Does Political Uncertainty Affect Water Resources Development? The Case of the Eastern Nile

  • Citation: Xun Wu, Marc Jeuland & Dale Whittington (2016) Does political uncertainty affect water resources development? The case of the Eastern Nile, Policy and Society, 35:2, 151-163
    • Topics:
    • Transnational Issues
    • Keywords:
    • Middle East and North Africa
    • Nile Basin
    • uncertainty
    • hydro economic
    • optimization models
    • river basin governance

In water resources, there is a long tradition of utilization of methods to address hydrological and economic uncertainty. Less frequently considered, however, is how uncertainty rooted in political factors such as power asymmetry, the strength of institutions, and the interests of stakeholders, contributes to decision-making. This paper explores political uncertainty and its interaction with more routinely considered forms of uncertainty in international river basins. Using the example of the controversies surrounding major new infrastructure projects in the Eastern Nile Basin, we show that political uncertainty may play a key role in shaping the decisions of individual riparian countries about how to proceed with water resources development. Specifically, we consider whether uncertainty over the prospect of future cooperation might help explain why seemingly optimal economic outcomes that require cooperation (due to interconnectedness) remain elusive. We conclude with reflections on other dimensions of the water resources planning problem – climate change, changes in regional development matters, and preferences – that similarly require a framework that accounts for political uncertainty.

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