The international law relating to water, in many instances, deals with the ownership, control and use of water as a resource. The relevant law provides a framework to resolve disputes and policy issues. Specific international instruments include the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, 1997, also known as the New York Convention or the UN Watercourses Convention. It establishes basic standards for cooperation between watercourse states on the use, management and protection of international watercourses. The United Nations Economic Convention on Europe (Water Convention or Helsinki Convention) obliges riparian parties to use transboundary waters in a reasonable and equitable way ensuring their sustainable management. The principles encompassed in these laws are also largely embodied within customary international law, broadening their application globally. Similarly, Articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 and its corresponding General Comment No. 15 (2002) address the right to water. Additionally, the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and under Water prohibits carrying out any nuclear weapons tests under water, including territorial waters or high seas, etc. Other international instruments include the European Union Water Framework Directive and the Law of Transboundary Aquifers, 2008. In resolutions 63/124, 2008 & 66/104, 2011 the General Assembly reviewed their extension into the UN legal framework.

 

The Indus Waters Treaty, 1960 (IWT) is a seminal document for the settlement of certain water disputes between Pakistan and India. Under the IWT, the three eastern rivers are allocated for exclusive use by India before they enter Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan has exclusive use of the western rivers. Recently, the Permanent Court of Arbitration settled a dispute over the Kishenganga Hydro Electric Project (KHEP) under the IWT on water diversions and the determination of minimum flow.

 

Sir Creek at the Rann of Kutch is another water dispute relating to the drawing of a dividing line between Pakistan and India. The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Kutch and Sindh.

International Law Instruments

Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourse (1997) “New York Convention”

Pakistan is not a party to this Convention

 

Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1992) “Water Convention”

Pakistan is not a party to this Convention

 

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976)

Ratified by Pakistan on April 17, 2008

 

Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and under Water (1963)

Ratified by Pakistan on March 3, 1988

 

Indus Waters Treaty (1960)

Useful Links

 

Publications