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United Republic of Tanzania

International water issues

The country shares six international lakes (Table 4), five international rivers included in three of the largest African river basins–Nile, Congo and Zambezi (Table 5)–and seven international aquifers (Table 6). This is more than any other nation in Africa. A large part of the country’s international borders are water bodies: the Ruvuma river with Mozambique, Lake Tanganyika with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lake Nyasa and the Songwe river with Malawi, the Kagera river with Rwanda and Uganda and Lake Victoria with Uganda and Kenya. As a result, the United Republic of Tanzania is part of numerous transboundary institutions and agreements for the management of these shared water resources as detailed in the respective tables below.

The country is a signatory to the SADC’s Shared Water Course Systems Protocol and its revised version, which provides the basis for the management of international rivers in the SADC region, which consists of 14 countries.

Lake Victoria, shared between United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, is part of the Nile basin and is the world’s second-largest freshwater lake (after Lake Superior in the United States of America) and the largest lake in Africa. The Lake Victoria Tripartite Agreement, signed by the three countries, established the Lake Victoria Environment Management Project (LVEMP) to rehabilitate the Lake’s ecosystem.

United Republic of Tanzania is a member of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), an inter-governmental partnership launched in 1999, together with the then nine other Nile riparian countries. Because both the 1929 and 1959 Nile Water Agreement assigned the Nile's water to Egypt and Sudan without including Tanzania and the other riverside nations, the NBI was intended to strengthen the cooperation within the basin. The NBI, the headquarters of which are in Entebbe, Uganda, prepared a Strategic Action Programme, which consists of two sub-programmes: the Shared Vision Programme (SVP) and the Subsidiary Action Programme (SAP). The SVP is to help create an enabling environment for action on the ground through building trust and skill, while the SAP is aimed at the delivery of actual development projects involving two or more countries. Projects are selected by individual riparian countries for implementation and submitted to the Council of Ministers of the NBI for approval. The NBI is intended to be a transitional institution until the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) negotiations are finalized and a permanent institution created. This new Nile CFA was signed in 2010 by Tanzania and four other countries–Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya–and in 2011 by Burundi. Egypt strongly opposed this agreement which gives deciding power over large-scale hydraulic projects to a commission representing all the signatories, hence cancelling Egypt's historical right of veto. Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are still to decide upon the CFA signature. The CFA was ratified by Ethiopia and Rwanda in 2013 and by United Republic of Tanzania in 2015. Signature of all countries would help organize a comprehensive management of the water resources between the basin countries and find an agreed solution to multiple projects of dams on the Nile for hydroelectricity generation in Uganda and Ethiopia (see also the respective country profiles) (MWI, 2009).

The United Republic of Tanzania is also member of the Zambezi Basin Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) created in 2004 between the eight countries sharing the basin: Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The country is also part of the Congo river basin, the world’s second largest river basin after the Amazon river basin, together with Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Zambia. The country is however not member of the International Commission of the Congo-Ubangi-Sangha Basin (CICOS), regrouping only four of the nine riparian countries. Similarly, there is no specific joint management of the smaller lakes–Chala, Jipe and Natron–with Kenya, or for the transboundary aquifers.

Finally, there are some bilateral agreements and institutions, such as the Songwe River Development Programme with Malawi–aiming to stabilize the course of the river which changed because of floods the corresponding boundary (MW, 2013)–and the Malawi/Tanzania Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC).

Table 6 below summarizes the transboundary aquifers.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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