Research Handbook on International Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on International Environmental Law

Edited by Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David M. Ong and Panos Merkouris

This wide-ranging and comprehensive Handbook examines recent developments in international environmental law (IEL) and the crossover effects of this expansion on other areas of international law, such as trade law and the law of the sea.
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Chapter 28: The Relationship between the Law of International Watercourses and Sustainable Development

Malgosia Fitzmaurice


Malgosia Fitzmaurice General issues 1. Introduction The present chapter will focus mainly on the application of the concept of sustainable development to international watercourses rather than on definitional issues of the concept, as this has been elaborated in the chapter by Duncan French on ‘Sustainable Development’. Only a working definition of sustainable development will be adopted, to constitute a theoretical basis on which the present chapter will be based. The application of this concept to international watercourses follows general international environmental law and the law of natural recourses. The task at hand is not an easy one, as the concept of sustainable development is notoriously vague and ill-defined (see Boyle and Freestone, 1999: 1–18; Lowe, 1999: 19–39; Segger and Khalfan, 2004; Cordonier and Weeramantry, 2005; French, 2005; Gillespie, 2001; Ørebech et al., 2005). There are, however, certain elements of sustainable development which can be identified, although, it may be said that the list differs depending on the author’s viewpoint. The most straightforward approach is that based on the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The following elements may be drawn from this Declaration: integration of environmental protection and economic development; sustainable utilisation and conservation of natural resources; intergenerational equity; intra-generational equity; the polluter-pays principle; procedural elements (access to environmental information; public participation and environmental justice).1 The language in which the Declaration was couched is very general and it may be said to express political aspirations. Agenda 21, which adopts a subject-specific approach to sustainable development, is...

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