Ama Kudom-Agyemang
October 06, 2015

The Water Resources Coordination Centre (WRCC) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has concluded consultations to establish a new governance body for the trans-boundary river basins of Comoe, Bia and Tano, in the West Africa Sub-Region.

At the end of their meeting in Accra, representatives of the four countries and officials of the WRCC agreed that the body should be called “Comoe-Bia-Tano Basin Authority.” Its’ operations will cover the four riparian countries of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cote d’ Ivoire and Mali. This is because Tano and Bia respond to a bilateral regime as they are exclusively shared between Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire, while the Comoe is a multilateral type since it is shared by all the four countries.

The establishment of the Comoe-Bia-Tano Basin Authority brings to six the number of such governance bodies set up to manage trans-boundary river basins in the ECOWAS region. The others that have been operational for some years now are Niger Basin Authority, Senegal River Basin Development Authority, Volta Basin Authority, Lake Chad Basin Commission and Gambia River Basin Development Organisation.

The Accra meeting also agreed that the Summit of Heads of States will be the supreme organ of the Authority, while the Council of Ministers will be its decision making body. Other things the meeting agreed on were the appointment of an Executive Secretary to steer and coordinate the affairs of the Authority and setting up of a Technical Committee to facilitate the sessions of the Council of Ministers and Conference of the Heads of States as well as assist the Executive Secretary in the discharge of his or her functions.

In an interview, the Executive Secretary of the Water Resources Commission (WRC), Benjamin Ampomah said:

We’re now going to develop the convention and statues that will define the operational modalities of the Authority.”

Mr. Ampomah who is the National IWRC Focal Person added that “moves are also being made to obtain legal authorisation from the various governments and key actors.” He said discussions are underway on the mobilisation of financial resources towards the setup of the Authority, based on lessons learnt from the Volta Basin Authority (VBA).

This is crucial as reliable sources of funding and sustainable releases of funds will determine the operationalisation of the Authority and the means to respond to the expectations of member states.

The existing framework to guide the Authority’s financial regime specifies that the main source of funding will be equitable contributions from members based on certain criteria. These include the area of the river basin occupied by each country, the population size within the catchment of the basin, a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and the rate of investment in the basin by a country.

The Director of the WRCC of ECOWAS, Dr. Ibrahim Wilson said his outfit is committed to supporting the successful functioning of the “Comoe-Bia-Tano Basin Authority.”

Dr. Ibrahim Wilson, Director, WRCC OF ECOWAS
Dr. Ibrahim Wilson, Director, WRCC OF ECOWAS

Ghana’s Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Dr. Kwaku Agyemang Mensah welcomed this move by ECOWAS saying:

We view this initiative, as an opportunity that should be nurtured for the benefit of Ghana towards the quest for mutual understanding, peace and economic development with the other member countries.”

He looked forward to the strengthening of this initiative as well as the evolving of new ones, which will create opportunities of regional cooperation for improved and sustained management of the water resources within the sub-region that benefit all the people.

Dr. Mensah emphasised the importance of shared water resources management by riparian countries and to support his point, cited two of the four cardinal international water law principles enshrined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigable Uses of International Water Courses. The principles are “that the parties have the duty to cooperate and to negotiate with a genuine intention of reaching an agreement,” and “that there should be prior consultations with all relevant stakeholders.”

The Comoe-Bia-Tano Basin Authority’s establishment is in line with the Ouagadougou Declaration of 1998 on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) for the sub-region. It urged member states of ECOWAS to pursue integrated water resources management processes based on Country Water Action Plans; and create regional cooperation framework for integrated water resources management, harmonise water policies and regulations as well as share experiences.

A cross section of participants at the meeting.
A cross section of participants at the meeting.

The Declaration, adopted by Ministers of Water and Heads of Delegations of governments of ECOWAS at its 1998 conference in Ouagadougou, further called for the creation of consultative platforms between riparian countries for joint management of shared water basins. It additionally, asked members to develop national and regional strategies to raise funds to support integrated water resources management.

Member states of ECOWAS include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. The rest are Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Mauritania.

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