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International Water: Laws for Water

International water jurisdiction

Introduction to International Waters

Internation Water: The term international water has remained one of the most debatable topics internationally. There are several countries which share water bodies in their boundaries. Therefore, there is also water dispute among various nations. So, it is important to understand the concept of international water jurisdiction and laws apply to it in order to resolve the dispute.

The term of international waters is also known as trans-boundary waters. This term applies if any of the following water bodies such as ocean, rivers, wetlands, groundwater system, regional seas (enclosed or semi-enclosed) as well as estuaries, and large marine ecosystem transcend international boundaries.

International water or trans-water boundary does not belong to the jurisdictions of any of the countries or nations. Under the doctrine of Mare liberum, the nations have the right to overflight, navigate, fishing, scientific research as well as lying pipeline and cables. Seas, oceans, rivers, as well as waters outside the jurisdictions of a country,  are referred to as mare liberum or high seas. The term mare liberum means free sea. The first convention on international waters or high sea was signed in 1958. This convention had 63 signatories.

This convention defined the high sea to mean the entire parts of the sea which are not added or included in the internal waters or territorial sea of the nation. No state can purport validly at the defined high sea to subject any part of them to its sovereignty. It has been analyzed that the total area of high seas makes up to 50% of the total surface area of the earth. It also covers more than two-thirds of the ocean.

The convention signed in the year 1958 was used for the foundation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea was signed in 1982 with the help of which Exclusive Economic Zone was recognized which was extending over 200 nautical miles from the baseline. Now our experts from Law Assignment Help will tell you about International Water Jurisdiction with the help of infographics.

International Water Jurisdiction
International Water Jurisdiction

Trans-boundary Waters

The river basin, lake, or aquifers which are shared by two or more than two nations called trans-boundary waters. Trans-boundary waters support the livelihoods and lives of millions of people all around the globe. There is increasing water stress all over the globe and hence it has become very important to manage this critical resource in order to promote sustainable growth and development. All the countries sharing a water body should cooperate and collaborate with each other and must promote sustainable development as well as peaceful cooperation.

It will help in managing one of the most critical resources of this world. If the trans-boundary water supply will be degraded or depleted, it may cause several social unrests. It may also spark conflict between the countries. Therefore, there is a need to protect water bodies in order to avoid social unrest.

In order to deal with the impacts of climate change as well as the increasing demand due to the increasing population, there is a need of integrated approach as well as supranational to the international waters resource management on the basis of institutional as well as legal frameworks and shared cost and benefits. It will help in protecting the trans-boundary from depletion as well as degradation. Now our experts from Assignment Help Canada will tell you about the opportunities and challenges.

Opportunities and challenges

There are more than 263 trans-boundary river basins and lakes which cover almost half of the surface of the earth. Apart from this, there are more than 145 states which have territory in these basins. There are 30 countries which entirely lie within them. There are around 300 water bodies which serve more than two billion people all over the globe who are highly dependent on groundwater.

Therefore, cooperation is necessary particularly in those areas which are vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Cooperation is also necessary for such areas where water is scarce. The floodplains, as well as the wetlands around the lakes which connect boundaries of the countries, help in providing necessary ecosystem services to the population residing there.

The following ecosystem services are provided such as natural processing of pollution, food provision, as well as barriers against flooding. If overexploitation of these lakes, aquifers, and rivers will be done, it will jeopardize the ecosystem services. It will also have terrible consequences for sustainability as well as the reliability of the water supplies.

It may lead to tension between the countries if the impact of overexploitation of the water bodies is felt more keenly on the other side of the border. Saltwater intrusion can be allowed by the depleted aquifers in the coastal areas and hence it will increase the arsenic as well as fluoride concentration including other toxic substances. Therefore, there is a need to manage trans-boundary water effectively and efficiently. The management of trans-boundary water creates advantages for every individual in the following ways, the adaption of climate change, regional integration, improvement in governance, economic growth, international trade, as well as food security.  

Laws apply in International Water

In order to understand the basic grasp of the laws related to international water, it is important to know and understand about the coastline. Understanding coastline will help in understanding territorial waters. The territorial water of a country is extended up to 12 nautical miles from the coastline of the country.

The sovereign country has the full right within these borders to all things both below as well as at the surface of the water. In addition to this, there is an exclusive economic zone. The country has full right to access all the resources below the surface of the ocean within this territory including oil drilling, fishing, etc.  Apart from this, ships can pass through the exclusive economic zone as they are allowed to pass through it but they cannot extract natural resources from the water bodies.

The international water starts just outside of this. There is a fair amount of regulations to the United Nations on the open water. These regulations are outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The activity aboard a ship is subject to the laws as well as the jurisdiction of the country of origin of the vessel. However, there is also global or universal jurisdiction.

The universal jurisdiction permits any nation to bring criminal charges despite nationality or the place where the alleged crime has taken place. Generally, it is said that universal jurisdiction is used in the following cases; genocide, war crimes, as well as several other serious issues.

Regardless of international treaties as well as legal language, trans-boundary water is one of the highly disputed issues. One of the best examples of trans-boundary water dispute is the South-China Sea. Apart from this, many nations are trying to get control over some parts of the Arctic.

Some important points to be considered in International Water

The internal waters of a country such as ports and bays are the part of the country and hence if a ship is docked at the port, all the laws of that country are applied to the ship including the crew as well as passengers of the ship.

Almost the laws of every country apply to the territorial waters of the country which is extended up to 12 miles from the coastline. For example, if a ship departs from the port of the United States, it cannot open gambling activities until 12 miles out because gambling is not legal in several parts of the United States.

It is also important to understand that a nation has limited jurisdiction in its contiguous zone, the area of 12 miles to 24 miles from the coast of the country.  Every country has some rights within the contiguous zone. For example, the country can do patrolling within this zone. The Coast Guards of the United States are allowed to board any ship which is suspected of smuggling despite the flag under which it is flying.

A ship is said to be on the high sea once it is 24 miles from the coastline of the country. The law of the ship is the law of the country whose flag is flying on the ship with the exception of some rights within the contiguous zone. For example, a cruise ship of Liberia which is 25 miles off California’s coast then it is not subject to the law of the United States rather subject to the law of Liberia.

The dispute over International Waters

There are several disputes over international water. International water dispute occurred due to the enhancement of trade globally. As the trade between countries started expanding and more and more countries started participating in international trade, the need for waterways emerged. The waterway is one of the most used transportation modes for trading goods from one country to another country.

Thus, in order to enhance the trade volume, every country which can use or have access to water bodies engage in the trade using the water bodies. If the country enters into the jurisdiction of another country, the second country can oppose the first country which results in water dispute. The following are the major unresolved water disputes;

The Arctic Ocean

Most of the countries such as Denmark, Norway, Canada, as well as Russia consider some parts of the Arctic Ocean as their internal waters or national waters. On the other hand, the United States, as well as more of the European countries, considers the whole region of the Arctic Ocean as the international waters.

The Southern Ocean

In the Southern Ocean, an exclusive economic zone is claimed by Australia but only four other countries recognize the claim of the exclusive economic zone of Australia and hence it is also one the major international water dispute. Okinotorishima: Japan claims that Okinotorishima as its exclusive economic zone as well as an islet. On the other hand, some other neighbouring countries claim that it should not be an exclusive economic zone. Thus, it also has created a major international water dispute. Apart from this, there are several other international water disputes such as the South China Sea.

Management of the High Sea in International Water

The high sea is also known as international water or bounding main. It is the area beyond the jurisdiction of the nation or beyond the national jurisdiction. The high sea has always attracted people on voyages of discovery, pure adventure, trade, war, and conquest. Every country is bound to manage and monitor the water bodies within their jurisdiction. But it is also important to take care of the water bodies beyond the nation’s jurisdiction. So, it is important to understand that who manages the high seas or international water.

As it is mentioned that high sea starts where the national oversight of the ocean ends and it is beyond the jurisdiction of any particular country and hence a complex network of organizations is there to manage international water. Thus, the responsibility to manage the international water falls mainly on the complex network which has been created by international treaties between the countries.

It is the responsibility of every country that their vessels should carry the flag of the state otherwise according to the international water laws the ship will be considered without nationality. Most of the countries have ratified the UNCLOS (the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) which was entered into force in 1994 and hence it is identified by several countries as reflecting customary international law of the sea.

It has been identified and analyzed that the current governance framework of the high sea is fragmented, weak, as well as poorly implemented. There are several bodies which regulate different sectors as well as industries. In several cases, a precaution, as well as the application of polluter-pays principle and modern principles of the management based on the ecosystem, has to be brought to bear yet.

The existing arrangement for ocean governance does not ensure sufficient protection for the biological diversity of the high sea. They also do not foster the equitable as well as sustainable use of marine living resources. Therefore, there is a need for immediate attention and effective ocean governance arrangements in order to manage international water effectively and efficiently. For more information, you can also check Instant Assignment Help.

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