Table of Contents

Transboundary Pollution

Transboundary Pollution

Evolving Issues of International Law and Policy

NUS Centre for International Law series

Edited by S. Jayakumar, Tommy Koh, Robert Beckman and Hao Duy Phan

This important new book provides a comprehensive overview of the international legal principles governing transboundary pollution. In doing so, the experts writing in this book examine the practical applications of the State responsibility doctrine in this context. The editors bring together leading scholars and practitioners to analyse the international legal framework and cooperative mechanisms that have been developed to address this pressing issue. The book also includes case studies of Asia and Southeast Asia to demonstrate how international law governing transboundary pollution has evolved and been applied in practice.

Chapter 4: Pollution of shared freshwater resources in international law

Stephen C. McCaffrey

Subjects: law - academic, environmental law, international economic law, trade law, private international law, public international law, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy


Freshwater disputes between States are increasing, due in part to shrinking supplies of water relative to the human population. Pollution can reduce available freshwater supplies even further and can harm aquatic ecosystems on which humans depend. Much of the world’s fresh water is shared by two or more States. Over ninety per cent of the fresh water potentially available for human use is stored in underground aquifers. While much of this groundwater interacts with surface water, it moves slowly and can be contaminated if not carefully managed. Two global treaties regulate the problem of transboundary water pollution and State practice has developed general rules of customary international law on the subject. Governments are bringing freshwater disputes to international courts and tribunals at an increasing rate and decisions in these cases hold valuable lessons for governments as regards the use, protection and management of international watercourses.

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