Competing Water Resource Demands in Ethiopia's Federal System: Infancy of the Law toward Integrated Management

Author:Abiy Chelkeba
Position:Abiy Chelkeba: LL.B (MU), M.A (MU), LL.M (AAU); Assistant Professor of Law; Amsterdam-Mekele University LL.M Joint programs project coordinator at School of Law, College of Law and Governance, Mekele University; Managing Editor of Mekele University Law Journal. Email: chewabiy@gmail.com
Pages:229-258
SUMMARY

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Constitution confines the power of regional states over water to administration of watercourse that flows within their respective territories. Various proclamations introduce an integrated approach to water resources management through the application of proper and integrated master planning. To this end, a new institutional framework is established... (see full summary)

 
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Competing Water Resource Demands in
Ethiopia’s Federal System:
Infancy of the Law toward Integrated Management
Abiy Chelkeba
Abstract
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Constitution confines the power of
regional states over water to administration of watercourse that flows within their
respective territories. Various proclamations introduce an integrated approach to
water resources management through the application of proper and integrated
master planning. To this end, a new institutional framework is established through
the creation of Basins‟ Development Authority at national level. The previously
established Basin High Councils and Authorities were implementing integrated
water management within their respective basins and the powers and obligations of
the basin based high councils and authorities are transferred to the newly
established National Basin High Council and Basins Development Authority. Some
adjustments are necessary due to federalism and issues related to the constitutional
framework of water resources that have been overlooked. When the Water
Resources Management Proclamation and other water laws are read together with
the various provisions of the FRDE Constitution, they lack clarity save the power of
the federal government to enact framework legislation over water resources within
states‟ territories. Works undertaken by the federal profit-oriented public enterprises
transforming water into an economic good on the lands that are administered by the
regional states is an area of on-going controversy. I argue that regional states should
claim their constitutional right to levy and collect land use fee from profit making
federal public enterprises that are engaged in transforming water into economic
good within the framework of integrated water resources management system.
Key terms
Water · Water resources · Federalism · Water law · Integrated water resources
management · Ethiopia
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v12i2.1
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
Abiy Chelkeba: LL.B (MU), M.A (MU), LL.M (AAU); Assistant Professor of Law;
Amsterdam-Mekele University LL.M Joint programs project coordinator at School of
Law, College of Law and Governance, Mekele University; Managing Editor of Mekele
University Law Journal. Email: chewabiy@gmail.co m
I thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments.
230 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 12, No.2 December 2018
Introduction
Water is a natural resource with multiple uses. Furthermore, water is essential to
human life and ecosystems. These aspects, associated with the „economic
dimension related to some of these uses‟ (e.g. hydroelectricity, irrigation,
navigation, tourism and recreation) and with possible conflicts among users
under scarcity, require a very special treatment with regard to water
management.1 Water is constantly in motion, passing from one state to another,
and from one location to another, which makes its rational planning and
management complex.2 Water is a resource that is of „direct interest to the entire
population, as well as to most ministries of development at federal and state
levels, municipalities, private sector, and non-governmental organizations
(NGOs)‟.3
Ethiopia is often described as the „water tower of East Africa‟4 and is home
to a large reserve of surface and underground water resource containing
significant amount of the continent‟s existing freshwater. Its territory
encompasses several trans-boundary watercourses and basins, including the Nile
River basin. The entire country possesses abundant water, for it has „an annual
surface runoff of close to 122 billion cubic meters of water excluding ground
water‟.5 Close to 80-90 % of the countrys water resource is found in the four
river basins which are Abbay (Blue Nile), Tekeze, Baro Akobo, and Omo-
Gibe.6 The aforementioned four major basins have a population density of 30 to
40 percent of Ethiopia‟s population in the west and the south-west parts of the
country.7 On the other hand, the water resources available in the east and
central river basins (10 to 20 percent) have the highest population density in
1 B. P. F. Braga , R. Flecha , P. Thomas , W. Cardoso & A. C. Coelho (2009) , „Integrated
Water Resources Management in a Federative Country: The Case of Brazil‟, Inter national
Journa l of Water Resources Development, 25:4, 611-628, DOI:
10.1080/07900620903273432, p.611
2 Asit K. Biswas (2004), ‘Integrated Water Resources Management: A Reassessment‟,
Water Interna tional, 29:2, 248-256, DOI: 10.1080/02508060408691775, p. 248.
3 Ibid.
4 Gebrehiwot, S.G., Gärdenäs, A.I., Be wket (2014), W. et al. The long-ter m hydrology of
East Africa‟s water tower: statistical change detection in the watersheds of the Abbay
Basin‟, Reg Environ Change, 14: 321. doi:10.1007/s10113-013-0491-x, p. 322.
5 Ethiopian Water Sector Policy (2001), p.3. See also World Bank (2013), „Ethiopia second
economic update: laying the foundation for achieving middle income status‟, World Bank,
available at: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/06/18594155 / ethiopia-
second-economic-update-laying-foundation-achieving-middle-income-status.
6 Ethiopian Water Sector Policy (2001), p.3.
7 Ibid.

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