Maputo are the offices of Hidroeléctrica de Mphanda Nkuwa. The company is a joint venture between Mozambique’s national energy utility, Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM), the Brazilian construction firm Camargo Correa and the Mozambican company Easytech, created to build a 1,500 MW dam on the lower stretches of the Zambezi River. The dam will export power to neighboring South Africa and the construction costs of USD 2 billion are nearly entirely being financed by commercial and development banks in South Africa and Brazil. The corporate and financial structure of the...

  6. (pp. 42-66)

    The Mekong River runs through the heart of one of the most dynamic economic regions in the world. The river rises on the Tibetan plateau and proceeds through Yunnan Province in China and then meanders through the diverse landscapes of Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before reaching the South China Sea (see map in Figure 7). An extensive network of more than a hundred tributaries, some of which also cross the borders of riparian countries, feeds the mainstream. The river drops from 5,000 meters altitude on the Tibetan Plateau to sea level on the floodplains of the delta,...

  7. (pp. 67-92)

    The Zambezi has its source at an altitude of 1,450 meters in northern Zambia and flows in and out of the country all the way down to its delta in Mozambique. Zambia has 41% of the Zambezi basin within its borders. The river journeys into southeastern Angola and briefly touches the northern parts of Namibia and Botswana, before dropping over the edge of Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls), shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe. It then expands into the massive Lake Kariba, the foundation of the large Kariba dam built in 1958 and shortly afterwards, and pools behind the huge Cahora Bassa dam...

  8. (pp. 93-101)

    The analysis in the previous chapters points to different cooperative modalities and frameworks for transboundary water governance in the two river basins. They constitute a polycentric water governance reality comprising:

    unilateral water development interventions by a single riparian country, including hydropower dams on the tributaries and large-scale mining or land concessions

    bilateral cooperation on large-scale hydropower projects on the mainstream and tributaries of the rivers between riparian countries or other regional stakeholders such as Laotian-Thai cooperation on the Xayaburi project, the Kariba and the planned Batoka Gorge shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the Mphanda Nkuwa in Mozambique (cooperation with...

  9. (pp. 102-112)

    In our conclusions, we concentrate on the opportunities and challenges created by the national and regional political economies of water. New development finance is expanding the economic development space of many riparian governments. Politically, the expanded development space is reflected in a stronger sense of national sovereignty, which raises questions about the commitment of riparian countries to river basin cooperation. The reality of polycentric water governance in the two river basins is the result of: i) cooperation frameworks linked to new development finance; and ii) established multilateral arrangements for economic cooperation, which challenge the raison d’être and relevance of the...

  10. (pp. 113-125)

    Based on the conclusions in the previous chapter, the objective is to provide policy recommendations relevant to riparian governments, RBOs, investors, civil society and donors for how a stronger commitment to realistic levels of transboundary cooperation and sustainable development can be achieved. We focus on the RBOs in the two basins: the MRC and ZAMCOM, and the avenues to increasing riparian commitment and ownership of cooperation in these institutions. We also recognize that the economic growth imperative is the main driver and that diversification of the development space is enabling the outstanding national growth rates experienced in many riparian countries...