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Managing Water In The Frame Of A Regional Legal Framework : The Barcelona Convention And Related Protocols

World Water Congress 2015 Edinburgh Scotland
15. Water law
Author(s): Raya Stephan (Verneuil sur Seine

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 15: Water law,


In 1976 the first Barcelona Convention, Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution, was adopted (in force in 1978). It was then amended in 1995 to become the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (in force 9 July 2004)(22 Contracting Parties). While the first objective of the legal framework of the Barcelona Convention is the protection of the Sea, it has expanded to the coastal zone including all natural resources including water. The objective of this paper is to determine the legal requirements for coastal water resources under the Barcelona Convention and its related protocols.

The study is based on a careful and close analysis of the provisions in the Barcelona Convention and its related protocols, related to water resources with due regard to the management needs in the Mediterranean context. The study could also expand to the measures adopted under the Strategic Action Program for the Mediterranean Sea (SAP MED) and the one for the Conservation of Biological diversity Biodiversity related to water resources.

The Barcelona Convention is a framework Convention covering the Mediterranean Sea with a possible extension to coastal areas as defined by each Contracting Party within its own territory. Among its main objectives the following ones are related to water resources directly: * to ensure sustainable management of natural marine and coastal resources; * to protect the marine environment and coastal zones through prevention and reduction of pollution, and The Convention imposes (article 4) on the Contracting Parties the implementation of the following principles in order to protect the environment and contribute to the sustainable development of the Mediterranean Sea Area : the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle, to undertake an environmental impact assessment (EIA) when an activity is likely to cause an impact on the marine environment, and to cooperate in matters of EIA, and to commit themselves to promote the integrated management of the coastal zones. All these environmental principles are applicable to water resources. In article 8 on the pollution from land based sources, the Convention requires that the Parties shall eliminate pollution from land-based sources originating within their territories and reaching the sea , even when indirectly through rivers, canals or other watercourses, including underground watercourses, or through run-off. This provisions is further specified in the Protocol related to land based.
Under the Barcelona Convention, seven protocols were adopted but only the protocols on Land-based Sources and Activities, on Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity and on ICZM are related to water resources. The Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities was adopted in 1996 and entered into force in 2008. The aim of the Protocol is to prevent, abate, combat and eliminate to the fullest possible extent pollution of the Mediterranean Sea Area emanating from any land based sources and activities within the territories of the Contracting Parties. The Protocol identifies « groundwater communicating with the Mediterranean Sea » as part the area to which it applies (article 3). The Protocol apply to discharges originating from land-based point and diffuse sources and activities within the territories of the Contracting Parties that may afect directly or indirectly the Mediterranean Sea Area. These discharges include those which reach the Mediterranean Area through watercourses including the groundwater flow. Parties have the obligation to eliminate such pollution, and to impose an authorization or regulation for any release into the Mediterranean Sea which might affect it (article 6).

The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (SPA) was adopted in 1995, and entered into force in 1999. The Protocol includes in its geographical coverage the terrestrial coastal areas designated by each of the Parties, including wetlands. The Parties have the general obligations to protect, preserve and manage areas of special value namely for the biological diversity with the establishment of specially protected areas. Last but not least, the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in the Mediterranean was adopted in 2008 and entered into force in 2011. According to the Protocol one of the objectives of the integrated coastal zone management is to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources, particularly with regard to water use. The Protocol also provides that all elements relating to hydrological, geomorphological, climatic, ecological, socio-economic and cultural systems shall be taken into account in an integrated manner the coastal zone management, as well as the ecosystems approach to coastal planning and management. Public participation and involvement of the local stakeholders should be ensured. All relevant sectorial policies shall be considered. The various economic activities shall minimize the use of natural resources and take into account the needs for future generations. The respect of Integrated Water Resources Management shall be ensured. A high level of protection of the environment has to be achieved in the location and operation of agricultural and industrial activities to preserve coastal ecosystems and landscapes and prevent pollution of the sea, water, air and soil. Coastal aquifers and dynamic areas of contact or interface between fresh and salt water, which may be adversely affected by the extraction of underground water, or by discharges into the natural environment need to be monitored. Specific coastal ecosystems such as wetlands should be protected.
While in its first version of 1976 the Barcelona Convention addressed only marine pollution, its second version has expanded to include the coastal zone and its proper management because of its close relation with the sea. Coastal water resources started to have a consideration under this regional framework, even if not covered by any specific protocol. The ICZM Protocol represents the most achieved one in this sense. However due consideration to groundwater resources and more broadly to coastal aquifers is still not enough in view to the important interactions of these bodies with the sea.

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