Ministers of The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal signed a joint declaration last week to advance transboundary cooperation in the Senegal-Mauritanian Aquifer Basin (SMAB).
The four West African countries have, through the declaration, agreed to establish a legal and institutional framework for cooperation on SMAB, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Water Convention.
This would be the first such mechanism in West Africa and pave the way for strengthened collaboration on shared groundwater resources worldwide, a statement by the UNECE said.
The Senegalo-Mauritanian aquifer basin is the largest basin in the Atlantic margin of north-west Africa, having an area of 350,000 square kilometres.
More than 24 million inhabitants of the region are dependent on it for drinking water and other needs. This includes the capitals of Guinea Bissau and Senegal, namely Bissau and Dakar.
Some 80 per cent of the populations of the four countries that have signed the declaration, depend on the SMAB.
Just 24 of the 153 countries that share 286 transboundary rivers, lakes and 592 transboundary aquifers, have operational arrangements in place for all their transboundary waters.
This is according to the Progress on Transboundary Water Cooperation: global status of SDG indicator 6.5.2 and acceleration needs, 2021 by UNECE and Unesco, released August 2021.
This is in contrast with the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals’ vision to ensure that all these waters are covered by operational arrangements by 2030.
The rate of progress therefore needs to quadruple, Olga Algayerova, UNECE executive secretary, said.
She was quoted while speaking on Day 1 of the 9th session of the Meeting of Parties (MOP9) to the UNECE Water Convention, where the declaration was signed.
Senegal, upon accession to the UNECE Water Convention in 2018, had requested for such a declaration, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), said.
The Water Convention Secretariat, together with the Geneva Water Hub and the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre, subsequently facilitated the declaration.
The declaration was facilitated by the, and followed the request from Senegal made upon accession to the Water Convention in 2018, Sep 29, 2021.