IN AN IMPORTANT PRACTICAL display of regional co-operation, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa have signed a water sharing agreement governing the use of two of their shared rivers. The historic agreement was made in Johannesburg, South Africa on 29 August at the WaterDome – a parallel event of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

The Interim IncoMaputo Agreement, which involves the Incomati and Maputo watercourses, is based on the framework provided by the Revised Southern African Development Community Protocol on Shared Watercourses. It reflects the principle of equitable and reasonable utilisation of shared watercourses for economic and social purposes between the three countries, as well as ensuring protection of the environment.

For the first time it provides Mozambique, the most downstream country, with protection against over-exploitation of the rivers by upstream neighbours. The Interim IncoMaputo Agreement will ensure that all future infrastructure development is investigated to protect other basin states against significant adverse effect. The agreement spells out the process to be followed by Mozambique in feasibility investigations of further water resources infrastructure development projects like the Corumana dam rehabilitation and construction of the Moamba major dam. The Incomati river in particular has been identified as one of the most stressed rivers in the region, passing through the rapidly growing Maputo Corridor.

Swaziland and South Africa have already co-operated to meet water needs of the region through the construction of two new dams on the Komati and Lomati rivers. These two new dams have made the development of an additional 7200ha of mainly small farmer irrigation development possible.

To ensure the success of this co-operative venture, the three countries will now proceed with implementation. This will entail the development of operating rules, institutional development, capacity building and the application of these in sustainable management and protection of the watercourses.

Comprehensive water resource development and water use agreements for application in the longer term will be compiled for the two watercourse systems. A number of detailed studies are required for this purpose. It is envisaged that the comprehensive agreement for the Incomati river water- course will be completed during 2006 and the Maputo river watercourse during 2010.