Preservation of Ecosystems of International Watercourses and the Integration of Relevant Rules

  • Jing Lee

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The unprecedented degradation of freshwater ecosystems due to the rampant exploitation of water resources re-establishes the importance of preserving freshwater ecosystems in order to ensure their continued viability that supports the attainment of sustainable development. This concern is addressed in Article 20 of the 1997 Watercourses Convention that specifically provides for the preservation of ecosystems of international watercourses.
    However, the interpretation and the subsequent application of this obligation are complicated by the proliferation of international instruments concerning the environment, which leads to the fragmentation of international law. In response to the apprehension raised over the undesirable consequences of the fragmentation of international law, the potential of Article 31(3)(c) of the 1969 Vienna Convention as an interpretative mechanism that enables the systemic integration of rules has come into the limelight.
    The objective of the present thesis, titled ‘Preservation of Ecosystems of International Watercourses and the Integration of Relevant Rules’ is to develop a interpretative framework for the operationalisation of Article 31(3)(c) that allows the full realisation of its potential as a tool of integration. A three-tier operationalisation framework that re-interprets the salient features of Article 31(3)(c) through the prism of an interactional understanding of international law is developed and executed through Chapters Two to Eight, where Chapter Nine provides a general conclusion of the thesis.
    The reconstruction of existing interpretation of Article 31(3)(c) provides a new understanding of this Article, which enables the realisation of its systemic integration potential. The application of this framework of operationalisation in the interpretation of the obligation to preserve ecosystems of international watercourses stipulated under Article 20 reflects contemporaneous development in international environmental law, and enhances the normative content and scope of Article 20.
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsMinistry of Higher Education, Malaysia & Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
    SupervisorPatricia Wouters (Supervisor) & Sarah Hendry (Supervisor)


    • Preservation of ecosystems
    • International watercourses
    • Systemic integration

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