Aims and Working Structure of the Interdisciplinary Research Group Society – Water – Technology

The overarching aim of the IRG was to comprehensively describe the framework conditions of major water engineering projects and to analyse their impact on the ecology, economy and society. Based on its analyses and findings, policy recommendations are formulated and research gaps are pointed out. In order to accomplish this, it was necessary to identify those mechanisms that are necessary for the functional continuity of MWEPs – i.e. for their successful and socially acceptable construction – their continuing operation and their adaptation to the targeted conceptual implementation of strategies. The analysis of MWEPs and their impacts and benefits has considered possible future development trends on the basis of present situations and also on the basis of historical reviews. This was accomplished by closely scrutinising two representative case studies: the Fergana Valley in Central Asia and the Lower Jordan Basin in the Middle East.

In the Fergana Valley, the main object of research were the impacts of the construction of a huge irrigation system during the former Soviet period and its effects on present societies and economies as well as on ecosystems along the downstream parts of the big rivers. Thus, the Fergana Valley case study was essential for the development of a common interdisciplinary research methodology and for studying the concept of “path dependencies”.

The second case study in the Lower Jordan Basin dealt with the planned Red Sea – Dead Sea Conveyance Project to halt the further decline of the Dead Sea water level resulting from extensive water extraction from the Jordan River. This case study allowed the IRG to assess and to evaluate the planning processes of transboundary projects. It provided valuable information on the strengths and weaknesses of international water law as well as on the relations between different riparian states and the prerequisites for successful cooperation.

The IRG was organised according to these case studies in two different subgroups or “clusters”. Overarching themes were discussed in the general assembly. The research instruments of the IRG consisted of profound literature research, thematic workshops, study visits to the Fergana Valley and the Lower Jordan Basin, public symposiums and thematic lectures. In addition, two expertise reports on Water Ethics (Armin Grunwald) and on International Water Law (Ute Mager) were conducted within the scope of the research group.

A workshop with an international line-up on The Red Sea – Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project: An opportunity for regional cooperation and improved water management in the Jordan River Basin was held in Potsdam, Germany, in December 2013. Speakers included Stefan Geyer (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ, Halle), Heinz Hötzl (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT, Karlsruhe), Harald Kunstmann (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT, Garmisch-Partenkirchen), Muath Abou Sadah (Palestine Hydrology Group, Ramallah, Palestinian Territories), Elias Salameh (University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan), Uri Shani (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel), Gerhard Smiatek (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT, Garmisch-Partenkirchen), Katja Tielbörger (Tübingen University, GLOWA Jordan River), Yacov Tsur (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel) and Valerie Yorke (NCCR Trade Regulation, World Trade Institute, University of Bern, Switzerland).

The “academy lectures”, a unique event format for disseminating research results to the public in layman's terms, have dealt with Water Ethics – Reflections on Handling Resource Conflicts (Armin Grunwald), Major Water Engineering Projects and their Impact on Ecology and Water Cycles – Opportunities and Risks (Axel Meyer and Klement Tockner), The FerganaValley in Central Asia – Conflicts Regarding the GeoresourceWater (Hermann Kreutzmann) and The Economic Value of Water Habitats – Approaches and Evaluating Experiences in the Lower Jordan Basin (Nir Becker).

Several members of the research group have furthermore conducted a number of research journeys to the case study areas in the Middle East and in Central Asia. As part of these stays, numerous regional experts from science, administration and nongovernmental organisations were involved in discussions and field trips, allowing for in-depth insights into the specific regional contexts. Findings of these research journeys formed an important basis for the further analyses and eventually paved the way for this volume.

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