Enlightenment from international water law and its values to the legislation on the Yangtze River Basin
2020, 35 (2):
The rise and fall of civilizations depend on ecosystems, and the birth and existence of ecosystems are based on water. The Yangtze River Basin is the largest river basin in China, and has important economic, social and ecological functions. With the advancement of the construction of the "Four Belts" (a global influential inland river economic belt, a coordinated development belt with East-Middle-West interaction and cooperation, and an internal and external open belt with all-round promotion along coast-river-border, and a pioneer demonstration belt of ecological civilization construction) in the Yangtze River Economic Zone under the concept of ecological civilization, it is urgent to establish an effective river basin governance system for the Yangtze River Basin under the rule of law. Due to similarities of the objects, items and targets that are adjusted, the theories, principles, rules and practices of international water law are of important and beneficial referential value for the legislation on the Yangtze River Basin. The legislation on the Basin faces three key challenges, i.e., i) an arduous task to protect its eco-environment and resources, ii) multi-stakeholders, and, iii) a very unreasonable governance system and mechanism. The theories, rules, guidelines and practices of international water law on ecological integrity path, principle of equitable and reasonable utilization, and river basin governance system and mechanism, are helpful to deal with these challenges effectively and efficiently. The inspirations from these theories, rules, guidelines and practices tell us that, the legislation on the Basin should, (i) define the relevant content clearly, so as to reflect the ecologically integrated path; (ii) recognize the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization, and transplant it to a certain extent or absorb its essence, and enumerate in a non-exhaustive way that the relevant factors affect equitable and reasonable utilization; (iii) let the proposed "Yangtze River Basin Management Organization" play a basic, core and dominant role in the institutional and mechanism system of the river basin management. Their significant values include the following: promoting the realization of the harmonious, coordinated and sustainable development as well as the legalization of governance in the Basin, and further promoting the compatibility between China's river basin legislation and international water law; scientifically demonstrating and developing the above three basic aspects of international water law through China's practice so as to set a good example for other domestic river basins, as well as promoting implementation of the great strategy of China's endeavor to be an important participant, contributor and leader during the process of constructing global ecological civilization.
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